Monthly Archives: October 2016

On the origins of TeachMeet in Ireland. With a forever loop marquee scroll ‘thank you’ to the three Scottish bloggers – Ewan McIntosh, David Noble, and John Johnson – who talked to each other about talking to each other.

I remember when I was young being frustrated when I could not divine sayings used by the elders, main example “It’s an ill wind that blows no good”. I eventually figured it what it meant. It came back to me recently when reflecting about bringing TeachMeet to Ireland. It was a very ill wind – the greed fuelled collapse of the Celtic Tiger – that caused us to import and adopt TeachMeet from the Scots in early 2009.

When the country was awash with paper money, I was dispatched by the Teacher Education Section to the Scottish Learning Festival, along with the rest of my colleagues (our remit at the time was to source, design and deliver formal continuing professional development to Irish schools). At the end of a long day of lectures and workshops, a friend of mine, John Heffernan, reminded me of the TeachMeet being organised for that evening by Ewan McIntosh. I’d signed up online out of idle curiosity; but I was tired and hungry; so, it was to be dinner or TeachMeet? I chose the latter. Good move.

The format was relaxed but not chaotic, attendees were also presenters, there was no hierarchy. The tables were round, like a wedding. The order of presentations was randomly picked by a charming online fruit machine thingie which had been made available online by a then unknown Russel Tarr. Speakers had either 2 mins (nano) or 7 mins (micro), with a jovial but firm heave-ho when time was up, and a pointed no-no to slides full of bullet points . Half way through the evening, we had 15 minute breakouts in which one person led a focused conversation, and attendees could wander about to get a flavour of all, or stay put with whomever we were curious to hear. In the background I was vaguely aware of a screen showing some tweets from far and wide, forming a conversation between those in the room and others who were following online via Twitter. And there was a chance to chatter over a food and beverage break. All these elements – the self-selection of the speakers, the encouragnent of tales of practice rather than bullet-ridden slides, the round tables, the random order of calling speakers forward, the inclusion of ‘TeachEat’, and in particular Twitter backchannel and the ‘soap box’ conversations (this was a name I gave them for want of a better one) – became, and still remain for many, the hallmarks of a successful TeachMeet. I loved it all, and I knew that I knew many others who would delight in this experience.

tm-bett09That was September 2008. Then back to work I went, and not much happened until January, when I went to another UK TeachMeet (at BETT in London), and had my gut instinct feeling confirmed – this round table ground-up PD was an positive force. At that time I was volunteering on the committee organising the 2009 annual conference for the Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI). Up until this time, it had been a two day conference, with permission for schools to release teachers to attend on the Friday. And then – swoosh – down came the Austerity Guillotine and sliced off the Friday. We had one meeting’s notice to turn our two day affair into one day. So I suggested we try one of these TeachMeets on the Friday night. CESI Chair, Conor Galvin, and Conference Chair, Tom Kendall, both supported the idea, and that was that. In true TeachMeet fashion, the call went out and those who ‘got it’ immediately stepped up. 60 of us packed into a small room in the Maldron Hotel in Tallaght – we had to spill into to corridors and foyer for the Soap Box breakouts – and had a memorable evening. (So memorable that if you believed everyone who said they were there, it’d be closer to 600). A quick check on Twitter would show that many folk joined up to said social medium that same night thanks to John Heffernan’s tour de force expo of using a Twitter back channel – we were joined online by many from across Ireland and the UK, as we learned the power of a hashtag driven timeline and  watched as #cesimeet ‘trended’. (In this pre-hipster age, we thought that meant we were trendy. Or cool. Or whatever. But we were smitten and we joined up there and then.)

Myself as Bean a’Ti and Conor Galvin as Fear a’Ti had worked together before at education events, but we knew this was different. The atmosphere was electric and energising. The people in the room were a cross section of Irish education – all levels and sectors of formal and informal education were represented. Everyone who was there that night has become a ‘frequent flier’, and many have in turn organised TeachMeets in other venues. Current recorded count just topped 80 Teachmeet from over 50 volunteer organisers.

And so, when we rant and rave about the ‘Powers That Were’ dropping the country on the floor and smashing it in smithereens way back in the late noughties, let’s be reminded about the ill wind that helped take TeachMeet across the Irish Sea.

Facts, figures and future: Being a truly open movement, TeachMeet online inhabits the untidy worlds of the wiki and the Twitter timeline. There is no central HQ, no foundation, no written constitution. It is still surviving on trust among the tribe. The UK wiki , a giant web of data from the past 10 year, is at and is sporadically curated by volunteers. In Ireland,  John Heffernan (a true historian – preserving the past for the future) was prescient in setting up which is on a smaller scale, and consequently slightly more ‘tidy’. A glance at the archive and organisers pages of the Irish wiki will show the and the growing list of those stepping up to volunteer and variety of types of Teachmeet that are evolving – Kidsmeet, MakerMeet, MathsMeet, PrincipalMeet, ResearchMeet, StudentMeet, conference-connected and unconference, North, South, East, and West. It’s delightful to watch the movement grow – the past 1 year has seen more meets here that in the previous 7 years combined. The huge curiosity is about the future, but that is for another, much longer, much deeper, conversation. Join it.


Thanks to Sandra Maguire and her team for a year of prep work leading to this year’s Dojocon in Dun Laoghaire. It was a pretty fantastic way to close out EU Code Week in Ireland. The venue  – the Marine Hotel – was lovely, as were both the weather, and the people who attended.

Some special moments for me…
1. Sandra invited two of Bianca Ni Ghrógáin’s former students, Sinéad and Dylan, (who are now in second level education) to speak, in her memory, of the positive effect she had on their thinking and their confidence.
2. The delight of sitting in a circle “my” workshop with mentors from all over the world, discussion ways to engage young minds with some hands-on action (concrete operational in ‘old money’, thank you for that timely reminder, Richard Millwood) – and working again with Amy Lombard as my ‘assistant’, the type of assistant who knows what you’re thinking before you do. Awesome.

3. Queueing for, and scoffing, a very large highly decorated ice cream cone at lunchtime, thanks to the arrival of the van from Teddy’s! 3. The chance meeting for coffee to catch up with the great Maria Mernagh, or Summer Buzz as we call her!
4. Watching the joy in Rcahrd, Pam, Amy, and Cara absorbed in the arduno/origami workshop.

Dojocon always brings out all that is best in the CoderDojoCavan community – thanks, Sandra and team, you are all rockstars.
(No pressure, Warrington 2017 team!)


It was a treat to be invited to Cloghans Hill NSW in Mayo during Code Week 2016, by Iseult Mangan and her students, to be part of their Skycademy launch (first in Ireland), and to be inducted into their team, alongside Hassan Dabbagh.

Iseult explained the way things would go – all this winter the students will plan and code their Raspberry Pi in preparation for its launch, attached to a helium balloon. The balloon  carry the Pi skyward, to collect data and take pictures and video. We, the adults, will all help the geo-location of the Pi that eventually returns to earth, and the students will report on their analysis of the data.

It is all very exciting, and I feel honoured to be involved. Thank you all – I’ll be waiting for the call to action when the launch takes place.





Good morning to all schools taking part in Code Week EU across Europe. We’re kicking off the school week in the STEAM room here in @LackenNS, County Cavan, Ireland with Grace Hopper nanoseconds, binary code bracelets and semiconductor circuits. Other schools and libraries all over the country will be joining in – already lots of events are logged on the website, and many more will add themselves to the list as the week rolls on…

All participants can claim their EU Certificate after the event has taken place.

Details of how to upload event details, and a list of all events, are available on the Code Week EU website






Pam O’Brien has done it again. Taken the Teachmeet format and morphed it to fill a need. She found a team (Neil Butler and me), a theme (Maths), a time (Friday night before Code Week EU kicked off; yes, Friday night – yes, we’re all a little cracked!), a place (LIT), sponsor (Microsoft, Twinkle, LIT), and off it all went. Along with our teenage helper-demonstrators Amy and Cara, our guest Stephen Howell, and the teachers who came to join in, we had two hours of all sort of Mathematics. Unlocking the maths hidden in music, art and popular culture; Grace Hopper’s Nanosecond in plastic model form; gesture-driven interactive ‘slope of a line’ fun with Kinect2Scratch; the maths of outer space; modular origamiMaths Circles; and an introduction to BreakoutEDU, and immersive code-breaking methodology that is proving very popular in US classrooms. There were some generous spot prizes, lots of fun, and the most important feature of a TeachMeet – ideas exchange between maths educators from all sectors.

And we were barely finished when Pam started planning the next one – watch this space or the Twitter timeline #MathsMeetIE, and don’t say you weren’t warned. See you there?




Ireland’s Code Week EU activities are off to a truly “Mega” start today.  In Limerick (Moylish Campus IT) almost 1000 ninjas and mentors get together for the 2nd annual Megadojo hosted by CoderDojo Limerick. In Dublin, DogPatch Labs hosts CoderGirlHackDay. And events are running in many places in between. Code Week will run thru the week until the end of Dojocon in Dun Laoghaire on Oct 23rd. I hope to meet lots of friends at many of these.




Many schools, libraries, dojos and businesses in Ireland have already held their first Code Week EU events, or have posted forthcoming dates on

The activity all across Europe can be followed on Twitter at #CodeEU


Find an event and join in. Or open Scratch and have a go at remixing this Code Week logo again at 











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