Monthly Archives: November 2014

image (6)It makes me very happy to see Teachmeet tentacles spreading across the country, and the latest TM was in Letterkenny last evening. There was never a doubt once word for out that Fiona Farry, Maggie Greene, Susan McCarthy, and Finnbar Boyle were on the case that TM Donegal would be a cracker. The LYIT venue, infrastructure, and hospitality worked really well, and Gallagher’s Hotel was just the spot for aprés-meet chat and catch up.
Both the audience and presenters comprised the wide cross section of educational sectors that makes TM so special – we all learned something what “the other levels” are up to, as each presenter shared a snippet of their current experience. Fear a’ tí Finnbar did a terrific job channelling his inner Marty Whelan and kept us all on our tenterhooks! After the initial welcome by LYIT’s Paul Hannigan and Keynote address from QUB’s Aishling O’Boyle, the digital lottery matching took over, and here is a summary of the order of speaker and topics called to the podium…

Damien Quinn (“Oh I do hope I’m called out first” – how jammy can a fella be?) – iPad apps for SEN education – which to choose and how to use
Maggie Greene – Hour of Code 2014
Martin Bradley – LYIT technology Dept working introducing robotics to local schools, and on a modest budget
Roisin Crawford – http://www.stemaware.comFantastic ideas, and role modelling, to introduce engineering to students, and exhorting us all to “be stretched”
Frank Schlindwein – Customised Math Cubes to foster divergent thinking in arithmetic operations – wonderful!
Michael Carey – LYIT, CS Masters course at the Institute
Liam Porter – Local journalist who is writing books and stories with students in Primary Schools
Kelly Kirkpatrick – Ambassador for Mathletes, overview of Khan Academy
Nigel McKelvey – Coderdojo in Letterkenny
Rory Reynolds – Digital Schools of Distinction Award
Mags Amond – Fakebook as a revision tool, incorporating a shameless homage to @russelltarr of
Raghnall Quinn – A whirlwind tour of how he uses all things Chromebooks & Google Apps for Education at second level school in Dungloe
John Heffernan – Cool Tools for History Teachers – Photosynth, UDL, Project Widow, Aurasma,, Storyboard That
Chris & Joe from Digital Media Choices – interactive iBooks and very magical multimedia

One quirky unique thing about this TM is the global reach it had – Fiona was livestreaming, and tweetbacks told us we were being watched in Cavan, Dublin, Australia, Mayo, a beehive (don’t ask), and in Antarctica. Maggie’s boyfriend Danny McFadden from Annagary is currently spending 18 months there! Check it out here. Mmm…might have him present from there to #cesicon!?!?

And we had a cross generational reach as well – witness three of our Cavan Coderdojo ninjas watching the stream on their Mum Cara’s computer in Cavan!!

As ever, TM Donegal sent everyone away with increased knowledge of, and respect for, each others’ way of working. Lucky the students and colleagues who will reap the benefit of it all on Monday morning and beyond. Fiona, Finnbar, Susan agus Maggie – go raibh mile, agus maith sibhse go leir!!

Every primary teacher in Ireland has the benefit of the valuable work done, and shared with all, by Damien Quinn of
It is high time to give something back – donate to his Movember challenge fund here, and do it NOW!

Postscript – The meeting was made aware during the evening of the tragic accident that had taken place locally. Many in the room were affected by it. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the local community as they mourn together.

Last Thursday night in the driving rain, I was returning to Cavan from Dublin on the bus with my friend Cara. [We’d struggled our way though a fantastic Python class, clinging (well, me at least) to the very edges of the ZPD precipice, and felt a great sense of achievement in any small advance in knowledge. It might help of course if we (eh, me!) were more diligent about our homework assignments].

IMG_2707Anyhoo, thanks to a rare positive spike in the Bus Eireann wifi, we got caught in a brilliant conversation started by the inspiring and generous Gillian Connolly of Sligo Coderdojo (yes, her the force behind #Dojocon2014). The net eventually caught me, Cara, Mary, Catherine, Bernie, Ciaran and Simon in a conversation about what we thought should or could be taught. Bernie had the bright idea of continuing to discuss Gillian’s initial question…so blame either of them!

And so we chattered for a while about what should, be taught, and how, and by who, and when….but as ever in these conversations we used the words “code” and “programming” with abandon, but not necessarily with an agreement on the meaning of either.

And so we made a date to continue the conversation this Thursday night about 10pm. Tentatively labelled a TweetMeet until someone comes up with something better, we will just continue to focus on sharing ideas about what each of us can do NOW. “See” you then…

It made me think though, that we each has a different mental picture when we hear “Everyone should learn to code”, as we do on every second media report at the moment.

And all of the above prompted me to have a think during the week about what “Coding” and “Programming” have meant in MY teaching experience, which to date has been modest – but enjoyable – in secondary school CS class, and Coderdojo. It comes down to 5 concrete areas, and 1 aspirational prize! Some of them I introduced to my students in school, and all of them are on the agenda for our Cavan Coder Dojo ninjas.

#1 computational thinking eg Thinking Myself, Marble Swap, CS Unplugged
#2 visual / block programming eg Lightbot, Google Blockly, Scratch or Snap, Pencil Code, Code Monster, Hour of Code
#3 text based / linear programming eg Python, Ruby, Java
#4 applied programming – robotics and ‘making’ eg Makey Makey, Lego Mindstorms, Mechatrons
#5 web / app building code eg HTML, CSS, JS
and if things go really well…
#6 there may be eventually what I think of as “freefall” – combining element of all of the above to work confidently and creatively in a state of what Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls “Flow”.

That’s my tuppence worth, tweet with you Thursday at 10pm about yours!!

Flow – our world record Makey Makey Miaow chain in Citilab BCN at #scratchbcn2013

Flow – let’s tweak the program and make this robot go faster!

Thanks to Stephen Howell, a lot of very bright women, and a sprinkling of equally bright gentlemen, had a really positive “céilí” last Thursday evening in Microsoft, Dublin, to honour a visit by Kim Wilkens (@kimxtom). (Kim, ‘céilí’ is Irish for a gathering where people gather and share stories, song, dance, food and drink. Mmm… we may need to have song and dance the next time, are you listening Stephen? The rest was there in very generous amounts, thank you for that.)

Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 16.03.45Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 16.05.40Kim brought us her story and insights into the dwindling numbers of women in tech since the 1980s. She is working to reverse this trend, slowly, one gathering at a time, one small group of girls at a time. Her ideas are simple. We were taking notes. Thank you Kim.

Serendipitously, Kim said her work was helped when she “met” wise woman Pam Moran in Va, USA through connections made here in Ireland. Pam gave an inspirational keynote (shared with Ira Socol) when invited by the forward thinking Pamela O’Brien to the #ictedu in Tipperary some years ago – never have two Keynote spent less time up on the stage, nor had a more lasting impact on those present, than Pam & Ira that day.

Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 16.02.57The mixture in the room on Thursday evening was eclectic – educators from all levels and areas – artists, entrepreneurs, students, mentors and interns all in the mix, which made for good conversations, sharp questions and thoughtful answers. The Ignite sessions from Clare Dillon (Microsoft), Mary Carty (the “accidental entrepreneur”), Giustina Mizzoni (Coderdojo), Julie Cullen (EU Code Week Ambassador) gave us a variety of insights into the worlds of those leading the development of tech in education, tech in young folk’s lives, and tech from a female standpoint. In the final stand-in Ignite, Stephen spoke of his experience in encouraging girls in computing, and announced he would be running a blended course in Teaching Computational Thinking and Coding for female teachers and mentors – you heard it here first – starts Wednesday November 19th in Microsoft.

It was good to see, in the same room for I suspect the first time (ladies?), the Chair of WITS Ireland Marian Palmer, the Chair of CESI Adrienne Webb, the “roving” Editor of Silicon Republic Anne O’Dea and SFI / Smart Futures Media Officer Donna McCabe. A heady mix of advocates for Tech in Ed. I was reminded of a #ITWomen list curated by Catherine Cronin, and made a note to remind folk to update it…here it is. Please update.

It was great to see that one school, Coláiste Bhríde Condalkin, had TWO Careers Guidance Counsellors. Go girls!
Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 16.04.29

From memory, and forgive me in advance for any exclusions (or better again correct me directly here by comment), here are the folk I got to say hello to, in addition to those already listed. (I tried to do a “follow friday” on Twitter this weekend and was reminded why I never do #FF – the list of people worth following is just too long!).
> CoderDojoCavan chauffeuring cohort Catherine Fox and Cara McDermott
> educators from many spaces – inc. Bianca Ní Ghrógáin, Róisín Markham, Natasha Kiely, Sarah Jayne Carey and Miriam Judge
> advocates – inc. Deardriú Lally, Majella O’Dea, Aileen Howell, and Sandra Maguire
> those following us from home on Twitter #techgirls (btw, anyone for #techgirlsIE?) from East & West of Ireland and even Wester – inc. Anne White, Mary Loftus, Ciaran Cannon, and Leigh Graves Wolf
> and a special shout out to student coder Catrina Ní Charragáin – we did not get to speak this time, but next time, you’re the first on my dance card!Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 16.07.09
Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 19.11.29

The chatter over meal time confirmed my feeling that yes, Kim was speaking here to the converted, but more importantly she was speaking to the converters, those who will bring others with them on the journey to ensure our girls at least get offered the chance to each make her own informed choices about participation in the world of computer science.

audacityPS – this were not exclusively an “xx” gathering, for as well as our host Stephen, also present was one of our strongest supporters, James Crook (Audacity coder and informal but committed educator). Speaking with James leaves a person in no doubt we are all going, slowly but surely, in the right direction – together.

Screenshot 2014-11-02 at 18.08.37PPS – a sparkle of light that coincided with our meeting was the announcement that 9 year old Irish “techgirl”, Lauren Boyle [of Cool Kids Studio], was announced as EU Digital Girl of the Year at the European Ada Awards! Ergo, we are doing something right, we just need it diffused fully through every seam of our society. Good work Lauren.

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