The Excited Festival of Digital learning gave the Youth Media Team a chance to go on tour again. The Festival was held over the Friday and Saturday of the June bank holiday. We landed in Dublin Castle at 11am on the Friday with our gazebo in tow and promptly got caught up in the excitement that was Excited! The plan was that we would work with RTE Digital on the Friday, the most amazing opportunity for our red shirts! We had four of the Tipperary contingent and another four from St Wolstan’s in Celbridge in Kildare as part of the Friday team. St. Wolstan’s had set up a Radio TY group as part of their Transition Year programme based on the YMT so it was a fantastic opportunity to get both groups working together. While we got settled with RTE, our gazebo specialist with help from his son got to work constructing our home for the next few days :) The brief with RTE was to create a behind the scenes look at the students Dragon’s Den that was a feature of the day. We had to choose people for the various roles – producers, directors, presenters, camera assistant and editor. Once the team had sorted that out between themselves it was time to get to work.
Over the course of Friday night and Saturday, the team got on with their ‘day’ jobs of interviewing, blogging and tweeting. They interviewed Lord Puttnam, Marty Cooper (inventor of the mobile phone) and Dr. Rene Lydiksen (Managing Director of Lego Education Europe) among others.
We also got a chance to be part of the highlights from the Festival on both sides of the camera :)
All in all it was a great opportunity for the team to be involved in such a central way in the inaugural Excited Digital Learning Festival. You can check out their work from the event at
What a backdrop!
Before Christmas my daughter told me she had made a present for the family this year and that I would love it. She wasn’t wrong! From the outside it doen’t look like much
but inside it holds the thoughts of a 9 year old on Christmas :-)
She loves Christmas. I hope this love of Christmas will stay with her in the years to come :-)
Every year there are new decorations for the Christmas trees and I have to admit that my favourites this year were made by my daughter.
Knitted Christmas stockings
The stocking on the left was knitted this year and it joins the stocking on the right which was one of the first things she knitted last year when she learned to knit.
Rundown of Christmas 2011
I’m looking forward to reading her rundown of all we did on Christmas Day 2011 in years to come :-)
This post was originally published in December 2011 on Chantelle Wallace’s blog.
I’m sure that lots of people would be horrified to see the contents of our Christmas crib. We have the usual suspects: Mary, Joseph, the Shepherd, the Angel, the three Wise Men, a cow, a sheep, a donkey and of course the baby Jesus. We’ve had this crib for more than 20 years, and for the last 10 years it has had an additional character that some would probably find blasphemous. When my now 13 year old son was 3, we went for a Christmas lunch with my mum and some of my brothers and sisters, to a local Chinese restaurant. At the end of the meal,the waiter brought us the bill, with After Eights for the adults and a lollipop and a box for my son. Inside the box was a little Chinese figure.
When we got home he went to the crib and put the little figure in among the rest of the characters. At the time he had a penchant for moving around the characters in the crib, so every time you looked, the arrangement of characters had changed, but the Chinese figure was always there. That year when we were packing up the crib, he insisted that the figure was wrapped up with everything else. Now every year when the crib is put up, the little Chinese figure always features. It always brings a smile to my face as it reminds me of a magical time :-)
Saturday 17th December was party time at Coder Dojo Limerick. We had more than 20 kids and nearly as many parents on the day. We decided to have the junior and senior groups in the same room as the plan was to connect with the Dublin and Cork Dojos on the day. The vibe on the day was very relaxed – it was decided to go for a much less structured approach than normal – it was a party after all :-) It was great to see the older group continue on work on Robocode under their own initiative. The younger group were happy to happy to just potter about – some working on Scratch projects or checking out what the older group were up to.
We began a Google+ hangout to connect with other Coder Dojos. After a few false starts we connected with the Dojo in Cork. It was great to hear from the Cork group about 3D printing. After a while the aroma of pizzas wafted into the room so all work was abandoned for a while. The pizzas for the party were donated by Dominos Pizza (http://www.dominos.ie/). That wasn’t the end of the donations – smoothies and crisps were kindly given by Wild Orchard (http://www.wildorchard.ie/) and drinks and sweets by Hummingbird Learning Centre (http://www.hummingbirdlearningcentre.com/). As well as the food and drinks donated by local companies, the kids came bearing delicious homemade cookies, crisps, sweets and drinks. I think it’s fair to say that the emphasis on Saturday was more on the food and less on the coding :-)
The Limerick Dojo is taking a break for the holidays and will return on Saturday 21st January 2012. Looking forward to it already :-)
Last week saw the the end of classes for this term so the mood at work was lighter than normal and it was decided to put up the Christmas tree in the office. Once the tree was assembled there was discussion about whether to put on the lights first and then decorate or to decorate and then put on the lights. General concensus was lights first. Then of course there was the discussion about whether to start at the bottom or the top. I personally start at the bottom and either run out of lights before the top of the tree or run out of tree before the end of the lights :-) The latter then involves draping the remainder down the tree and not being able to find the end when January comes!! So now we have the lights up and talk turns to how to put on the baubles. In my naivety I presumed we would just be putting them on in a reasonably haphazard fashion and then moving a few as necessary to make sure it looked ok but apparently this wasn’t to be. It seemed that the baubles were to be put up in bunches of three. To say I wasn’t convinced doesn’t even come close. There followed much discussion about why the baubles would look better in groups of three so groups of three it was. Even though I took to it with gusto I still wasn’t convinced but I have to say that the final result did look good for an office tree.
When it comes to decorating my own Christmas trees the term ‘more is more’ definitely applies. We have two Christmas trees – our grown up’s tree and our children’s one. While I love the grown ups tree, if I could only have one tree, the children’s tree would win every time. This is the tree that has our lives in memories and now the memories continue as we all work together to put up the tree, put the lights on and decorate the tree. There are lots of decorations on that tree with a special meaning. The most precious ones to me are the decorations which hold pictures of both my children on their first Christmas Day. Of course it’s probably only my son and I who remember that the pictures have been swapped around in the frames over the years :-)
Then there are the many decorations with special memories such as the angel from the top of our first tree which was a teeny three foot one, or the decorations we bought on our trip to New York when I was pregnant with my son who is now 12.
Then of course there are the decorations which are special to my son and daughter, such as the Buzz Lightyear decoration which my son loved when he was younger (and still does if truth be told!). The house resonated to the sounds of “to impinity and meyond” which shows how young he was at the time. He gets the honour of putting the Buzz decoration on the tree every year. He was sick this year when my daughter and I began decorating the tree. Once he recovered he lost no time in letting me know that he was not happy with where we placed Buzz and promptly moved him. For my daughter, her favourite decoration at the moment is Pinocchio. Her favourite changes over the years but I think it was the letter to Santa which swung it in Pinocchio’s favour for the past few years :-) Winnie the Pooh decorations also feature heavily on our tree and are some of the first decorations which she puts on the tree every year.
There are so many decorations which I love on my tree that I could write multiple blog posts about them. I’ll leave you with two last pictures of decorations made by my son and daughter, which for me, are what completes my tree :-)
So all of the baubles and all of the memories come together as …
The connected classrooms community (#ccGlobal) have come together to celebrate Christmas by sending cards to each other. This has generated lots of excitement around the world. Each class is creating an electronic Christmas greeting, creating a QR code to access the electronic greeting and sending the QR code in a card to participating schools. Classes are working furiously to create cards and get them in the post and already cards are being delivered to a flurry of great excitement. So far 27 classes are signed up to the project from Ireland, UK, USA, Hungary, Hong Kong, Canada and Australia. For more details check out http://connectedclassrooms.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/christmas-message-exchange-advent-calendar/. For anyone interested in getting involved in #ccGlobal follow the invitation here http://ccglobal.ning.com/?xgi=0tLIMvZdpS2Lmp.
I was in my daughter’s school today to show the girls how to scan the QR code and access the message – they had received two cards in the post this week, one from Holycross and one from Shankill. We had great fun looking at the messages, seeing the children from the other schools and listening to the Christmas songs on the greetings. We took photos for their greeting and I have my instructions on the style and the music for the girls greeting. I will be using Animoto to create the greeting. Animoto allows you to quickly create a greeting by choosing a style, uploading pictures and then choosing music. Then I just need create the QR code and print them ready for posting on Monday.
Besides sending the cards an Advent calendar has been set up so each class will get their day in the limelight. The calendar was launched yesterday with a greeting from Australia – there was great hilarity at the Australian take on ‘Jingle Bells’ from the girls today. Day 2 was a message from York in the UK so the girls can’t wait to see whose greeting is next. We’ve signed up for Tuesday 20th. I can only imagine what the excitement will be like on that day :-)
After a few false starts, we finally managed to connect my daughter’s class via a Google+ hangout with Michael Thornton’s class in Charlottesville, Virginia last Friday. The excitement was palpable when I went in to the girls classroom at 12.30 to prepare for the hangout at 1pm our time (8am US time). We began by checking out the webcam – the girls had great fun waving at themselves and each other on the interactive white board :-) The plan had been that the girls would go out to play after their lunch to allow time for the set-up but the rain on Friday put paid to that! The other complication was that the girls started to learn to knit during the week so they were very excited to show me their knitting and ask for help to sort out a dropped stitch here or there :-)
The upshot of all the excitement was that I didn’t check the sound for the hangout (note to self: always check the sound!!). So, at 1 pm we joined the hangout started by Michael Thornton. Of course it quickly became apparent that we had a problem on our end with the sound, so while we could hear the class in the US they couldn’t hear us. We tried to get it sorted but unfortunately it wasn’t to be this time round. Once we realised that we weren’t going to be able to fix the sound from our end, we started to use the chat area in the Google+ hangout. Then we lost the picture of the class in the US, so they could see us but couldn’t hear us and we could hear them but couldn’t see them! In some ways this made the whole experience even better because we were able to read their responses and respond and vice versa. What followed was 15 minutes of great fun on both sides of the Atlantic. We talked about uniforms (worn by the class in Nenagh but not by the class in the US), school start and end times (7:45 – 2:25 in the US compared to 9:10 – 3:00) and the subjects that the classes were studying (the class in the US studied Egypt last year with the girls in Nenagh studying it just a few weeks ago). So the classes have begun the process of getting to know each other. The next step in the process is for the students to write letters to each other in the next week or two with a follow up hangout in the week leading up to Christmas. What surprised me was that despite the technical difficulties, we still managed to have great fun and learn lots. To be honest, if you asked the girls I don’t think they would even remember that we had technical difficulties. I’m really looking forward to where this initial connection will take us :-)
I wrote a few weeks ago about the #ccGlobal Global Celebrations and Festivities project – for more information check out here. The plan was to connect my daughter’s class with Michael Thornton’s class in Virginia and Roy Mitchell’s class in Sligo to discuss traditions around how we celebrate Halloween, to see the similarities and the differences. Unfortunately, due to graduations, presidential elections and babies the Google+ hangout did not happen last week – the dates that worked for us in Ireland didn’t work for the class in the US and vice versa. While this was disappointing, we’re hopeful that we will have better luck next time – hopefully in the lead up to Christmas.
Due to the lack of an opportunity to connect the classes last week, I decided to connect directly with Michael’s class with my own family. We normally have a trick or treat party on Halloween, with my nieces and nephews and my own children, so I thought it might be a nice idea to do a Google+ hangout with them and Michael’s class. We decided to connect at 5.30pm Irish time (which was 1.30 pm in the US – our clocks changed this weekend and theirs will change next weekend). I timed it so that, on our end we would be dressed for trick or treating, so we could talk about costumes etc. At about 5.25 we joined the hangout started by Michael and started chatting. I think there were 16 children at his side and we had 7 on our end. We started by chatting about the costumes and what they were dressed as or going to dress as. We then chatted a bit about what the children would get when they went trick or treating. Next we talked a little about the origins of the Halloween festival in Ireland (the festival of Samhan), which my daughter was learning about last week in school. We finished off by showing each other the candies and sweets that we would be giving and receiving on each side of the Atlantic.
We were excitable on our end as the children ranged in age from 3 to 9 and the thoughts of trick or treating was a little distracting :-) Despite this we really enjoyed the chat and it has made me even more anxious to facilitate the connect between the classes coming up to Christmas, so thank you Michael for taking the time to connect with us.
I’m really enjoying my interaction with #ccGlobal, the connected classrooms project (more details at http://connectedclassrooms.wordpress.com/). From my initial contact with Liam Dunphy (@LiamDunphy) and Pam Moran (@PamMoran) on Twitter back in early July, I have progressed to participating in a couple of Google+ hangouts to discuss ideas. These discussions have resulted in the start of a number of projects to connect classrooms globally. To support the #ccGlobal project a Ning has been set up at http://ccglobal.ning.com/. Participation in the Ning is for members only (DM your email address to me @pamelaaobrien if you’re interested in becoming a member). I still can’t quite believe that I’m now dropping things like Nings, G+ hangouts etc. into my normal conversations!
Anyway, on to Global Celebrations and Festivities. Through my interactions on Twitter and Google+, I have had some great conversations with enthusiastic educators across the world. My daughter is 8 and is in 3rd class in school. One wish that I have for her, and for my son, is that they will get exposed to some of these fantastic opportunities to connect with kids in other countries. During a conversation with Michael Thornton (@mthornton78), a teacher in Charlottesville in Virginia, the possibility of creating a connect between my daughters’ class and Michael’s class was mentioned. Michael has very successfuly used Skype with his students to connect with children all over the world (see http://mthornton78.wordpress.com/ for more details) so I was hoping that we could have a Skype session between the two classes. I spoke to my daughters teacher last week and, while she is hesitant in her use of technology, she is very keen to get involved. Once I got the go ahead I started a twitter conversation with Michael and Global Celebrations and Festivities was born, with input from Roy Mitchell (@roygmitchell), Ira Socol (@irasocol) and Liam Dunphy. This for me is the real power of Twitter, a conversation over the course of approx. 2 hours on a Friday night in Ireland (which was early evening in the US and early Saturday morning in Sydney) has resulted in a project that I for one am really excited about. The conversation continued on Saturday morning (Irish time) with others joining in the discussion.
So the plan is to have a Google+ hangout, which will allow us to connect up to 10 classrooms, to discuss the traditions surrounding celebrating various holidays during the year. Our first hangout is scheduled for Halloween to allow the children to tell each other how they will celebrate Halloween. The intention is to follow up with further hangouts during the year for other holidays. To support the hangout, we’ve discussed various ideas such as the students creating cards which they could post to other classes, sharing artwork virtually etc. I’m sure that as the project develops, the classes will be connecting in lots of different ways. As I’ve already said I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait for the first hangout :-)
As always please share your thoughts, ideas and expressions of interest.