Monthly Archives: September 2015

[Warning notes to future self – (1) if doing an interview to a HD camera – get thee to a make-up room first and (2) spend more time practising the baseball pitch]. That said, the interviewer/producer and the camera man were two of the loveliest people one could meet. Thank you both.

(This is post 3 of 3)

The Shylight permanent installation in the Rijksmuseum was one of the highlights of the trip to Amsterdam to me. It was like a metaphor for everything the Scratch and Maker education espouses – the joy of creativity. And on the subject of the Rijksmuseum, it was jammed later in the day (we went early as all the guide books suggested), and this was the first time I ever encountered museum visitors on bikes. I guess it is the Amsterdam version of When in Rome…look carefully here if you don’t believe me…


wpid-20150812_194324.jpgTransport was a doddle, thanks to the well planned infrastructure, and my wonderful Three Wise Navigators – Susan (aka Smilla) the Blue Dot, Jan Van Heg and the mobile hotspot, and the pre-checked certainty of James. Thanks you three for keeping me in the right direction at all times. We had the LOLs on buses, trains, bikes, ferries, or any combination of the above, all keeping perfect time. Here be pictured below Drew, Jake, John, John’s wheelie steed, all on the ferry home from dinner.

(Hipster alert – here’s a link to the rather fabulous menu from the THT Restaurant; having share-sampled amost every dish on the menu, albeit between a large bunch of us, it is to be highly recommend. So is the food a the Lloyd hotel – don’t not have the lamb.)
We had some serious fun in the NEMO Science centre – free entry on Saturday evening was a very lovely goodbye present from the Scratch conference organisers (yes, they thought of everything). Open 24/7/365, the rooftop café of the NEMO is a popular family spot, with lots of little ones, in their bathing suits, taking a dip in the cascading café fountains. Couldn’t help wondering if our Heath & Safety Police over here would allow that. There were plenty of falls, a few sniffs and tears, but most of it was pure family fun.

One of the biggest hits of the week for me was the OBA Library. Also open 24/6/365, the main delights were on the top and bottom floors. The top floor has another rooftop café, with a wide selection of very scrummy, and resaonably priced food. The view across the city is excellent. Thanks to Agnes Agaddone for joining us there for brunch, and some memorable conversation, on the final morning.

The basement of the OBA houses a treasure – het Muizhuizen, the Mouse House. I can’t explain how mesmerising it is – you will just have to go and see it. We wondered at it for almost 90 minutes. This is the thing that will bring me back to Amsterdam – this, and the Shylights already mentioned. I could happily sit and watch either of them again anytime.

The other lovely thing that happened was – our Hotel. The Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam is a tourist attraction in itself. The rooms are amazing, each different. The food is great and the staff are excellent. We had fun exploring all six floors, and showing each other the features in each of our rooms! We were all like kids, in a good way. (Note to self – Top Brownie points going on Trip Advisor for this place. Other note to self – stay again!)

wpid-20150817_011359.jpg wpid-20150817_011458.jpg

The very very very best thing about the social part of the visit to the conference was the company, especially that of the Irish Fellowship. Thank you Jake for joining us on board on the way over, and we mean it when we say we missed you en route home. Thank you John, James, Stephen, Steve, Jake, Richard, Glenn and Nina. Great to meet you, Mary. And to top it all, GRMA mór to my Lloyd roomie, Susan. We represented CESI and Ireland well, and we had some good times into the bargain. Can’t ask for more. Except, maybe, *whisper*, anyone know where the next one is on?



(This is post 2 of 3)

Stretching this second Europe-based Scratch conference over 5 venues was a great a way to ensure we saw a lot of Amsterdam while we were there. From the opening throwback address by LOGO co-architect Cynthia Solomon on Wednesday evening, right thru ’til Saturday afternoon, we had Keynotes, Ignites, Workshops and lectures as varied and as interesting as the venues. Well done organising team, standing on the giant shoulders of Joek Van Montford – each of them is a powerhouse worth following, and together they provided us with a remarkable experience.

Conference Program


The Irish Fellowship attending and presenting added greatly  to the enjoyment of the week – thank you Susan Nic Reamoinn, John Hegarty (aka Jan Van Heg), James Crook, Jake Rowan Byrne, Stephen Howell, Richard Millwood, Steve Holmes, Nina Bresnihan, Glenn Strong, and (Hon. Irishman), Drew Buddie. Has to be said, emotions were mixed heading on this trip, as the planning had been done with our friend Bianca. Thank you to the organisers and attendess for including Bianca in the program, on the drawing boards, and in the conversations.

Meeting again with our Europe ed tech colleagues – Hi Frank, Agnes, Claude (we still need that conversation, Ms Terosier!), and finding new folk to talk to and compare notes with was a highlight, as it had been in Barcelona 2013. The mixture of educators and engineers, and those with a foot in both camps, made for great arguments. That is probably the strength of Scratch conferencing – block based programming itself is no longer the only focus, its the many ways we use it in learning that is key.

It was difficult to decide which sessions to attend – keynote speaker Beat put it really well in his opening slides…


I loved what I learned at the workshops, ideas that I will use again over and over – mashing Scratch with Littlebits via Arduino, using sensors to match real world to Scratch with picoboards, using Tickle to drive a mini-drone, wrote Beelteblock code for 3D printing. I loved watching my friends James and Jake immersed in a sandpit of problem solving, observing them and others as problems were analysed and solved. But the Big Takeaway is from watching other educators deliver. Thank you Susan Ettenheim and Kreg Hanning, Margaret Low and the Tech volunteer ‘army‘, Dan Garcia and the BJC team, Eric Rosenblaum and Bernat Romagosa (of Beetleblocks) for modelling your ways to engage learners. I learned from the CRITE team of Richard / Jake / Glenn / Nina. Well done again to Frank Sabaté for keeping the Ignite sessions lively, and fun. Thanks to all Poster session presenters, especially (sleep deprived, jetlagged, new-father!) Mike and his Tickle controlled mini-drones – as poster sessions go, this was definitely the most interactive and interesting I have met to date.

wpid-img_20150815_120820.jpg wpid-img_20150815_120221.jpg wpid-img_20150814_171455.jpg  wpid-img_20150813_125545.jpg wpid-img_20150815_124747.jpg  wpid-img_20150815_120247.jpg

The CESI  presentations went well, we think. Unfortunately we were scheduled at the same time, so the cheerleaders had to divide themselves! I can say, hand on heart, I have never worked in such a badly planned learning space as the theatre with the giant pillar in the middle (so bad I couldn’t even bring myself to take a picture of it!), but the quality of the attendees’ engagement trumped that very quickly. To those who were there, thank you for your lively participation – which continued into the poster session. I hope some of your Glowies are still lighting!

Susan’s workshop, captured by Jan Van Heg in a 5 min show,  proves there can be cooperation between engineers who are used to high level coding and educators who are more used to low level furniture! Press ‘play’ here – Bees and Bots

Screenshot 2015-09-06 at 12.21.53

Props to Drew Buddie for pulling together the after dinner learning, by curating an inaugural Scratch Teachmeet as part of the Unconference menu. We convened in a very wonderful setting, the Waag building – was it the first ever Teachmeet “in the round” I wonder? Although we looked like a bunch of slackers lolling on the floor swilling beers, as Teachmeets go, this one had some pretty eclectic and high quality sharing.


The final keynote, a mash-up of sermon and pep rally from Audrey Watters and Eric Rosenbaum, reminded us all while we do this. Creativity, creativity, creativity. Roll on Scratch 1027, wherever it may be.

PS – thank you Bernat Romagosa for an almost instant answer to my tongue-in-cheek request order suggestion for a 3D code for a Beetlebock DNA model – I LOVE it, I love that you did it, and I love that you shared it. This exemplifies what the Scratch community is about…


(This is post 1 of 3).

The “pre-conference” portion of the Scratch World Conference, Creative Communities, in Amsterdam last month included a meeting for Coderdojo mentors. This was organised and hosted by Liberty Global, who also sponsored the conference. It took place in a wonderful venue – the OBA – the Openbare Bibliotheek – a most amazing library space. (This place is open 10am-10pm 24/7/365, a truly amazing space, if you are visiting Amsterdam, don’t miss it).


Thank you Analise from Liberty Global and Joek from Scratch2015Ams for the invitation to chair this meeting of fellow Coderdojo mentors. We had mentors, and would-be mentors, from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Italia, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.


Ivo Poulissen from (representing the Netherlands National Coalition for digital jobs), and Nico Vierhout, (VP Apps and Development, Liberty Global), both spoke of supports available to Coderdojo groups in the Netherlands. We saw a short video of the Monster Dojo (1000 students together in one day) that had recently taken place in Belgium.

We had a lively discussion and shared ideas we had tried, and wished to try, in our various dojos. Most of the focus of our questions and answers was on a central topic: mentors, mentors, mentors. It was good to see that the driving force in dojos, in each country represented at the meeting, was the same – how to ensure that any youngster who wishes to learn to code can be helped to do so. We also spoke of the challenges we faced (again we all seem to have the same experience) – venues, sustainability, support structures. But mostly it was about mentors- how to find enough mentors.

The session concluded with a “Call to Action”, inviting potential mentors to sign up to get involved (see below).

This was a great opportunity for like-minded people to meet so early in the conference schedule, as it gave us a chance to get to know each other, and find each other to continue our conversations over the next few days.


%d bloggers like this: