Scratch Amsterdam 2015 2/3 – Conference and UnConference

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(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

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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…

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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