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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Thank you Ann O’Dea in Silicon Republic, for the invitation to write an obituary / tribute to Bianca, on behalf of her Ed Tech tribe. Composed with her friends in mind, it was a difficult but therapeutic exercise for me. And for the moment it is that commissioned text that will have to suffice here, because if I was to start writing my own words I might not be able to stop, and then th’Internet would break…

But first, a little prologue from Bianca herself, in the form of coolest tweet I ever got.

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Extract from Silicon Republic (online) 15/06/15

On 6 June, the untimely death occurred of Bianca Ní Ghrógain, Irish torchbearer for the worlds of technology and diversity in education. For countless educators across the country, and across the world, time stood still as the news radiated across time and space. It is no exaggeration to say that very many people will remember where they were at that saddest ‘Bianca moment’.

One meeting with Bianca was enough to catch the fire of her passion for education (especially if it involved tech, maker education, human rights, divergent thinking, flipped thinking, social justice, Gaeilge and a bit of craic), which was truly remarkable, and infectious. Teachers, students, and student teachers all over the world used the ideas and resources she shared at conferences, seminars, Teachmeets, and via social media. One meeting with Bianca was never enough though — those who met her once always sought her company again and again.

Bianca wore her heart on her sleeve (as well as on her infamous t-shirts).

She could be simultaneously bashful and proud when being teased about becoming known to so many as simply ‘Bianca’. Her sense of humour was legend, and the wittiest message or link could arrive in a friend’s inbox at any time of day or night. But most of all she was fearless and she was fierce, and she fought with every fibre of her being for justice, setting her compass daily towards equality for all. She fought for those she did not know with as much energy as she fought for those she knew and loved. She was the social conscience of the edtech world. For all of the above, and more, she will be held in precious memories by so many who today feel bereft beyond words.

Bianca, in her all-too-short 32 years, became the glue that connected a hugely diverse group of humans. And so, gathered in Clondalkin last Thursday morning to mourn with and comfort her beloved family and closest friends were people from each of the communities and chapters of Bianca’s life — music folk from the sound engineering days, colleagues from the youth worker days, Froebel teachers and students, her edtech tribes of CESI and ICTinEDU, the DCU PhD team, and her ‘second family’, the staff, pupils and parents of Griffeen Valley ETNS. There were friends, mentors and students from four universities, four teacher-training colleges and the Teaching Council. The sense of personal loss was deepened by the collective realisation of the infinite loss to the future of education.

 Never has it been truer to say the words “Ní bheidh a leithéad ann arís”.

Slán tamall Bianca, and as you’d say yourself, Hakuna Matata!

 To get a deeper understanding of Bianca’s reach and legacy, visit her tribute page at cesi.ie and her Twitter timeline @bnighrogain

When teaching Biology, specially if it is for 35 years, the word “excited” takes on a very specific meaning. An electron absorbing light energy and becoming “excited” is central to the process of photosynthesis, which drives most of the food chains in our global ecosystems. This form of “excited” means taken to a higher level. It also leads to the transfer of energy to others.

On a more human level a quick dip in the dictionary comes up with feeling or showing happiness and enthusiasm.

Between the ExcitEd Digital Learning Festival, and the Equality referendum count announcement, I met both forms of excitement in Dublin Castle the weekend of 21/23 of May.

On the Thursday, I worked with Niall McCormick of Colmac Robotics, introduced the incoming Digital Youth Council students to the world of electronics, using both old-style materials and a modern modular system called LittleBits. Working with Niall was a treat that will hopefully be repeated in the future – he is that rare group that is equal parts engineer and teacher. We all had fun making our #glowie badges (winner definitely was Jack!), then getting to grips with pushing the Little Bits to the limit.

Friday, after voting at 7.01am in Cavan, it was back to the Castle again to work again with Niall and the students of the four Dragon’s Den schools, who did a range of workshops to calm their nerves while waiting for the judges to call them back to announce the verdict (btw Congrats to Colaiste Chiarain in Croom!). More #glowie design, and more LittleBits circuits built. The energy and ideas from these students could power the Castle for a long time.

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On the Saturday, the energy emitting from the students of the 15 groups of students in School’s Showcase was palpable. This is where the real power of the ExcitEd conference model lies. It is terrific for us adults to meet and exchange our ideas on education, but the future is in the hands of the articulate, creative and optimistic students in the “halla”. It was great to see them explaining their work to all and sundry.
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It was impossible not to notice the excitement building across the Castle courtyard, and we delighted with an unscheduled visit by Senator David Norris who spoke with the students and their teachers. Kudos to ExcitEd Bean a’ Tí, Aobhinn Ní Shúilleabháin for keeping us all on track for the afternoon! The Fri / Saturday programme is here – it was great to have so much on stage input from students of all levels – probably the emerging USP of the ExcitedEd in my eyes.

After the ExcitEd festival closed for the evening, it was a treat to spend a while with CESI friends across in the Castle courtyard, watching the giant map of Ireland slowly turn green. I can’t remember a crowd emanating such seriously positive energy in my lifetime. The euphoria, and relief, after the eventual announcement was very emotional.

Then it was fish ‘n chips, and then it was the tired drive home, both courtesy of my kind and patient colleague and friend, Catherine Fox.

Thanks for the energy, Everyone.

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