Monthly Archives: May 2018

‘oh Brother, where art thou? – at the @coolestprojects turtlestitch atelier in Dublin, Ireland.

Richard Millwood, Visiting Fellow at CRITE in TCD, founding member of the Computational Thinking 4 Life ( group, and current coordinator of the CESI Computer Science community of practice was one of the busiest humans at Coolest Projects on Saturday May 26th in the RDS, Dublin. Once he had set up his electronic Brother sewing machine and left some laptops open at the Turtlestitch coding website, curious youngsters – and some oldsters – began coding their designs, saving them, and taking them to Richard who helped them choose fabric and thread and setting up the machine to print each individual design. Many happy visitors went away proudly showing off their swatch decorated with their own coded design.

Turtlestitch is the brainchild of Andrea Mayr-Stalder, who had the smart idea to merge turtle logo programming with the workings of her electronic embroidery machine. The story is at and is about to be launched as a crowdfunded project so that progress to date can be maintained.

Most youngsters who visited our atelier were familiar with Scratch block based programming. Turtlestitch is based on SNAP! so the Scratchers had no hesitation in diving in. Very very useful were Jennifer Lin’s starter cards, which outline some very basic designs and can be a supportive scaffold to hesitant beginners. Having them on offer was invaluable to me who’s role was “guide on the side” (as was John Hegarty, who called to say hello but was swiftly press-ganged into work).

Success in bringing each piece of work from programming thru file transfer to final production took patience and persistence, as sometimes more than one cycle was necessary to achieve a desired outcome; this was interesting to watch. One parent in particular caught our attention – she had visited and observed as her two children took their turn, but returned herself later and worked out, for her first time ever, the code for a gorgeous geometric design. Go, Helen!

Thanks to Coolest Projects liaison Peter O’Shea for inviting Turtlestitch to partake – it was a great experience for all those who took part.

Sarah and Daisy from Antrim with their designs. (Parental permission to display picture).

Sarah and Daisy from Antrim with their designs. (Parental permission to display picture).


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Although it’s way over a calendar month ago, I’ve been thinking about #picademy Dublin a lot since those two days, April 23 & 24, in the Science Gallery Dublin. James Robinson and his team did a tremendous pre setup for the thirty who took part in Raspberry Pi educator training.


It was a vibrant mix of learners – full mix of experience, sector, gender. Day 1 was a whistlestop tour of all the possibilities working with Raspberry Pi can offer – scratch and python coding, sonic pi music, physical computing – as long a piece of thread as anyone could want. The coolest lesson of the day at our table was learning about pitch, roll, and yaw; I reckon none of us will ever take a flight – or for those inclined, a rollercoaster – again without remembering this afternoon.

Day 2 was a huge gently guided maker project day – attendees could follow their dream theme. I worked with Mary Jo, Irene, Julie, Thomas and Seamus; our group’s goal was to put our pitch roll yaw learning into action and use one pi as a remote control to control a vehicle motor powered by another pi. We worked in two physical crews – the boys got busy building a lego car while the girls got busy programming each pi so that they could communicate over bluetooth. [Disclosure #1: for this part we got a lotta lotta help from Martin O’Hanlon in the use of bluedot – manual here – thank you Martin.]

What was really really important during this exercise, although we were far too living it busy to actually be aware of it at the time, was that we were conjuring the will o’ the wisp of the classroom – authentic cooperative learning. One half of the coding group was programming the pi 1 as the remote controller, the other half of the group was programming pi 2 to drive the motor of the vehicle on receipt of command from pi 1. [Disclosure #2: Irene and Julie took the lead as programmers, Mary Jo and me assisted.]  Both groups needed knowledge of each others programmes, dovetailing almost line by line, in order to progress.

In terms of cooperative learning we were experiencing all elements of learning cooperatively as a formal group – positive interdependence, individual and group accountability, promotive interaction, interpersonal and small group skills, group processing. During the ‘show and tell’ session at the end of the day, it was obvious other groups had experienced these elements also.  As a cooperative learning teacher, this made me comfortable at the time, and very very happy in reflection afterwards. I’m now curious to know if / how my colleagues Richard Millwood, Stephen Howell, and Keith Quille, who’ve each have been working with teacher groups using micro:bits, have seen the weaving of true cooperative learning into programming and maker projects.


So massive thanks to James and his Picademy team, you brought something good to Dublin, and you’re all welcome back anytime.


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