February and March – gone but not forgotten

Look up at the calendar, and there are February and March both flown past, and here it is two hours to midnight. Better get this done before the computer turns into a pumpkin. Apart from one manic week at the end of Feb into March, it has been mostly an at-home or in-the-library time, reading, writing, walking, thinking, preparing PhD stuff.

The manic week mentioned above began with the Grace Hopper celebration in Dublin on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of Feb, and ended with a visit to Combilift in Monaghan. Sandwiched in between was one of the highlights of the year, the annual CESI AGM weekend.

1 Grace Hopper Local – I couldn’t describe it any better than Laura Tobin does here in her post on LinkedIn  – I would say “all of the above” goes for me too Laura, and I echo your thanks to Stephen Howell and Ellen O’Neill of Microsoft for bringing us all together, and bringing the AnitaB.org team to Dublin. It was an absolute pleasure to be in the company of Genevieve Smith-Nunes, Pamela O’Brien, Laura Tobin, Niamh Stockil, Mary Carty, Kate Delaney, Vicky Twomey-Lee, Amanda Joliffe, (not to mention a few hundred other women) over the two days. To Laura’s shout outs I would add two stand out moments for me – our own Marty Carty rockin’ the room and suggesting that as each of us reaches ‘the room where it happens’ (my Hamilton-obsessed interpretation of what I think you mean, Mary), that we leave the door open no matter how cold it may be; and the entire Human Computer Interface panel discussion on design for inclusion. What a treat for me to have both Genevieve Smith-Nunes and Kathryn Parkes from that panel join in at my maker table with the TY students from Scoil Iosagain afterwards!


2 CESI weekend: #tmCESI and CESIcon Thanks to Sarah Jayne Carey, Tony Riley and the motley crew  from the Computers In Education Society of Ireland (www.cesi.ie), aided and abetted by the team from MakerMeetIE, we celebrated TEN YEARS of TeachMeet in Ireland at the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone. As ever, it was lovely to greet old friends and make new friends, in between hearing a variety of ideas and stories from presenters kind enough to give up their Friday night. And as ever, there was much to take away, but this time me absolute favourite was a gem from fellow biology wonk Declan Cathcart, an immersive Tree Of Life website called onezoom.org – has to be said I have spent a lot of time there since. Cara McDermott took some deadly pictures over the weekend – see them here document Pat Seavers and his team attempt at the paper tower challenge:

There was fun fun fun also with the geodesic dome building challenge led by Pamela O’Brien:

I was happy to do a nanopresentation wish us all a Happy Tenth Birthday, with many folk from that first CESImeet evening still going strong!! 150 TeachMeets and 70 volunteer organisers across the island since Feb 2009.


Next morning at #CESIcon proper in Athlone IT it was my pleasure and privilege to give the opening keynote address, and speak on behalf of the tribe on the conference theme “Creativity, Computers, Collaboration – Practitioners’ Perspectives”. Thank you to the National Executive for this invitation, and for placing me in the good company of a co-speaker I admire very much, Sean Gallagher.


Being keynotes speakers also allowed Sean and me, with Cornelia Connolly of NUIG, the chance to partake in a V-connect session, remotely connecting with people tuning in from the USA, Scotland, and Ireland – this was a refreshing experience for me, and one I would like to see in other conferences. Thanks to conference lead Katie Molloy, and host Louise Drumm in Edinburgh for bringing this to #cesicon 2019.

The rest of the conference day flew past; the only workshop I got to was chock-a-block with folk busy building / hacking (it is another tomato / tomahto thing, choose your own verb!) floor bots under John Hegarty’s instruction, using MicroBlocks code. It has always been easy to tell at #cesicon that CESI is the TPN (teacher professional network) for computer science teachers in Ireland – each discussion, forum, lecture, and workshop is full of teachers sharing their expertise; this year the new Leaving Cert course definitely has everyone in a “how are you doing it?” tizz, and John is more than generous and patient in sharing his ideas with the rest of us. I loved the diversity of the people who took part – I spied a professor of computer science at the same bench as a primary school teacher. Where else but CESI? There were as many questions about procedural and pedagogical matters as there were about the coding itself; if the bell for the end of class had not gone, they might still all be there.

Having missed last year’s conference due to the snowmageddon #sneachta date change, it was extra special this year to meet with all the people  who don’t see enough of each other, but who are happy to know each other are out there. And it has to be said, my favourite conference meetup has to be with the teens of the Youth Media Team; I had an interview this time with Amy and Cara, onc Hube the promise I could work with them next time and learn all the mojo skills they have built up over the past few years.

obligatory post- interview pic with Cara & Amy of Youth Media Team

The loveliest part of the weekend was the post conference exhausted-but-relaxed chats with the conference committee, and a long overdue catch up with chair, Adrienne Webb.
Big thanks to Katie Molloy and her conference team – already looking forward to returning to Athlone for #cesicon 2010.

3 Visit to Combilift, Monaghan Thanks to Catherine Fox I got to visit Combilift along with Richard Millwood of CESI, as a guest of CEO Martin McVicar. This was on the occasion was the exhibition of project work carried out by 5th and 6th class students of Scoil Mhuire Clontibret and their teacher, Principal Elizabeth Moorhead. They had designed and built space stations using LegoWeDo technology. They were presenting this work to the student teachers of St Patrick’s College, DCU, who were visiting with Professor Deirdre Butler, who leads the project. The circle of learning here was significant – primary school students showing future primary school teachers what they had done and telling what they had learned and how they had learned it. My compliments to all involved in this work, and to Combilift for the active support it is giving to those integrating technology in education.


And of course geek in all of us, old and young, was happy to go touring the factory – this was an eye-opener, following the Combilift process of designing and building the various models of “forklift” truck has to be seen to be believed. I could have stayed there all day. Already planning a return visit …






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