Monthly Archives: November 2016

img_20161127_164931Congratulations to the Library teams in Counties Cavan and Monaghan for the first iteration of Cavan-Monaghan Science Festival, held last  week to coincide with Science Week Ireland. (Is this an example of Glocalisation?)
I loved the lectures on climate change, focusng on water and soil, in the library on Wednesday evening. The family day on Saturday was terrific – the small people I know (and quite a few adults also) had a great day panning for ‘gold’, programming robots of all sizes, making their own binary code bracelets, and producing a giant bubble machine with a slider control. A special ‘well done’ to the students and teachers of Scoil Mhuire, Lacken, who brought their STEAM room resources and shared them with all comers.
Hopefully this will be an annual event, and will grow and grow.


This was a long promised trip to attend Russel Tarr’s brainchild, the Practical Pedagogies gathering in Toulouse. Over 200 attend, and well over half that number are presenters. It was worth the very roundabout journey to meet old vintage  friends and make new friends, and share ideas old and new. It was a really well-thought-out, hospitable and very well organised affair; the venue being the international school, we also had a chance to look about the classrooms and labs – all in all it was lovely. The socialising was great fun each evening in central Toulouse. The people who came there were among the most committed, reflective and passionate I have even come across. Although the title says practical and pedagogy, these people are about more than tips ‘n tricks (nowt wrong with those mind you) – I’d add purposeful and philosophical to all other p words.

The programme of lectures and workshops, bookended between two lively interactive plenary sessions with Ewan McIntosh, is here:, and the #pracped16 hashtag timline is still flowing with ideas here
Lisa Stevens has posted some terrific (analog) sketchnotes on her blog here:
I was mesmersied watching Lisa build the first one during Ewan’s opening keynote. What a woman.

My first epiphany (and most affecting) of the two days was The Mantle of The Expert workshop with Tim Taylor. My brain and my heart are still working it out. It was sublime. (And I wasn’t officially mean to to be there – a series of lucky instinct-driven decisions took me there; not the first time that has worked out well for me.)
The afternoon workshop was with the creative force that is Stephen Reid – Immersive Minds – delving into the possibilities for using MineCraft with students.
The next day workshops I attended were with Ewan (loved the 5 Why/s, and What Would X Do? [and thanks for the TeachMeet chat]); and another off-piste workshop with Bryn Llewellyn (Tagtiv8) that turned out to be a cracker – as well as learning, I was definitely creamcrackered after chasing round the schoolyard playing team tag spelling and emoji collaging (is that even a verb? it is now, I guess!).
‘My’ workshop was in the final slot, and we had good fun in the physics lab – there was a lot of squeaking and squealing (loudest from Dughall, Bill, Julian and Ros, the locals had slightly more decorum), as we worked our way through the stages of the human circuit and making LED glowies. This exercise has now been forever officially renamed Chicken ‘n Chips in their collective honour.

Thank you a thousand times to Russel; and to everyone for their memorable company – les garcons Dughall, Julian, Bill, Steve, Simon, Bryn, Tim, Pete;  et les filles Lisa, Julie, Cat, Cathita, Ros, Sonia, Yasmin. Hope to see you at BETT in January.

{ And my special secret ‘take-away’ is going strong, thank you again, Julian! }

The Standing Committee on Teacher Education North and South (that is one very long name!) conference was in Armagh City this year. I was delighted to be invited to take part.
There was a pre-conference audience for researchers with Etienne Wenger-Trayner, “Communities of Practice” expert. This went on for quite a long time longer than planned, because of his interest and willingness to tease out participants’ questions and comments. The discussion was illuminating, especially for the newer researchers. Thanks for this gift, SCoTENS committee.

I was taken by how many times Teachmeet was mentioned by speakers in the afternoon plenary session. In particular Margery McMahon’s listing of TeachMeet, Pedagoo and teacher blogs as ‘bottom up’ CPD, during her pitch before a panel discussion. Sidebar: The alphabet was being seriously juggled during this conference – we had CPD, PD, PL, and finally TL. Later, over dinner, I heard CPL. (C for continuing, P for professional, L for learning, T for teacher). Their use is all a little higgledy piggledy at the moment, in a sort of Betamax-VHS way.

lusitaniaThe Friday morning workshop with John Peto (from the Nerve Centre, Derry) and Brendan Tangney (of Bridge21 in Trinity College), Dublin had some good discussion around learning. And I was delighted with my 3D printed model of the Lusitania.

Mealtimes were a treat – it was great to meet and catch up with some good people – so, Marie Therese Killen, Mairin Glenn, Catriona McDonagh, Siobhan O’Sulivan, John Peto, Seamie O’Neill and Annette Kearns, thank you for the great company.

Conor Galvin of UCD hosted a round table of invited doctoral researchers, each at a different stage of their work. In “flipping the seminar”, Teachmeet (or #DocMeet?) style, he’d asked each of us to do a micro-presentation, but also to prepare in advance a simple formative assessment of one of the others’ written summary, ‘two stars and a wish’ style. Conference guest Etienne Wenger joined to listen to each story, and add his tuppence worth to the feedback. This was a very powerful session – the depth of the passion of the researchers as they told their stories to date was very encouraging for a beginner. The collegiate feedback was generous and incisive.

Thank you, SCoTENS, for the invitation to take part; this community of generous and bright people is a serious support system, and access to it is very much appreciated.


The Next Generation: Digital Learning Symposium at DC last Tuesday had a rather complicated and unwieldy title, but it unfolded into something simple and useful – a day for ‘scholarly professionals’ to show and share what they care about. The day had a good mix of round table and panel-led discussions, breakouts for shorter presentations, and provocative keynotes. (Programme details here).

The afternoon included a Rapid Fire expo, complete with Wheel of Fortune, for those currently researching for a doctorate. This had something for everyone – speed, variety, questions, almost-formed answers, pleas for help, and a huge helping of passion. Props to Enda, Tom and Naoinh for keeping it all on track, Ant and Dec style. I definitely appreciated this TeachMeet style, as it did some of my topic explanation for me, Blue Peter style. It was my third time to shout this “if Teachmeet is the answer, then what is the question?” out. (First was AUCIe 2016; Report on the second, SCoTENS, still to come). Each time, good helpful answers, as well as offers of support, information, and links to more of the same, are being generously shared. All of this is helping towards sharpening the research focus. When the sharing is offered by people who care, it is precious stuff. Thanks to each of you.

I think my favourite moment of delight was sitting with Keith Johnston at the very second when Prof Grainne Conole flashed to a keynote slide holding an image of (the absent) Richard Millwood’s Learning Theory map. G’wan, our team!!  (For the curious, that reference is to Foireann MKR – Mags, Keith, Richard). For the even more curious, the Rapid Fire slides I used are here as pdf ndls-dcu-amond, or here as google slides.


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