Many levels of ExcitEd at Dublin Castle

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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