[For those who prefer to listen]

The Story So Far

Ten years ago, I went to the annual conference of the ASE in the UK. One of the workshops I attended was by a Swedish teacher, Hans Perrson. He did a demonstration in which the population of the room became a connected electric circuit, using a cute toy, a fluffy chicken that chirped when the circuit was completed. He was demonstrating an exercise he used to try and deepen children’s understanding of difficult concepts. [In physics, from primary school to degree level and beyond, current elctricity is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp.] Luckily for eveyone who attended, there was “one for everyone in the audience” and as we left we each got presented with our own little chick. Probably the best present I ever recieved for the teaching of physics. If you live in Sweden and you know him, say thank you from me.

This is a flavour of how Hans uses the chicken in a primary science [this and other ideas of his are at http://www.hanper.se]

Over the years I have used this idea and evolved it slowly – many colleagues and students have added ideas to the mix. Now that we are physically distanced from each other and can’t actually do the circuit, perhaps the time has come to pause and jot it all down.

Hans’s orginial teaching sequence

  • demonstrate that the chicken has a battery inside, and cheeps if a conductor [eg human skin] joins the two electodes
  • invite people to form a circle in which they all join hands, except two people, and these two each place a finger on the electrodes
  • ask people what they think is happening. Take time to discuss and play.
  • place various materials (plastic, metal, wood, tap water) between the hands of two people in the circle (now called a circuit with older students) and agree that only some materials allow the chicken to cheep. Get to the agreement that materials may be conductors or non-conductors
  • Hans would then get the children to draw a picture of what they thought was happening
PieuPieu – join the electrodes with a conductor (human skin) to hear the cheeps

Ideas added over time

  • this is a great way to teach and remind of Scientific Method – always remind to check with a full human circuit before testing a new material
  • join pinkies in stead of hands (oh, for the days we could do this safely, may they return soon); some people do not like holding hands, pinkies seem less invasive. I credit the students of Lacken NS in Cavan and the young people of The Elementals Foróige Club in Lucan for this enhancement, which then led to a new name being bestowed on this learning game from the imaginitive students of Drogheda ETSS: “Pinky Linky“. The chicken itself was given the name Pieu Pieu by a group of teachers in Bordeaux.
  • take time over the graphite – draw some thick pencil lines on paper and see how thin a layer of carbon will conduct – I think the late great Bianca Ní Ghrógáin for that idea. [With older students, or science teachers this is a time to have a short side-bar about graphene]. this is also a chance to learn that it is NOT lead in a pencil, it is graphite, an form of carbon.
  • if you have some thermal paper, place it over the graphite as it conducts – some serious heat is released
  • My friend Diarmuid O’Leary gave me a present of a small beautiful shiny lump of silicon [pictured above, beside the scissors]. Being a close cousin of carbon, it is a conductor – this point can be a fork in the lesson to lead to computer science matters via talk of silicon chips, Silicon Valley …
  • My teaching colleague Michelle Rogan and her Transtion Year students in Loreto College Cavan gave me the greatest gift – the idea to place a diode between two people in the circuit. One way, it works; reverse the direction, no cheeps … the joy when seeing the first student’s realisation of what was happening and then hearing her explain it to the others! And even more delight when they thought to reverse the polarity of the little chicken. This leads to discussion of the way the diode works, the notion of a semi-conductor is introduced, and segues nicely into playing with LEDs
  • the first year students of Drogheda ETSS added the ‘alive or not’ outdoor test idea – gather some fresh leaves and some dead twigs – predict and see which were conducting; this gave a great link to the biology and chemistry of cells containing ionic fluids.
  • the same group also discovered that some paints can prevent some metals from conducting – modern material science to be expolored!
  • other toys can be used to do the same demonstration – the “energy stick” sold in toy stores, the “eyeball” sold in jokeshops at Hallowee’n. If the classroom has several of these toys, smaller groups can be challenged to do their own materials testing
Human circuit using Micro:bit
  • my CESI teamies John Hegarty and Richard Millwood have come up with some innovative ideas on how to use microprocessors eg Micro:bit in this space – ideal for small group in CS or physics class [more detail in .pdf]
  • a large human circuit was formed at the 2013 Scratch conference in Barcelona by Joek Von Montfort and oh, over one hundred friends, using Makey Makey and a laptop!
135 people in a human circuit

Moving closer to matters of electronics and computer science

Take a break from the human circuit, introduce the LED and some 3V button batteries – by trial and error, the diode effect can be found again in the making of some souvenier “glowies”. Try as many colours of LED as possible – it will be found they do not behave in the same way, as they semi-conducting materials vary. A fabulous group of teachers at the International School in Toulouse gave the workshop the name “Chicken ‘n Chips”; the term “feicin’ physics” may also have been born then.

LO & Behold – matters pedagogical

Although I have used this mostly in informal setting with very mixed aged groups, it can be adapted to almost any learning space. When using these ideas in formal science or CS lessons, here is a provocation from another late great educator, Tim Rylands. His brainwave was an idea about NOT sharing learning outcomes overtly at the start of a lesson. He called it LO & Behold, and it works well for this lesson. Write down some learning intentions on a piece of paper, ask a student to mind them for the lesson, and at the end of the lesson use them as a point of discussion – “so, did we …?” [ideas for some LO/s are in the attached .pdf]

Richard Millwood has gathered the main points of this learning cycle for both toy and for micro-processor in the ElectrChick document linked above – feel free to download, use adapt and enhance – tell us how you get on at #PieuPieu on Twitter! the very cheesy moral of this contunuing story is – many hands make Pieu Pieu work better and better.

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Pieu Pieu – The Conducting Circuit Chicken is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Thoughts this week are very much focussed on an aspect of the sudden pivot to online in education – in the move from face-to-face into screen-to-screen what would happen to the valued elements of unconference events – the interstitial chats, The Law Of Two Feet? Those conversations that happens before, after, in-between (or even during, if you are discreet enough) the scheduled program presenters are speaking. The permission to take yourself elsewhere, discreetly without presumption of judgement, if you are not thriving where you are. Both are important elements in the world I am currently observing for PhD field work, that of TeachMeet.

The last event I attended before Stay At Home / Fan Sa Bhaile began was a TeachMeet. The first ‘cancelled’ event I had in my calendar was a TeachMeet. However, when people caught their collective breath, it seems the desire to converse and share was strong, and ‘TeachMeet’ events began to take place online in a variety of platforms. Scroll back through the Twitter timeline for #teachmeet to see how many and how widespread. So how are events which were born of desire to meet face to face faring in the screen-to-screen world? Can we deploy the non-verbal gestures used during the “locked in syndrome” of being stuck in a CPD room – eyebrow raised, note passed, head nod of approval or dropped in horror, the discreet exit out the back of the hall, the wish to converse now with someone on the point just made … I could go on.

We can, it turns out. Here are the two emerging desire lines I have been been noticing …

Chat windows

Having spent time at several online events, some as an observer and some as an active participant, that space that is most compelling for me is the typed chat window in the events which offered it. The mix of social and professional conversation is as close to the convivial atmosphere of the round table and corridor conversations of a ‘real’ event as one could ask for via screens. Although the human voice is absent, the rapid fire sentences appearing, timestamped with an identity attached make for quite a dynamic atmosphere in an otherwise flat space. The chat window acts as a non-stop sidebar, which doesn’t interrupt the flow of the speaker, but can be woven into the event by an agile MC or curator, picking up on cues in the mood of the sentences typed, and also in the emojis and symbols used in the chat window. This reflects the way that social media backchannels, often used at unconference events, have been used heretofore to help connect those not in the room of the event – in the current state of affairs, that is everybody. It can get a little frantic, as the asynchronous timeline gets garbled – so appointing a separate curator/moderator for this space (and another for each separate social media channel) struck me as a really useful good idea (meaning I wish I had thought of it myself. Deep bow to you, Tom Farrelly).

The Law of Two Feet

The originator of the Open Space philosophy that has informed most unconference thinking, Harrison Owen, espoused one ‘law of mobility’, usually referred to as The Law Of Two Feet:  If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else. Permission is implicit for each participant to move from a space in which they are not thriving (the painful inability to do this at formal professional development affairs is one of the most stated reasons for becoming involved in self-organised meetings). It is one of the elements that puts the ‘un’ in unconference. Can it be facilitated in this new online world? From what I have observed so far, seems it can:

  • breakout rooms can be configured so that participants can ‘apparate’ (the move is so sudden that is what it seems like) from room to room
  • there may also be a facility to signal that “I am stepping out, will be  back”
  • choices can be offered for how deeply embedded in the meet the participant wants to be –  active within the chosen platform, or passively following on a live stream
  • choices can be made be part of the chat window or just watch a feed streaming in the background
  • and there is of course the stark Leave The Meeting button!

Most platforms show the number logged in at any given time; it has been interesting to watch these numbers change over an event, particularly if time is not managed well. And what to call the digital version of this? The Law of Two Fingers has a cheeky flow to it for those at a keyboard meeting, but might sound a tad rude. Owen’s original inclusive version, The Law of Mobility, could be the best solution to cover ALL meetings.

The One Law - The Law Of Mobility

Owen, Harrison (2008). Open Space Technology: A User’s Guide, p.95. Berrett-Koehler.

Note of thanks – this week I am concluding the observation phase of my field work researching TeachMeet. In the very unexpected turn of world’s axis, half of the events were face to face and half online. I am grateful to all who gave their blessing to my passive presence at their TeachMeet events in both formats: Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.
Next phase up will be a survey open to all TeachMeet participants. Be ready – bígí réidh!

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Chat Windows and The Law of Two Feet – desire lines forming in unconference spaces by mags amond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

March was an unpredictable month, when it was never clear what might happen.
[Tracy Chevalier, Girl With A Pearl Earring]

March 1st >>> Driving home after the annual recharge that is the CESI conference weekend. Skin on hands raw and sore from the industrial strength hand sanitisers in The Sheraton Hotel and Athlone Institute of Technology, provided out of watchfulness against this new virus. A watchfulness which had prompted a return to long abandoned daytime talk radio for Covid-19 news updates, and a return to the more controlled atmosphere of the car from the lottery that is dense public commuter transport. Head full of thoughts about the delights of the weekend just spent with wonderful people…

  • Friday night’s TeachMeet, #tmCESI curated by Sarah Jayne Carey and Mary Jo Bell, which I spent as an observer as part of my PhD field work.open asynchronous professional development
  • Saturday’s #cesicon action included a morning TurtleStitch workshop co-hosted with John Hegarty; a midday panel discussion about Open Asynchronous Professional Development with Catherine Cronin, Rebecca O’Neill, Pat Seaver, me and a theatre full of educators from all over Ireland who engaged in debate, a debate which continued into Bryan Mathers’ compelling ‘Visual Thinkery’-fuelled afternoon address, a good summary of which is here in CESI Secretary and panel convenor Kate Molloy’s reflective post-conference blog post.

March 2nd – March 30th>>> Ch-ch-ch-changes. Mostly unexpected.

  • change for hashtag #edchatie – came unexpectedly when curator Fred Boss announced that the Monday night chats would cease, leaving the # as a 24/7 timeline for tagging education matters. At the suggestion of Eoghan Evesson, we had ‘For One Night Only’ a final Monday night valedictory #FredChatIE to say thank you to Fred.
  • change of pace – increasing isolation leading to instinctive then instructed cocooning – staying home instead of going to college lab or local library, private St Patrick’s Day parade in the backyard, watching as our caretaker government moves to take more and more care but worrying it might not be timely enough for the most vulnerable, marvelling at the ingenuity and generosity of those getting on with helping us get over this as a population, and rewriting the entire list of what is important or necessary.
  • change of language – a sobering morning reading ‘the’ research paper by Neil Ferguson & co at Imperial College – mitigation, suppression, surge, rebound, social distancing, cocooning – and realising that the only variable that will matter until a vaccine is deployed is capacity of the ICUs across the country / the world
  • change of ‘venue’ – conversations and meetings in Skype, Zoom, Blackboard, Teams, Meet, Hangout, Jitsi (btw, for me it is a big ‘ugh’ to the word virtual as in VLE; and as for incorporeal to describe meetings, it is a louder ‘ugh squared’).
  • change in education infrastructure – a totally ‘flipped’ system, not even over a weekend but over a single Thursday night began with the 12yo granddaughter arrived home with all her books – all 22kg of them. The new hashtag-du-jour becomes #EdShareIE, suggested by Amanda Joliffe, a place where the suddenly-displaced teachers, teacher-trainers, and providers could point ideas and resources at. Frazzled and frantic for the unprepared, even a bit so for the prepared, but generous sharing from those for whom this was not a new experience; proud of my teaching colleagues who are triaging their way into a new situations simultaneously at home and at work.
  • change in pedagogy – and so a month that had begun with a relaxed discussion about emerging Open Asynchronous Professional Development became a global rollercoaster of urgent talk of how to ‘deliver’ school through a screen. It seemed to only worry about how to quickly change teacher’s ‘stand and deliver’ from a podium to ‘sit and deliver’ from home office chair. It was a little dizzying – one of the reasons I considered OAPD to be important is that it can be “in your own time, in your own space, in your own way, at your own pace”. Couldn’t it / shouldn’t it be the same for teachers and their learners? The way Catherine Cronin describes open education practice – allowing that it is ‘complex, personal, contextual, continually negotiated’ – seems to me to be a very fair way to proceed for all education, whether it is situated online or offline. And reading other who have been “at this” for a long time who share their wisdom … of the many, these are four that resonated with me:
    > Leigh Graves Wolf A reflection on teaching in online EdD enviroments
    > Donald Clark Ton of tools and 10 things to do if you’re new to online learning…
    > Nick Jackson The Dawn of New eLearning
    > Steve Wheeler Face-to-face at a distance
    And so to stop my head either exploding or imploding, the calm genius that is Bryan Mathers drew another ‘think’, this time for Open Asynchronous Pedagogy. I like it. The idea, and the image. And it arrived on my screen with five minutes of a posting of the poem by one of my favourite educators. And that made me very happy.open asynchronous pedagogy

“a stirring
of power
to go on
towards the space
of sharing.”
[Michael D. Higgins, Take Care]

March 31st > and so cocooning continues until further notice. Holed up, on hold, holding on. Ding dong – special doorstep deliveries. Chats through the window. Washing hands and washing windows!

But it won’t be forever. ‘Til we get to the other side, do as Miggledy says, tabhair aire, take care.


7 minute listen, ums & ahs, mistakes and all

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long march towards a place of sharing by mags amond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Teachmeet reports front cover

TeachMeet10Report as PDF

An IPA analysis of findings of an open survey which invited global participants to share examples of impact in the first ten years of TeachMeet.
Email any errors you spot to amondm@tcd.ie 😉

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This work by TeachMeet Collective is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


Selected data TeachMeets UK & IE 2013-2019

TeachMeetsSelectedData2013-2019 as Excel

TeachMeetSelectedData2013-2019 as CVS

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Selected Teachmeet data 2013-2019 by Mags Amond and Richard Millwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


TeachMeet[AUS} report cover

TeachMeet[AUS} report cover


© Reproduced with permission – Matt Esterman on behalf of TeachMeet[Aus}


The length and breadth of TeachMeet experience in the 60 respondents to the ‘TeachMeet 10’ survey is both wide and deep, as can be seen when it is mapped placing length on a Rogers diffusion scale, and breadth on a Wenger Trayner deLatt levels of experience scale:

Temporal and experiential profile of "TeachMeet is 10"survey respondents.

Temporal and experiential profile of “TeachMeet is 10″survey respondents.

My eye caught a recent call from #femedtech for contributions to a Quilt of Care and Justice to be put together and displayed in April at OER20

I made a decision to stitch a square at home; and as it happened an opportunity arose during a special workshop to stitch another. Both have been dispatched to and received by Frances Bell who is coordinating the project.

Square 1 is an homage to a Logo icon Cynthia Solomon, who has been a computer science educator for many decades. I love to listen to her tell the story of developing turtle Logo and introducing it to children, and I appreciate the fact that she puts education value before everything else. The circle of hearts in the centre is a Turtlestitch design by Cynthia who nowadays collaborates with another awesome teacher, Susan Klimczac, at the South Boston Technology Centre. The turtles are a wave to Andrea Mayr-Stalder, the creator of the open source programming tool Turtlestitch.
The red and gold fabric fabric was sitting, already cut in to a pinked circle, with the sewing machine of my late mother Angela, whose machine sewing was my first introduction to technology and first lesson in watching a woman doing it for herself. I have no idea what her plans for the swatch were, but I think she would approve of where it is going to end up.

Square 2 evolved during a collaborative exercise which evolved during a visit to Nano Nagle Place in Cork Ireland, a centre dedicated to social justice, having been invited to bring them a Turtlestitch atelier. Led by Richard Millwood, a group of us – Debbie, Danielle, Sorcha, Naomi and me – took the Nano Nagle logo and worked out the maths together in order to code the design, and watched together as it stitched out. The black-on-black french knots, hidden in plain sight, were added by me later to represent the fact that due to Penal Laws in 18th century Ireland, Nano (who grew up to be the founder of the Presentation sisters) had to be sent for her own education in France, and when she first began educating the youngsters of Cork it was in secret.

I am following the story of this #fenedtechquilt with delight and look forward to seeing it finished and displayed later in the year.

Definition of community (merriam-webster.com)

1a unified body of individuals: such as
athe people with common interests living in a particular area …
ba group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together …
ca body of persons of common and especially professional interests
da body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interestsea group linked by a common policy
fan interacting population of various kinds of individuals (such as species) in a common location

2 aa social state or condition; bjoint ownership or participation; ccommon character ; dsocial activity; 3society at large

Community was the theme of the CongRegation unconference in Cong, Mayo, Ireland over the weekend of November 23rd. A hundred or so gathered to discuss  “all of the above” and bringing to the table concerns they had for their community, local and global.
The format of this unconference is simple – blog your way to attend, join the four sequential huddles randomly assigned to you over the day, tell your story in turn, and get talking togethers.
(More details on rules of engagement are here, and the 2019 submissions are here).
I have been chairing these huddles now for several years, and the conversations run wide, deep, and rich – here is a snapshot of the day in Danaghers …

Huddle 1 – In the first huddle, discussion ranged across ideas for investing in knowing the community before the bad times, so we are ready for those bad times. Can we gamify community formation? How do we connect people in remote areas, deal with local issues? is there a connection between the life cycle and the deployment of social media? A theme which recurred throughout the day was the importance of the ‘after worship’ chats in a community, the decline of the Mass / after Mass chats at the church gate was mentioned as a variable. The strongest theme point emerging early in the day was that there are very many meaning for the word community (as seen by reading the blog posts submitted by attendees on that topic).
Huddle 2 – this discussion centred on communities working towards a purpose –  ranging from agile use of online communities for education, social justice and activism, journalism, the ‘Overton Window’ concept leading to a discussion of the contrast between being a customer and a citizen. The importance of being clear about purpose was deemed as the most important need for a community, but the one most often missing or skipped over.
Huddle 3 – this discussion ranged from rural Africa to rural Ireland. We listened to the story of the growing of a community of computer science educators across rural Africa, supported initially by philanthropy but increasingly being left in supported local hands; a success story centred on obvious need . This contrasted with the description of the visible decline in many rural Irish towns. Examples of how some communities have countered this were cited  – communities, many helped in their transformation by the energy of some “blow-in” volunteers, who leverage the energy of the school-gate community, communities who carry out an appreciative inquiry as a starter activity upon which to make a plan.
Huddle 4 – this huddle centred at first on the story of the bee colony – we learned a lot about life of the queen, workers, and drones in the community of the hive! We also spoke of the difference between face to face and online communities, and how they differ. Stepping back from the ‘milestone validated’ community was also a topic; and it took us into discussion of the importance of learning to develop self-acceptance and prioritise it above acceptance by others in our community – something which was agreed can take many of us a lifetime.

In summary

The recurring theme of the four talks around community that I experienced can be summed up thus:
community is contextual, it is important that the purpose of each community is clearly defined and declared.
Throwing my chairing notes into a word cloud generator returned this talk bubble … problems and solutions swapped, cares and concerns shared, over a hundred people gone back to their home communities richer in spirit than when they left. It can only be a good thing.

Cong19 - threads of four huddle conversations

Threads of conversation from four huddle conversations in Danaghers Hotel at CongRegation 2019

Aprés-Huddle – the social aspect of CongRegation is a very important part of the value it offers participants – sharing breakfast, lunch, dinner and “afters” together, joining in the maker meeting, the poetry slam, the tin whistle lessons, the daftness walk in the forest, the strange quiet post-pub musical shenanigans – all of these activities which ‘unconference the unconference’, injecting opportunity for unpredictable mayhem and fun into the weekend.
Thanks to Eoin Kennedy for curating and evolving this unique gathering.
See you next November, whatever the topic.

#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross

#Cong2019 Goodbye picture at the Cross

I’ve had ethics on the brain for a while – building and submitting the ethics submission for my PhD research has been done and delivered. Awaiting approval is providing a short period of slacking off relative calm and a chance to catch up with the real world.

So when on November 12 I read a tweet (which quickly grew to be a long thread) from someone I really admire, the banlaoch* that is UK researcher and senior academic Trisha Greenhalgh, both the content and the context stopped me in my tracks. I had time to react and reflect on the fact that this had happened, that it had happened to someone at the top of her profession, and that it had been done before her professional peers. Ugh.
[*banlaoch = the Irish term for a female warrior or heroine]

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 15.16.58

A couple of weeks later, this subject of ‘conduct unbecoming’ during post-presentation discussions arose again for me, as it became part of the exit conversation among researchers attending an IPA (Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis) colloqium at the Technological University of Dublin. I recounted the recent experience of Prof. Dr. Greenhalgh, and my dismay at the unethical behaviour towards her of the Chair who should have been steering everyone’s behaviour by example. It also brought to my mind the times the exact opposite was in place, and and the rules of engagement are declared openly at the beginning of a meeting, conference, or seminar. I am now thinking that declaring the rules of engagement should be the formal opening action of every meeting, providing a point of reference to anyone at the meeting who may need to to call out inappropriate behaviour by anyone (including the Chair!). Hopefully it would be like one of those ‘break glass in case of emergency’ things, never needed but unambiguously available if necessary.

Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Reflecting on all of this, here is my personal appreciation of the upfront declaration of expected ethical behaviour … an important part of my research journey is being in the company of others working in the same sphere as me – my supervisors, my fellow PhDs, and special interest groups – formal and informal – that form around a topic of interest to me. One such SIG is the Network for Educational Action Research in Ireland. I attend meetings of this group several times a year. Each meeting starts with display of the same slide – a summary of the ethical stance of the group and the agreed standards for procedures and protocols. These are also openly declared on the NEARI website, and combine the particular values of the group with the universal values espoused in the Teaching Council of Ireland. I find this practice offers a professional reminder to all present of the expectations we have of each other, and infuses the meeting from the start with a collegiate atmosphere. The ritual aspect of the practice acts as a subtle personal safety blanket for me – I am assured that the meeting will be steered by a Chair guided by a moral compass visible to all. It is a practice I would like to see more widely adopted at the meeting of other special interest groups in academia and education.

The NEARI statement that is displayed at the beginning of each NEARImeet is online at

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 21.28.53

mags amond holding and looking into a bevelled mirrored framed by a mosaic of white, silver and coloured tiles

here’s looking at me looking at me at 60!

It is a busy time, turning 60 – that happened on October 17th, and probably will continue as an excuse to celebrate for a whole year! Lots of cake and cards and gifts, and special times with friends and family – lots to be thankful for.

In the learning world, lots of people to be thankful to this autumn – Mean Fómhair, Deireadh Fómhair, September and October in Galway, Dublin and Cavan – people moving each other, and me, ever onwards …

Rang Bianca – On September 28th, all the meets (Teach-, Research-, Lead-, Student-, Breakfast-) were on the programme at Féilte in NUIG; special mention for the annual inclusion of Rang Bianca, it is momentarily startling but lovely to see it each time:

NeariMeet – Also in NUIG that day was the latest NeariMeet hosted by Cornelia Connolly and curated by Mairin Glenn and Bernie Sullivan of the EARI group.


NEARImeet hosts, presenters, and discussants, NUIG, Sept 2019.

I presented an update of my research plan to use IPA (interpretive phenomenological analysis) to make sense of data generated during imminent field work among TeachMeet participants (slides are at link above). The feedback was very helpful to me, as was hearing the progress being made by other researchers Jean McGowan, Jane O’Connell and Ciara O’Donoghue. The cycle of reflection and sharing with peers, fostered by Mairin Glenn, Mary Roche, Catriona McDonagh and Bernie Sullivan has been a terrific motivational and developmental scaffold for me moving onwards on the doctoral research journey.

Féilte TeachMeet – I was yoyo-ing (yo-yoing? yo-yo-ing?) back and forth across the newer sections of my alma mater campus to also attend the Féilte TeachMeet – thank to Phil Fox and Sinéad Kelly this was a vibrant affair – an attentive and curious audience, seven short sharp smart presenters – not much more one could ask for. Phil made a remark about her observation of TeachMeets to date…there is quite a lot of emotion involved among presenters…food for thought, that!

Learnovation – October began in Croke Park, representing CESI, with chair Adrienne Webb, at the Learnovation summit (thank you Peter Hamilton for the invitation). I really enjoyed learning from Gavin Henrick – so much to learn about accessibility and inclusion in presentations – and from Martyn Farrows of Soap Box labs who gave a terrific overview of AI (the artificial intelligence AI). It was good to add CESI’s voice to the dynamic discussion on CS in education that took place in the afternoon.

Index Survey launch – An academic launch on a Monday morning, in a cinema, with film, music, memoirs, and even dancing – who could say no? I was chuffed to represent the university students of the 70s, especially when I found myself between Martin Downes of the 50/60s and John Hurley of the 80s! Thank to Catherine Cronin and Terry Maguire for this imaginative kickstart to a very important piece of work. My nano stream of consciousness contribution pointed to my just-in-time first meeting with a computer at the very end of the very analog 70s ….

I spent the years 1976-1980 in UCG, entering the year when Elvis died and punk was born, the youngest member of a student body with a leader called Speedie who mustered us higgledly piggledly into a socially conscious army in support of the presidential poet prophet you may know as Miggledy. Lucky me.
I studied for a BSc and HDip in E, the subjects low tech mathematics, analogue biochemistry then a year of lectures on education history – trying to decipher projected notes handwritten in yellow marker – TP in The Jes interspersed with hours and hours of projects making amazing admirable acetate audiovisual aids for the overhead projector.
Look a’ me!
But then
approaching the last stroke of midnight before it was time to head out into the The Real World – a nun, who’s name to my shame I don’t know – asked if we would like to try out the new COMPUTER … and in the beating blink of the phosphorescent green/yellow eye of an Apple 2e (BASIC, drive A, drive B, floppy disks that were proper floppy), came the life changing tech turning point for me.
The end became the beginning.
History. Epiphany.

Lucky me.

MathsMeetIE – for Maths week 2019, a Maths TeachMeet hosted at Microsoft by Stephen Howell and Caoilinn Tighe and curated by Pamela O’Brien and Neil Butler (who’s workshop on Japanese maths games has me now addicted do SkyScrapers). My nanopresentation was a shout out for a crossover between Maths and Art citing Turtlestitch and the fabulous visualisations of Joachim Wedekind using SNAP! The deepest satisfaction of this event for me (apart from yet another birthday cake) was seeing The Next Generation take up the TeachMeet mantle; to put it diplomatically, Caoilinn and myself “were in school together”.
The variety of ideas and activities in this rollercoaster TeachMeet were a joy to watch unfold – teachers from primary, secondary, third level and informal education all learning together. Has to be said, the Dreamspace is a wonderful venue for a TeachMeet, thank you Microsoft Ireland for such warm hospitality from Stephen, Caoilinn and Corey..

SCoTENS – This year I didn’t have to go far to attend SCoTENS (standing committee for teacher education north and south, born of the good Friday agreement), it came to Cavan. And thanks to Conor Galvin, Noel Purdy and Maria Campbell for continued inclusion of a doctoral round table at the annual gathering of SCoTENS. To present your work in progress, and see the work of others at various stages of progress from other researchers, is a most formative part of the doctoral journey for me. Both keynote speakers, Prof Marilyn Cochran-Smith, [Cawthorne Professor of Teacher Education for Urban Schools, Boston College] and Prof Paul Miller [Head of the School of Education and Professor of Educational Leadership and Social Justice, University of Greenwich] spoke on matters of equity in education (or its lack thereof) and left us with many questions to ponder. Hopefully the funding of SCoTENS will be fully restored – for teacher educators across Ireland this is a really important body, and it needs to continue the ongoing collaborations between north and south from which we all benefit.

I wrote  and posted a thread of Twitter posts this evening but didn’t stitch them together carefully enough so got a gap between no. 4 and no. 5. I am clearly better with embroidery thread than with digital thread. But I do enjoy darning, so here is the thread as it should read …

Good threads of conversation on here recently, prompted by reactions to a conference hosted at St Columba’s College by the generous @humpreyjones and @sccEnglish and attended by over 300 teachers. Focussed by title on research in education, with a vibrant program … 01/16
… have jogged some thoughts here. I wasn’t there, but the program looked great, some fabulous presentations listed that I’d love to have attended. My disquiet is about the way this franchise suggests it is somehow all shiny and new.
It is not new in Ireland  … 02/16
… From my perspective and experience we have been, and continue to be, busying ourselves  weaving sound research through primary and secondary classroom practice for quite some time – here is a list of some examples that jumped to my mind (to be sure there are many more) … 03/16
… A superb day long seminar / workshop on AfL led by Dylan Wiliam TEN YEARS AGO attended by over 200 teachers, ( organised by the Science section SLSS, predecessor of the current @PDSTie ) and funded by @SFI and  … 04/16
… Many day conference / workshops with legendary David Johnson and Roger Johnson over a three year period in which hundreds of teachers were introduced to the practice of Cooperative Learning (many of whom have gone on to study for a Masters degree in the area) … 05/16 
… A week-long summer course in Peer Mediation for primary teachers offered at Education Centres (the particular one I refer to was in Enniscorthy, and I know the positive behaviour management and negotiation skills we learned are still informing practice in schools)  … 06/16 
… At least 2 #EdCamps I know of organised in Norn Ireland – the one I attended was superb, offering a day long programme of presentations and workshops by teachers for teachers (think of a #teachmeet with more time for depth of treatment of each topic… 07/16
cc @bcripps078
… for some time now there has been really vibrant classroom action research by educators of all levels being shared via the @infoneari network curated online by @marygtroche and @mairinglenn see http://www.eari.ie/neari-network-for-educational-action-research-in-ireland/ … 08/16
… all of the @bridge21learn professional development taken by teachers (mostly in Dublin schools) is both research driven and is itself driving research, see http://bridge21.ie/about-us/about-bridge-21/ … 09/16
cc @kevinsullivan79 @ciaranbauer @jakerowanbyrne @lawlorgr
… everything I know of developed by the @ncca in the past decade has been research informed and developed in cooperation with classroom teachers and students across the country … 10/16
cc @tonyrileynz @snicreamoinn @fboss @MajellaDempsey @annelooney
… the annual education conference that has been curated by @pamelaaobrien at the Thurles campus of @LimerickIT brings the most research informed keynotes, who remain in ongoing contact with attendees; recently the most notable @irasocol and @pammoran of @TimelessLrng … 11/16
… *all* the Meets – [of course I declare a bias towards] the #teachmeets but there is also ResearchMeet hosted by @TeachingCouncil @Feilte as well as @MathsMeetIE…12/16
cc @teachmeetIRL @teachmeetsouth @makermeetIE @Dek0h @mrNeilButler @saorog
…the range of top notch science education researchers introduced to practitioners at subject association AGMs eg @irishsciteach over the years would fill a book; thinking of a memorable AfL workshop with Chris Harrison which had effect in classrooms …13/16
cc @@chrisharriKings
… other subject association AGMs are packed with workshops that offer teachers the latest thinking in research, as I found out when working with @RichardMillwood addressing 200+ ART teachers in the National Gallery a couple of years ago …14/16
…and last but not least in my world has been www.cesi.ie – the @cesitweets that has (being an unusual mix of computer education enthusiasts from all levels and sectors) been a research-informed community of practice for 45 years …15/16
cc @_conorgalvin @donenda @eoldham @jhegarty
… So: it is all good, it is all welcome, but is is not all new, and one way may not necessarily be superior to another. Keep on sharing, keep on discussing, keep on researching, keep on practicing, keep on keeping’ on … 16/16

Art teachers AGM in the National Galllery of Ireland 2017

Art teachers AGM in the National Galllery of Ireland 2017

MappingUnconferencesA3 … this post is only about four months late (the thought-to-action time lag is getting greater all the time). I’ve wanted to thank Tom Farrelly since late May for curating a Gasta session at #edconTCD on May 18th, and it struck me that there were so many other role models of the unconference world to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for all I have learned from each of them. As well as marvelling at Tom the Gasta guru, I have watched Shelli Ann Garland inject Pecha Kucha style to the Trinity College Dublin School of Education last year; collaborated with Richard Millwood introducing Open Space Technology in both CESIcon and at ScratchEdMeetups; admired Eoin Kennedy herding huddles at CONGregation each November; twice been ‘lobbed’ by John Davitt at Learning On A Beach; watched with deep admiration how Frank Sabaté from Catalunya combined cheeerleader and MC roles at many many Ignite sessions at three successive Scratch conferences in Europe (BCN, AMS, BDX); I have been V-connected to many conferences now thanks to Kate Molloy of CESI; and as for TeachMeet, there have been so so many many who have inspired me over the last decade however the epiphany ‘big bang’ moment for me was watching founder Ewan McIntosh unconferencing the Scottish Learning Festival way back in 2008. Thank you all …

… I include three things in this post – the slides I used at the edconTCD Gasta session in which I tried to explain the evolution of unconference world in 5 mins; an explanatory overview of the broad unconference world that I have been delving into since I began PhD research into TeachMeet [cross-posted as a #cong19 blog entry]; and an updated version of my MappingUnconferencesA3 I have come across, summarised origins, evolution, governance, and philosophies of each …



Researching the origins and evolution of TeachMeet brought me into the hall of mirrors that is the world of a recent global phenomenon – the unconference. Although the name comes from the tech community, coined for an XML developers conference in 1988, the idea is attributed to Harrison Owen and the Open Space Technology method he introduced in 1984, turning the traditional menu-driven conference format on its head and introducing more of the primeval conversational formats that attendees obviously appreciated, because it has flourished, replicated, and evolved ever since.

The main characteristics of the unconference, inherited from Owen’s Open Space, are high levels of complexity and diversity, potential for critical discussion, being driven by passion and responsibility, and the deployment of “the one law – if at any time you discover you are neither learning or contributing, use you two feet and move on”. Most people who use it refer to it now as the Law Of Two Feet. It is a very powerful permission to grant to participants, running counterintuitive to the ‘sit and suffer’ tendency when one it stuck in the ‘stand and deliver’ conference situation. Switching the brain and the body to unconference mode may take a while – timetables and agendas are built by assent and by participant choice – some patience is needed, and confidence, and there may be bite marks on the teeth of a control freak for the first while. It can demand a leap of faith, and provide a giddy sense of freedom. Perhaps the best descriptor for the complex-but-simple atmosphere of an unconference is the Dee Hock coined adjective chaordic. Dave Winer’s “What Is An Unconference” blog post from 2006 probably sums up why folk flip from conference to unconference when he says “This observation may turn out to be the Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences … The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.” 

Looking across and down the history of modern unconference formats, I find they fall into three structures
(i) broad discursive unconferences with long time slots devoted to community conversations in an agenda agreed at the start of the day (Open Space, World Café, BarCamp, EdCamp, CampEd);
(ii) narrower hi-octane sessions with very short time frames and strict rules for each speaker (Pecha Kucha, Ignite, Gasta); and
(iii) hybrids with elements of both (TeachMeet, Pedagoo, BrewEd, ScratchEdMeetUp, ConGregation, Vconnect).

In terms of organisers’ deploying these unconference formats, at least five methods have crossed my horizon since I began to observe, each with varying degrees of openness and inclusion.
1 – Independent unconference events:
As in the annual event in Cong, most MeetUp, BarCamp, EdCamp, Pedagoo, BrewEd, World Café, and Open Space Technology gatherings are organised as stand-alone events, independent entities with open access for all interested parties to attend
2, 3, & 4 – Unconference events attached to conferences:
> many unconferences are doing what their names suggests and getting attached to an established conference as a fringe event outside the published timetable – some TeachMeets and MeetUp are organised this way; these may or may not be restricted to those attending the parent conference.
> other formats have evolved within the conference setting: using an unconference format for some activities during the conference schedule – one way is to include a TeachMeet, Gasta, Pecha Kucha, or Ignite session to vary the pace, inject energy, and open the floor to voices and ideas that might not other be included.
> another emerging idea is to offer a Vconnect session so that those not at a conference in person can digitally/virtually connect and join a conversation with those at the conference.
5 – In-house unconference events:
Many educational, community, business or special interest groups are adopting the unconference ‘caucus’ approach for team meetings and professional learning events. Access is limited to the relevant community, but speakers and presentation come from within the working group.

There is of course way way more to unconferences than what I have written here, which is a potted history account from my own experience and research. If you know something I should include, feel free contact me. [ amondm@tcd.ie ]

audacityA spoken version of this post is here, a 7m 30s listening at 1x.
[Thanks as ever to my hero James Crook for the beautiful software that is Audacity. It gives me delight each time I use it.]

Owen, Harrison. Expanding Our Now: The Story of Open Space Technology. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1997.

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