learning off the clock (and off the sofa)

The last few weeks have brought me three great learning chances, mostly at the weekend or late evenings. Mostly on Sundays as it happens. So long sofa.

1st up is (was) Coder Dojang, and yes, if you follow that link you will find it now leads to Ultimate Kendo, which is what the Coder Dojang link now leads to. I travelled on Sunday afternoons from Cavan to Dublin to join a group of adults learning or relearning to code. This dojang was set up and lead by three young gentlemen – thank you Stu, Ravi and Brett – and attended by a motley crew off every age and gender mixture possible! We worked our way through java, html5 and css, limping and leaping along together. Now we are to take an evolutionary jump and become collaborative ‘designathon’ coding crews..who knows where that will lead? Not me, but I look forward to the journey. My original interest in all of this was to sharpen up my weak and neglected coding skills so I could use them with my students next year in school, and learn some ways to devlop their confidence and creativity as well as their skills. I am feeling more confident about both now after Coder Dojang. Thanks guys!

2nd was a chance flick of the TV remote to find myself watching a Horizon programme from the Beautiful Minds series. This one was about Prof Andre Geim, who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for the discovery of graphene. The graphene story is amazing enough to hear, but the riveting part of the programme was the story of Andre’s approach to discovery in his labs. His “treating work as play” approach, his encouragement of his students to take a “what if?” approach to their thinking made me smile, as it appeals to me as the best way to encourage learning, and is central to the inquiry based science my colleagues and I encourage working within the Discover Sensors framework. It is nice to get the feeling you are taking the same approach to teaching and learning as a Nobel Laureate 😉 What a pity we can’t access BBC iPlayer here, this is a programme for every science and physics student and teacher to watch.

3rd was the annual weekend of science that is the ISTA AGM. It is great as ever to catch up with old friends and like minds, and meet some new friends and minds. Learning highlights for me were, in time order – (i) a great talk from Alom Shaha (@alomshaha) reminded us that science should be educating students to be active members of democratic society, (ii) Professor Aidan Moran‘s overview on memory and how we use it or lose it and (iii) the energy and infectious enthusiasm of Humphrey Jones (@humphreyjones, @thefrogblog) as he guided the Sunday morning stragglers through his Top 20 Apps for science. Personal highlight was seeing my friends Tanya Morrison and Philip McGuinness (@scimbop) from Crana College Buncrana pitch their presentation as finalists in the “Science Dept. of the Year” section. I know just how far they have journeyed, and to hear after dinner that they had won the award made me smile (and shout – yea, that was me in the corner). Well done guys!






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