Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – Chapter 2 of 6: ‘pre-conference’

Monday July 17 2017, 10am. At Einserb, L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Électronique, Informatique, Télécommunications, Mathématique et Mécanique de Bordeaux, preparation begins with packing 300 Scratch Cat bags, some serious grocery shopping, and an ingenious alligator clip hack, brainchild of Genevieve Smith-Nunes, when the lanyards don’t arrive on time.

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10pm. At the A1 building at Bordeaux University, we are invited by Yoan Mollard and his team to programme the lighting display on the front of the building, a project called the Arbalet Frontage; and given a tour of the control system by Yoan.

Tuesday July 18 2017, 10am. During the programme planning summit back in April, we had decided to have a session open to French teachers. Susan Ettenheim, Wolfgang Slany and me, being teachers curious to meet our peers in France, agreed to get involved, and Samir Saidani made all the connections. 60 teachers turned up. Our facilitator for the morning, Thierry Viéville of INRIA, took us deftly and bilingually through an Open Space style morning of call and response discussion followed by workshops. My once-fluent-but-almost-forgotten French had to be deployed as our atelier worked together thru the human circuit with the newly named ‘Pieu Pieu’, and then made some binary code jewelry and some glowies. Thierry called us back to a standing circle and the witnesses reported what had been discussed in each workshop. Turns out the teachers of France are no different to those anywhere – they were concerned with providing the best possible learning experiences for their classrooms, and those who joined us in Einserb for the morning were prepared to give up their free time to find and share ideas to this end.

1.30pm. In the auditorium, Didier Roy of INRIA was hosting a colloqium on all ting robotic; but as Bernat Romagosa and Jens Monig had offered a day long Beetleblocks Masterclass, with some 3-D printers courtesy of Yoan so that participants could produce their designs, I went upstairs to join in observe the second half of the day. Listening to Jens’s perfectly and roundly explain the snaggier points, and watching Bernat’s graceful teaching and gentle troubleshooting is a treat; and the humility in both programmers is a charm to observe. Watching my friends immersed in their projects was good too, and confirms my idea that Beetleblocks is a definite contender to be used in our imminent Computer Science curriculum in Ireland.

8pm. The Official Opening mixer buffet and pre-registration took place in Cap Science, in the other side of town, beside the beautiful Cité du Vin building. Brian Harvey gave us his quirky personal view of 50 years of Logo, and we had the launch of the lovely Scratch Tales book, containing stories from users in 25 countries, and beautifully designed and produced by Derek Breen. In the darkened theatre, Uwe Gesler delighted with a fantastic presentation built with dozens of programmable night lights. And as if we’d ordered it (who knows, with Joek Von Montfort, anything is possible?), we ended the evening out on the balcony over the Garonne river watching a massive lightning show – have a look at the report that went out via getty images.

All this, and the conference proper hadn’t even started yet. 😸.

Series of posts posted post Scratch Conference in Bordeaux, France, July 2017:

Chapter 1 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – inclusive, interwoven, inspiring

Chapter 2 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – pre-conference

Chapter 3 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – conference action

Chapter 4 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – unconference and extracurricular activities

Chapter 5 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – family matters

Chapter 6 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – ten take away ideas to check out for CS

cropped-Scratch2017bdx-websitebannerScratch 2017 Bordeaux – Chapter 1 of 6: Inclusive, Interwoven, Inspiring

Scratch2017BDX, one of many Scratch conferences this year, took place in the city of Bordeaux, France. Officially the conference dates were Wed-Fri July 19th-21st, but when all the extra-curricular and unconference happenings were added in, there was ‘Scratching’ from Monday until Saturday. It was a privilege to see the conference unfold from behind the scenes this time, and to work with organiser extraordinaire Joek Von Montfort and the team he assembled from Europe, the US, and Africa. The various facets of the week (the pre-conference preparation, the programmed conference, the unconference events, the masterclasses, the extracurricular time with friends of the Scratch ‘family’) each had many special moments; it will take some time to process, and post, them all.
This conference was like a continuation of the previous two European Scratch conferences conceived and led by Joek – Barcelona 2013 and Amsterdam 2015, and the many friendships born in these events have gotten wider and deeper with time. May this trend continue…

Multigenerational Africa Plenary

Multigenerational Africa Plenary


Alan, Gen, and Mags inducting our new Intergalactic Code Week EU Ambassador, Cynthia Solomon.


Diehards dinner on Saturday night!


Sam live coding Sonic Pi Algorave while Wolfgang Slaney controls LEDs


Snap! Turltlestitch Superteam 🙂


KD dressing Zoe as Ada before the show


Ken, Richard, and colleagues discussing the future of programming.

Series of posts posted post Scratch Conference in Bordeaux, France, July 2017:

Chapter 1 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – inclusive, interwoven, inspiring

Chapter 2 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – pre-conference

Chapter 3 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – conference action

Chapter 4 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – unconference and extracurricular activities

Chapter 5 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – family matters

Chapter 6 of 6: Scratch 2017 Bordeaux – ten take away ideas to check out for CS


I just got to breeze in one door and out the other for this year’s Inspirefest in Dublin, but what I saw and heard in that very short time still has my head buzzing.

Ann O’Dea of Silicon Republic has a lot to be thanked for – she has built a beautiful showcase of women who are getting on with making the world a better place for everyone. Her thoughtful curation and graceful chairing of this event is lovely to watch.  When people argue about whether STEM should have an A in it, I say ‘yes, if A is for Ann; Ann is the original A in STEM!’

I just got there in time to hear the later morning talks – Arlene O’Neill of TCD and Lisa Looney of DCU speaking of encouraging girls into the physical sciences and engineering; Sue Black telling her story of disrupting her own life and now empowering others to do the same; Kelly Hoey outlining how every move we make is forming our own network; Anne-Marie Tomchak of Mashable and Raju Narisetti of Gizmodo (NOT a token man in any way – he’s one of the sanest voices on Twitter right now) giving us the naked truth about current media not-so-fake news affairs; and Michelle Cullen passionately calling for more gender showcasing action like the recent Women On Walls project supported by Accenture.

Emer Coleman, whose by-line on the programme said Technoethics, was the highest of highlight for me. In her brief, fast-paced transit across the stage (more of this kind of thing next year, Ann!), she delivered a searing wake up call to us all about current data management worldwide, and the need for each of us to think about where we’re allowing ourselves to be led. New word (and thought) of the moment for me – disintermediation. Ouch.

I was delighted to meet teenage students there, a group from Bridge21 with Grace Lawlor, and a group with UCD’s Aoibhinn Ní Shuilleabháin – what an experience!

All too soon it was time to grab the yummy portable lunch, and out the other door for me…sorry I had to miss so much of the awesome others I have heard and read reports about since.

Thanks, Ann and Inspirefest team.

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As part of the 2017 World Conference on Computers in Education, ICS hosted a session during which John Hegarty presented an overview of the Computer Science (CS) curriculum currently proposed by the NCCA for study at Leaving Certificate in Ireland from Sept. 2018.

John is the CESI representative on the curriculum development group, and as such he represents the views of those teachers already highly interested in, and to various degrees experienced in, CS in all levels of Irish classrooms – most of whom are part of the CESI tribe. His measured outline of the current curriculum content and assessment plans was s clear as is possible at such an early stage; CESI picked the right one to represent us!

The audience included folk with a wide variety of perspectives, and everyone there was keenly interested in John’s presentation. The question and answer session was lively, with conversations continuing out to the hallway and the courtyard for quite a while after the allotted time elapsed.

The draft document can be viewed at the NCCA website:

Interested parties may add their opinions to an NCCA online survey questionnaire here:

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Code Week ambassadors from all over Europe had a busy day in Google, Brussels on Friday June 30th. This was our last meeting with Joanna Sterzynnska Lindberg, and we wish Joanna good luck in her new role in another part of the Commission, as we continue to work on with Annika Ostergen Pofantis of the DG Connect section.

After a packed full agenda for the day, our final afternoon activity took us across the road to Parc Léopold for a marathon work-out (!) digital treasure hunt devised by our coordinator Allesandro Bogliolo, using a mashup of the Telegram app and the Cody Roby game. Watch out for this 5th Birthday activity in October. And keep an eye on Code Week EU website.

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:

Our bristlebot at #talkonthetyne thanks to @chriswilde78 @tyncanlearning #makerbreak

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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.


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