Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 11.02.31One (and a half!) of the most enjoyable and memorable hours at the Scratch conference earlier this summer in MIT was the workshop to showcase ScratchEd Meetup. Attendees were not leactured about ScratchEd Meetup; we were welcomed by Karen Brennan, Alexa Kutler and the team, and launched straight into a typical event scenario which prompted several “I want one of these” moments. Best part was hearing from those from the worldwide network who have hosted meetups in their area – Leanna from Kentucky, Pau from Barcelona, Simon from Tanzania.

ScratchEd has long been an online forum wherein educators who use Scratch can convence. From this has recently evolved the ScratchEd Meetup, an occasional or regular face to face catch up session described as a “participatory professional learning experience”, organised with a Open Space / Barcamp / Edcamp flavour.

Ireland has so many users of Scratch in dojos, code clubs and classrooms around the country, it is a fair bet that many teachers and mentors would enjoy participating in a ScratchEd Meetup (especially topical with the background chatter about Scratch3.0). Plans are currently being incubated, so do keep an eye on the website at, the @cesitweets Twitter feed (and probably #ScratchEdMeetupsIE, though it is a bit of a hashtag handful) for details of time, place, and sign up.



For some background reading on the genesis of this peer designed participative professional learning, see this 2012 article by Karen Brennan and her colleagues:

tmScratchMITIt was nano presentations all the way at the TeachMeet proposed by Drew Buddie for the 2018 Scratch conference at the Media Lab in MIT, Cambridge, USA. We got an end-of-the-day time slot, and a cool dark space (with super duper AV facilities) called The Cube.

As we’d all had a long long day attending, presenting, and workshopping at the main conference, all presentations were ‘nano’ in nature – short, sweet and kept to the point. Presenters from all over the world volunteered to share out their wisdom – USA (Mildred, Kathleen, Shawn), Africa (Max – Kenya, Rehema – Tanzania, Justin – South Africa, John – Nigeria), Europe (England – Andy & Richard, Ireland – Mags, Scotland – Drew & Rob, Austria – Matt, Netherlands – Hans), South America (Brazil – Ana). There was a ‘use tech well for the good of all’ thread running thru the evenings presentations.

Drew was MC; Russel Tarr’s trusty Wheel Of Fortune determined the order in which our thirteen speakers took the stage; me and The Dromedary of Doom were (almost totally redundant) timekeepers; Richard and John were on-call  ‘technoroadies’. random name picker random name picker

There was a whole new zero hour aspect to this TeachMeet, which was a delightful as it was surprising. Although some speakers had signed up in advance in answer to an online invite, others signed up from the floor as the TeachMeet was in progress – by email or by sharing me a link to their presentation. Lightning speed internet reliability – connectivity ftw!

The regrettably missing portion in this TeachMeet was some built in conversation time, but the clock and our collective tiredness worked against us in this instance. However, judging by the responsive atmosphere as the presentations rolled along, I think it is fair to say the occasion wasn’t diminished in any great way by this omission.

Thanks Drew for prompting this, the third of hopefully many consecutive TeachMeets at Scratch.

Rehemma from Tanzania represents She Codes For Change

Rehemma from Tanzania represents She Codes For Change

See Twitter timeline for this TeachMeet at #tmScratchMIT

The Friday late afternoon Ignite Session at the 2018 Scratch Conference at MIT was a happy, lively, and informative affair. The audience, which of course contains all the Ignite presenters as well as curious others, was receptive and responsive. Lisa, our curator of this session, had the perfect light-but-ruthless (think USA version of Irish Mammy – Irish Mom perhaps?) touch that kept things ticking along, and the format of a series of short sharp 5 minute presentations followed by Q&A made for an engaging and learnful hour for everyone present.

CTwins Ignite Scratch Conference MIT 2018
CTwins Ignite Scratch Conference MIT 2018

Richard Millwood and I, on behalf of our colleagues Pamela Cowan, Elizabeth Oldham, Nina Bresnihan, Glenn Strong, and Lisa Hegarty, presented the work of the CTwins project, a year long Google funded computational thinking (CT) collaboration between Irish teachers working on Scratch in cross border pairs (‘Twins’). Our project aimed to increase teacher confidence through blended paired programming practice, leveraging the remix facility in Scratch to build in cooperative learning principles. It isn’t easy to fit a year’s work into a 5 minute space, so we just sped thru the headlines, doing out best to make the central threads clear.

Ignite is a rollercoaster format like Pecha Kucha, with 20 slides each auto advancing after 15 seconds – hence our use of PowerPoint (does anyone know how to autoadvance in Google slides?) for the slide deck, which is here. The questions from the audience were insightful – the time was too short for in-depth discussion so we pointed folk to the CTwins work-in-progress webspace here.


Thanks for John Hegarty and Claude Terosier for catching and sharing some of the lighter moments:

Many thanks to all who made this the happiest conference hour of #ScratchMIT2018 – those who attended, Lisa our convenor, and co-presenters Chris, Claude, Ingrid, Janet, Natalie, Leanna, Bernat, Jens, John, Rina, Angela, Lucia, and Richard.

Forever thanks is owed to to Laura Tobin @choiceirregular for introducing me to @DublinMaker a few years ago. It gets better each year. Yesterday in Merrion Square there was such a carnival atmosphere, with happy famines being introduced to a terrific variety of activities and ideas. See here

First stop was at the TurtleStitch booth where Richard Millwood was playing pied piper again to those looking to design and stitch their own creation. Once again the multicoloured thread was a hit, and neither Richard nor the trusty Brother embroidery machine stopped treading for a minute all day. The interest generated in this form of computational thinking is growing in Ireland, mainly due to Richard’s efforts on behalf of both CESI’s computer science community of practice and Trinity’s CT4Life group; those curious to have a go should visit

Then I watched for a while in awe as two legends of my life, Michael Grehan and Rory Goeghegan, engaged those round them with physics at the IOP Physics Busking space with David Keenaghan and Paul Nugent.

A visit to the CoderDojo Foundation stall was next, to say hello to Rosa, Vanessa, and listen in as Philip did a great job convincing visitors they should consider becoming a mentor.

I loved visiting The Dark Tent, as it meant I could finally meet @triploidtree (she who I admire so much via Twitter) and view the sparkly LED and suchlike delights on view:

Then it was off to find my buddies at the @MakerMeetIE double booth, a hive of family constructive activity….

Sheer joy (not to mention sweat and elbow grease) was glowing from this corner of Merrion Square – the teams own twitter gif says it all

There was much much more to be tried and tested – music, art, weaving, robotics, paperless programming. Live music and good value Street food added to the vibe.

Congratulations to all the volunteers and sponsors who make Dublin Maker happen, introducing families to all aspects of creative making. And Thank You.

[crossposting sections of this as a CESI Digiteach blog post]

It was my pleasure to represent CESI in Newcastle UK on June 8th and 9th for Martin Bailey’s inspiring conference Tech on the Tyne and unconference teachmeet Talk on the Tyne. Martin chooses his venues with care and imagination – the teachmeet was in a former warehouse now an open co-working space, and the conference was housed in The Tyneside Cinema, which itself is well worth a visit.

Talk on the Tyne >>> As with most good teachmeets, the variety of topics was wide, and the engagement was deep – there was a thread of awareness of our mental wellbeing and that of our students running gently through this evening. I got the job of timekeeper, and so had a birds’ eye view of both speaker and audience – the atmosphere was lovely, over eighty teachers chilling and sharing ideas for several hours. Great food too, delicious Hong Kong street food from Pop Up Wok at the interval break. The list of speakers and topics is appended below. Special mention to two presenters: Nigel from 2Simple spoke quietly and about advocating and supporting the late Jonny Zucker’s Striker Boy as a teaching resource, and presented each of us with a copy of the book. Read about it here, it is a special story; and Ruth Fox, the keynote for the evening, held us in thrall as she told here tale. Here’s what I noted at the time… “A natural storyteller, Ruth told us of the struggle with her own mental health which began in her teens, and the challenges she has faced – and overcome – in gaining and maintaining the upper hand in this ongoing struggle. She was blisteringly honest in describing the omnishambles she encountered in the professional care system when she needed help to counter seriously debilitating problems which threatened her very existence. The stand out part of the story, which Ruth stressed again and again, was the care and empathy offered to her by “that” teacher in her school, the one who went above and beyond the call of duty. [Thank you, Mr Donoghue; may there always be a teacher like you in every student’s life]. Ruth is now working hard at building her resilience, building her life, and advocating for others – it would be a good thing for students, as well as adults in the education and health sectors, to hear Ruth tell her story”.


…this is a BIG teachmeet programme – but as it happens most speakers used way less than their four minutes a we flew threw the evening…

It was good to spend time together with teaching colleagues from the UK after the meet, comparing notes and sharing stories – usually it can be about classroom practice, but prompted by the tales told at the teachmeet earlier, this late evening session’s conversations were mostly about dealing with stress, and dealing with dealing with stress. As the saying goes, it is good to talk. Thank you Joe, Sarah, Dughall, Cherise, Adam, Lee, Julian, Ruth, Steve, and Carol.

Tech on the Tyne >>> This day long conference featured a dozen short presentations – approx. 20 minutes. Each presenter was excellent; there was a fair mixture of experienced and novice speakers. The audience – about 150 people – was engaged throughout, and no one left early. Powerpoint and Prezi were both used very well – hardly a bullet point in sight. In one way it was like an extended TeachMeet – it was very practice oriented, and the theme of wellbeing in the classroom was stressed, and Martin as MC had a light touch and kept the day rolling gently along. I’m not a fan of sitting all day at a conference, but in this case the curation of the day gave me no bother with it. And I was sitting in a beautifully comfortable cinema theatre! Each presenter was brimming with passion, and there was humour and caring and fun.


Dughall quotes his 17yo daughter Bryony who as we listened was sitting her A Level philosophy exam.

Outstanding moment of the day for me… Dughall McCormack, in spite of being beset by tech gremlins, setting a warm reflective tone to the day in his opening keynote called Navigating the tech-related mental health minefield which was peppered with hugs offered to bemused late arrivals… Carol Allen was riveting and fierce on inclusion, accessibility and tech-mediated ‘special needs’ education (this was my first time to meet Carol, and hopefully not the last)… As ever Steve Bunce made us ‘think by doing’ about computational thinking by leading a finger knitting session… Julian Wood uses every presentation to showcase how best tech can be used with students, and although his style is that of a stand up comic, his passion shines through and he puts detailed thought into what he shares… One to watch for the future is Adam Chase – a young teacher with wise and wonderful ideas fermenting – watch that space. One point of discussion was the woeful gender (lack of) balance – Carol was the only female speaker. [I’ll place a bet that this will change next year.]

Kudos to Martin Bailey of Aninate2Educate for founding and nurturing this geordie conference for teachers anxious to improve their integration of tech into teaching and learning – it was “purely belta” this year, and each year gets only better.


‘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).


Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 20.11.21.png

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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