Monthly Archives: November 2017

The Quiet Unconference that is CongRegation

IMG_20171127_120113CongRegation is the unconference whose entry is via a blog post. This year the theme was innovation. It is the calmest conference in the world. Attendees meet in small groups around the village of Cong, each joining with a different group in four ‘huddles’; coffee and lunch breaks are long in the best unconference tradition. Eoin Kennedy, the most genial and humble organiser I’ve ever met, allowed me a free pass on the beforehand blog post in return for being a chair for the day. Here’s my “apres Cong” post! I was presiding in the art gallery at Ryan’s hotel, which was empty for the winter, or as the witty huddlers surmised, it was showing the exhibition John Cage might have offered. Some visitors put the Wonderbar beer mats to good use:

Over the day, four groups joined me round the table, huddled, and moved on. Each group was a different kettle of fish, and the four conversations that ensued were wonderful. In each huddle, three volunteers outlined their idea of innovation, and the rest of us joined in, asked questions, offered advice. My notes for the huddles, in skeletal form:

Huddle 1
Claude spoke on his father’s work with the ancient LaJolla tribe in California – ain’t no innovation without stressors; Barre continued this theme on a fabulous slime mold analogy, and and added an aside about his uncle’s experience in the French Resistance during WW2; Kelsey on being a “mobile millenial”; round the table were Hassan, Cronan, Pearse, Neil, Thomas and me. [Our general chat was on the changing nature of life from centralised control to more local democratic control; the new ‘roving bard’ spreading cultural ideas; the Trump phenomenon in small town America – it was bound to come up at some stage]
Huddle 2
Paddy kicked off by describing the changing face of a reformed financial advisor’s world; Alex described how automating certain repetitive tasks can make life easier; Jane on encouraging her students to tell it like it is, without the sugar coating or “hero” effect; Morgan, Joan, Jacinta, Gavin, David, Sinead, Conn, and Robyn each chimed in – this was the “busiest” huddle of my day. [There was much discussion on customer journey maps, advice & device, context, communication, and hyperpersonalisation as both a positive and a negative force.]
Huddle 3
Richie began on the saving power of sea swimming and on learning Mandarin Chinese; Anna outlined her purposive mindful digital detox strategies; John spoke of his role in enabling entrepreneurs in Mayo; there was a lively round table with Sabine, Alastair, Denis, Tom, David, Dermot, and me.  [Anna’s ideas connected back to Barrie’s new ‘non-smart’ watch in huddle 1; our collective chat included us comparing advantages and and disadvantages of analog v digital news; we all learned two words of Cantonese: thcoo = go, ren = person; and we ideated a new workshop called Pimp My Pitch]
Huddle 4
By this time of the day, we just had one left to tell his tale – Barney sought advice on creating a culture of learning and appreciating Irish music in his town; he was in the right place as Helena, Karen, Pamela, Lee, Karl, Michelle and me were all free with our ideas. [We had a relaxed and happy general chat – foreshortened by an early finish to go get our ‘family photograph’ taken – on all we had learned and seen over the day.]

A brief word on the “social huddles” – lots of fun and chats and music and food was shared over the weekend – thanks to Lydons Lodge our party had two really gorgeous Trip-Advisor-comment-worthy meals. It is rumoured that some folk had a very late night after the opening lectures in Ashford Castle. The craic in Danaghers pub on Saturday night was only “mighty” as they say in Mayo – how to unconference an unconference? – organise a lesson in blues harmonica playing and let a few dozen loons loose together at it. It is also rumoured that a group of hardy bucks went climbing a hill on Sunday morning.

My own thanks for their life affirming company to my cottage sharing friends John Davitt, Richard Millwood, Pamela O’Brien and Hassan Dabbagh. Legends all.

Lots of the stories can be followed by checking the #cong17 on twitter. All submissions can be read at the website, and in time Eoin Kennedy will publish them as an e-book.

Roll on #cong18 on Nov 23th-25th – the final rumour is that some folk are booked into their accommodation already. Good move.


ps – we still have to figure out a meaning for Regation…







It’s a micro wha’? Come to #MegadojoIE in Maynooth and meet the Micro:bit !

We at Coderdojo Ireland HQ were beyond thrilled when Lorraine Underwood said she’d be home to Ireland for Megadojo weekend, and could run us two workshops with BBC Micro:bit and a fun twinkly lights seasonal theme. Lorraine is a teacher in the UK, whose projects with the Micro:bit are very creative and can be followed via her twitter feed @LMcUnderwood

For those who don’t know the Micro:bit – you’re in for a treat. Our own Microsoft evangelist in Ireland, Stephen Howell, has been introducing it to educators, and it is very very popular with all who meet it. It is a plug ‘n program experience, quite intuitive –  anyone familiar with block based programming can be up and running in a few minutes.

If you want to join a micro:bit workshop with Lorraine in the Maynooth University Megadojo on Saturday Dec 2nd, either at 10.30 am or 3.30pm, you are welcome – but you MUST register at Eventbrite:

Eugene McDonough of Codedojo Ireland had a brainwave a few years ago – why not get 1024 kids coding together, and call it Megadojo? So he did, and it has become an annual event in Limerick Institute of Technology. Never one to stop and rest, Eugene’s new brainwave is to have Coderdojo Ireland host TWO instances of Megadojo running at the same time, one on either side of the country.  Why not? So, on Saturday December 2nd, there will be one Megadojo in LIT, and another Megadojo in Maynooth University. Do the sums – that will be 2048 kids coding at the same time in Ireland.

Everyone is welcome to attend and partake, entry is free, but it is necessary to register and choose workshops in advance. Volunteers are needed, visit the website and add your details:

The support of sponsors are always welcome – if your business can help out with support, check it out here.

Coderdojo Ireland thanks Maynooth University, Limerick Institute of Technology, and Bank of Ireland for the invaluable support they have given to this venture.

Many thanks to the volunteers, mentors, organisers, and all helpers who are busy preparing to making Megadojo happen – on the double – on December 2nd.

Follow the fun at @megadojoIE on Twitter.

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TeachmeetClareI was humming Ralph McTell’s lovely emigrant’s lament last Friday evening while diving to TeachMeet Clare. “It’s a long long way from Clare to Here“. To my surprise, it wasn’t as long as I expected; the new M18 runway motorway shortened the journey from Cavan to Ennis considerably – many thanks to those who constructed it.

The welcome from Clare Education Centre, Director Pat Hanrahan and his staff, and from convenor and curator Leanne Ní Loinsigh was warm and nourishing on such a wild evening. With Leanne at the helm and Pat as Fear a’ Tí, organisation and timekeeping was goodnatured but efficient and the evening flowed by at a most enjoyable pace. The speakers were a great mix of levels and sectors. The full list of topics and presenters is below; with the added interlude of a Go Noodle “hopping on the spot” energiser that Leanne got us all to do half way through the evening. I was impressed that Pat himself was the hopping ringleader, and Leanne also did it with us, Ginger Rogers style – backwards and in heels.

I loved the flavour of the entire evening – each presenter adding their own their tuppence worth on what was driving their classrooms forward these days. Everyone there learned a lot about each others’ teaching lives in a short time. My three ‘take aways’ this time were the two themes that seemed to flowed through many of the presentations, and one genius piece of craft now added to the TeachMeet toolkit.

  1. the “playful classroom” – we could sense the playful atmosphere of many of the classrooms spoken about over the evening – the hands-on maths, the recorded and spoken Gaeilge, the student-led coding, the Aistear programme being extended across the school day, actual food being used when learning about food, the authenticity of using green screen activities across the curriculum, founding a business to learn business, the Tagtiv8 activities taking mental maths and spoken English into the playground;
  2.  the matching of an “expert” visitor with the resident expert classroom manager (us teachers) – e.g. having a visiting computer programmer helping students to design how to learning about the weather by live measuring their actual weather; the craft expert visiting and working along classroom teacher and students together to teach new creative skills;
  3. Leanne’s finalé – her Big Picture review of how we’d got to this point was passionate and heartfelt and graceful – included a rapid review in which she took us backwards through the @TeachMeetClare twitter timeline, to review what we had covered over our evening together – a touch of genius that.

It was a delight also to have two members of the Youth Media Team present with mentor Pamela O’Brien (whom I *think* I overheard saying she it was time she returned to posting on her own blog? Just saying). Amy and Cara (or is it Cara and Amy) recorded and uploaded some mojo interviews for blog. I was pleased to be asked to speak a little in memory of the departed legend that is Tim Rylands, whose memorial service was on at the same time as the TeachMeet.

Many thanks Leanne for a superb Friday evening of sharing – lots of teachers met new others, and shared good ideas. To misquote Fr Ted in his adopted county – Up With This Sort Of Thing!

TeachMeet Clare 17/11/17 speaker list –
Mags Amond – TeachMeet, BreakoutEDU, and pimp-my-badge glowie
Chris Reina – TeachTechSupport – 57+ varieties of apps
Martina O’Grady – Scoil Réalt na Mara, Kilkee – the adventure of replacing textbook maths in the junior classroom with active hands-on mathematics.
Aaron Carroll – Cratloe NS – flipping the cómhrá Gaeilge in 6th class by using the interactive website 
Sean Murphy – Ennistymon CBS – Using Rapsberry Pi and Minecaft to teach coding
Roseanne Healy – using concrete models and graphic organisers to improve literacy
Niamh Quinn – Quilty NS – extending the Aistear into more senior classes
Bryn LLewellyn – Tagtiv8 Active Learning (UK) –  for literacy, numeracy, and movement
Steve Holmes – Creative Computer Lab – how to build a classroom weather station with sensors and Scratch
Cormac Cahill – Carrigaline ETNS – using green screen technology with students
Lauren King – Ennistymon BBS – the Business in Action project and The Tenner Challenge
Jackie Maurer – a potter  from Ballyvaughan – the CraftEd project from the Craft Council of Ireland
Leanne Lynch – TeachMeet convenor – reflection on Why We Do What We Do?


Today is the day to officially say goodbye and thank you to Tim Rylands RIP. Family and friends are together in the UK this evening to do this together. Those of us at TeachMeetClare in Ennis, Ireland will wave across the sea to you…

Tim was, in turn, the man with the gorgeous voice using a walking stick that was also a flute; the man teaching from the back the tractor on the beach in Mayo; the man playing the grand piano in the foyer of a hotel teaching us a song he’d written; the revered keynote speaker with the memorable and mesmerising touch; the one who gave us LO! & Behold – the only way sharing of learning outcomes that make sense to me; the most hypnotic teacher I ever got to sit and watch – the one who eternally saw the classroom and the learning through the eyes of the student; hero and role model to most folk who saw him in action, hero of heroes; a generous friend of the CESI community in Ireland.

It was a joy to spend time together with Tim Ryalnds and Sarah Neild, and it is a gift to have treasured memories of adventures shared at LOBs in Mayo, BETT TeachEats in London, and CESIcon weekends in Galway and in Dublin.

Sending sympathy beyond words to you, the amazing and beloved Sarah.

Goodbye and thank you, Tim. Ní bheidh do leithéid ann arís.

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