Coolest Projects is exactly what it says – a showcase of cool projects from Coderdojos all over Ireland and all over the world. A huge volunteer force works to get it together – people who believe strongly in empowering youngsters, and celebrating their creativity. The atmosphere is full of energy, and the noise is, well, – it’s loud!
To get an idea of the age group presenting their work – I was visiting some projects when I heard a shriek, and a young girl ran past looking for her teacher and her mom, holding out her hand to show the tooth that had just fallen out. Later, when it all settled, she calmly went on stage to collect her award:
I had good fun helping Eugene McDonough, of CoderDojo Ireland and Coderdojo Limerick, as he led a short class on Scratch for beginners. I’m delighted that Eugene is now an Ireland Ambassador for Code Week EU; I won’t be the only one visible from space in the luminous orange Code Week EU tee!
One thing I loved as I wandered about was the number of students who could present their work in a confident manner, fielding questions like professionals. The students from Lacken NS at the Microsoft Minecraft booth, and the students of Confey College at the Mechatrons booth.
I couldn’t help pondering on the day…
Confey College students present their Mechatrons machine
It was a treat to travel to Newcastle with CESI’s Adrienne Webb and Leanne Lynch to take part in Talk On the Tyne, and attend Tech On the Tyne in early June. Both events are organised each year by Martin Bailey of Animate to Educate. Martin is the absolute king of hospitality, and everything was organised to the nth degree. Meeting the UK teachers was great, swapping ideas and comparing notes with them. (And with the day that was in it, discussing general election outcomes and politics in general).
We had a very entertaining TeachMeet style evening on the Thursday night, in the beautiful setting of the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, over looking over some of the bridges on Tyne river. Presentations on classroom practice came flying at us, with Martin’s spilt second timing keeping it flowing.
Highlight of the evening had to be watching our CESI chair, Adrienne, totally absorbed in the NowPressPlay “do what you hear” writing prompt activity while the rest of us kinked with laughter – it was easy to see how a classroom of youngsters would get absorbed in this. (If you’re wondering, they were listening to writing prompts about The Stone Age, a topic in UK primary schools. But you’d figured that out, hadn’t you?).
My three other favourites were the “DIY” ones we got to try out with the presenter…
- Julian Woods‘s lesson on the yard game Chopsticks (spent half the night, and lots of time since, trying to get my head round that one)
- Paul Tullock literally giving it socks – and tutu and headband – in a lively Go Noodle interlude which had us hopping and laughing together, dignity totally abandoned:
- Chris Wilde‘s maker bag containing the fixings, sans instruction, to make a bristlebot. Cue discussion, cooperative learning, the buzz of vibro motors and the buzz of learning:
The next day, the main event called Tech On The Tyne, was full to the brim with top-notch personal and professional development. What’s still in the ponder zone in my mind… Ken Corish‘s clear no-nonsense overview of where we should be going with policy and practice on internet safety; the fierce passion of Simon Finch; Joe Dale‘s masterclass in “keep calm and carry on teaching” while every possible tech fail happens during your allotted time; Julian Wood again, this time overtly presenting on using dance move instructions to teach about algorithms, but really it was about using your teacher superpowers to get your students to enjoy learning with you, no matter what the subject; Lee Parkinson‘s lovely finalé to the day reminding me very much of our late friend Bianca Ní Ghrógáin, in both style and substance.
One surprise of the visit was Newcastle itself. Short flight, small user friendly airport, cheap efficient public transport, city full of history, culture and a seemingly endless supply of lovely restaurants – definitely worth a return visit.