Fighting Words Workshop at SCoTENS

Usually when I’m working with the Youth Media Team at an event I don’t get to see much of what’s going on because we’re busy preparing for interviews, interviewing and writing up our account of what has gone on.  Yesterday at SCoTENS (Standing Conference on Teacher Education North and South) I made an exception on Conor Galvin’s recommendation.  It turned out to be a very good recommendation to go to the Fighting Words workshop.


Fighting Words provides free tutoring and mentoring in creative writing and related arts to as many children, young adults and adults with special needs as we can reach. Our programmes and workshops are delivered mainly by volunteers. (ref:

At the workshop we worked though a creative writing exercise aimed at Primary level. Sean Love from Fighting Words in Dublin led us through the exercise with Geraldine Wilkins from Fighting Words in Belfast documenting our story.  Sean started by getting us to suggest a main character. With 3 potential characters (with names and foibles included e.g. Sarah who only ate yellow food) we then got to vote on which one we would choose.  To vote we had to close our eyes to provide a secret vote.  I have to say I just loved the idea – it was such an effective way of coming up with a main character, their friend, their ambition and their greatest fear.  After we had chosen all of these in a similar manner, we began the writing process.  The idea is to create the beginning a story that can then be taken in many different directions.

As I was sitting in the workshop it struck me that this might be a great process to come up with ideas for games or animations in Scratch in CoderDojo.  Sometimes I find that the kids can come up blank when they’re trying to come up with ideas and I think this might kick start that process for them.  Even the process of coming up with ideas as a group is very creative and might in itself provide enough to get kids over their initial lack of ideas.

Having seen a scaled down version of the process I’d love to see a full on workshop so thank you Conor for the recommendation 🙂


Take Joy in Learning – #blimage

Prompted by Catherine Cronin’s #blimage post last week I’ve decided to take up the challenge and share an image that embodies so much about learning for me. The idea behind #blimage is to blog in response to an image.  When it came to picking the image, the one that kept coming to mind was …


There is so much about this image that I love. It was taken at the ICT in Education conference in April this year and it includes Ciaran Cannon TD and Bianca Ní Ghrógáin as well as my daughter and some of her friends.  I’m using the image here with the kind permission of Ciaran.

There are so many layers to this image that make it such a powerful one for me; the sheer joy that jumps out, the casual inclusion of technology and finally the bringing together of the powerful triumvirate of an inspiring, fire starter of an educator, a group of enthusiastic, inquisitive students and a member of parliament who is truly interested and passionate about the use of technology in education.  What is most poignant about the image, is that since it was taken, we have lost the truly unique educator that Bianca was.  On a personal level I’ve also lost a good friend, who along with others has shaped my ever evolving thinking on teaching and learning.

This image perfectly captures Bianca’s style of leading from the back.  She had a knack of not getting in the way of the learning that goes on. So many of us, myself included, can often fall into the trap of over directing how and when students learn.  Having observed Bianca in many educational settings, from her own classroom, to CoderDojo sessions, to workshops at conferences among others, what always struck me was that she was prepared to take chances by not over prescribing how things were going to work.  She trusted that learning would happen and she was willing to let it evolve with a carefully placed nudge here and there.  On the day before the conference in April, Bianca and Susan Nic Reamoinn did a workshop with the girls using technology such as BeeBots, Kano and Makey Makey. These were technologies that the girls hadn’t used before, and yet by the following day the girls were happily demonstrating what they’d learned with a confidence that didn’t even hint at the very short length of time that they had actually used them for.

I’m going to cheat a little by using a second image in this post.BiancaSusanHassan

This picture was also taken at the conference and captures the fun that was so much a part of that 24 hours.  It’s a timely reminder of the joy to be found in learning …

ICT in Education conference 2015

The ICT in Education conference takes place on Saturday 25th April on the Thurles campus of LIT.  Our theme this year is “Make, Bake, Take” and we’re delighted to have a pre-conference Maker Meet on the Friday night.  It promises to be a fun 24 hours of learning, chatting and sharing 🙂

A call for presenters is currently open and will close on Tuesday 31st March.  Online registration is also open with a ‘bring a buddy’ reduced rate available to attendees this year.  As in previous years, the conference would be nothing without the teachers across the spectrum of education in Ireland who make the ‘Trip to Tipp’ to share great ideas, to learn from each other, to renew old friendships and make new ones.

So, if you have something good to share or if you want to come away with lots of ideas for your own classroom check out the conference website to submit a proposal to present or to register for the conference and Maker Meet.


Coolest Projects

DCU My daughter has been in CoderDojo for more than 2 years but wasn’t sure what was involved in Coolest Projects so we decided to go to DCU on Jun 7th to see what it was all about.  After a busy few weeks of conferences that I was directly involved in, it was lovely to spend the day at an event as a tourist.  The icing on the cake was that it was a day out for just the two of us 🙂 After the opening ceremony, we got a chance to check out some of the more than 250 projects on show on the day.  As a Scratch fan and with a growing interest in the Makey Makey kit we made our way to the Scratch room first.   We saw lots of interesting ideas but I think our favourite project was ‘Are you smarter than a cat?’  It turns out that collectively we are (although, if truth be told, I’m not sure I would have been, without her help :))

Smarter Than A CatWe also went to a couple of the talks, which were more for me than her so I kept those to a minimum.  There were a lot of projects to see (250 in total across five categories – Scratch, Website, App, Mixed and Other) so we got to see lots of variety across the entries. Hopefully we’ll be back next year with an entry so she’ll get a chance to be part of the awards ceremony 🙂


We finished off the day as we started it, hanging around the DCU sign, except this time it was with Bianca Ní Ghrógain 🙂


Excited 2014


excited logo1001

I enjoyed the Excited festival even though I didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked due to my commitments with the Youth Media Team.  What I did see impressed me though, as it seemed to be a genuine attempt to bring together many of the stakeholders in our education system – teachers, students, policy makers and industry.  It was heartening to see both teachers and students involved in a very real way across the two days of the event.  For me, the stars of the show were the BT Young Scientist former winners, Ciara Judge, Sophie Healy-Thow and Emer Hickey.  They reported back on Friday’s proceedings during Saturday’s event in a confident, articulate and kick ass way!

Of course, it was just my luck to be involved in a panel directly after their slot!  I was honoured to be included in a panel but, if I’m honest, I was frustrated at my input on the panel.  I find panels difficult to prepare for due to their diverse nature and it can sometimes be difficult to get in when you want to.  A perfect example of this was the topic of online safety and cyber bullying that was part of the discussion on my panel.  My tuppence worth on the topic is that this is not just an issue for schools.  Parents need to take responsibility for this crucial aspect of their child’s safety and we need to be careful as educators that we don’t allow parents to abdicate their responsibility here.  A tweet from a while back comes to mind!


As a parent myself, I take this aspect of my children’s safety very seriously and find it difficult to understand when others just seem to accept that they are completely out of the loop in this area of their children’s lives.  Schools aren’t expected to assume responsibility for children’s physical safety outside of school hours so I’m a bit baffled as to why they are expected to assume responsibility for their online safety.  I didn’t get a chance to say this on the day so I’m saying it now 🙂


Youth Media Team at Excited 2014

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. Team Excited small 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 🙂 Conor Prep smallThe 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. IMG_1634[1] IMG_1638[1]

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

Day Two in the Castle small

What a backdrop!

ICT in Education conference 2014


The 10th ICT in Education conference took place on Saturday 10th May.  As in previous years CESI hosted a TeachMeet on the previous evening, and, as always, it provided attendees with a relaxing evening of catching up with old friends and new.  The sharing began on the Thurles campus and continued later in the Anner Hotel.  It was great to see new faces begin to share what is working for them in their classrooms.  All in all, a great kickstarter for the conference to come.


Saturday saw the busiest conference we’ve had with a vibrant exhibitor presence as well as an increased student presence.  LIT President, Maria Hinfelaar, welcomed attendees to the ‘Global Voices’ themed conference before handing over to Minister for Training and Skills, Ciaran Cannon.  We are very fortunate, to have a Junior Minister who is so interested and engaged in making progress in the integration of technology across all levels of our education system.  Next up was former Teacher of the Year, Evelyn O’Connor.  Evelyn’s heartfelt sharing of her experiences rang true for so many in the room.  Too often, people gloss over the difficulties when sharing their experiences.  It’s good to hear the a balanced view of the rough with the smooth to enable us to see the light at the end of the tunnel when it all seems to be going wrong!

Next came the experimental part of the day.  We decided, with some prompting from Conor Galvin and Bernie Goldbach, to try an open workshop format for a portion of the day.  This section was titled ‘The W@lk’ and our aim was to showcase some of the work that is going on in classrooms across the country allowing attendees to observe rather than participate.  We had six stations on the W@lk.

  1. Bridge 21 – an education programme based in Trinity which can be adapted for use in secondary schools. The model is team based, technology mediated, project based and cross curricular.  On the day Kevin Sullivan worked with a group of local secondary school students to produce video clips on what students should learn in school and also a more frivolous clip 


  2. MissionV – a creative, immersive games based learning environment for schools and industry.  On the day John Jennings and Esther Lambe provided attendees with an opportunity to try out the Oculus Rift as well as sharing the experience of Esther’s school while using Mission V.DSC_6837
  3. CoderDojo Thurles – a free coding club for young people.  Jacqueline Humphries along with the team of mentors and Dojo ninjas showcased some of the projects the Dojo has been working on throughout the year including HMTL, App Development, electronics and so much moreDSC_6929
  4. Radio TY from St. Wolstan’s in Celbridge – a youth media team based on our own YMTfm.  Noeleen Leahy brought a group of students who shared their experiences of setting up a media team in a school.  They managed to squeeze in an interview or two along the way as well as take some selfies 🙂DSC_6999
  5. Makey Makey workshop – Bianca Ní Ghrógáin assisted by Hassan Dabbagh led a workshop with some local primary school children in the use of the Makey Makey kit in conjunction with Scratch.DSC_6914
  6. Project Spark – Stephen Howell from Microsoft demonstrated the Project Spark applicationDSC_6965

While the W@lk was a new departure for us, and there are definitely areas which need a little polishing, the initiative was very well received by both participants and attendees alike, with many commenting that it was a timely reminder placing students at the centre of what we as educators do.

In his own inimitable way Stephen Howell pulled many of the mornings strands together in his plenary session, before attendees got to choose from a wide variety of workshops led by educators across the levels.  The hum of conversation at lunch time was an indicator of the level of engagement and enthusiasm from the teachers who came from far and wide on a Saturday to keep themselves up to date on the use of technology in the classroom.

After lunch saw a continuation of the parallel workshops before the closing session with Julie Cullen and Helen Keegan.  Julie is the Young Advisor to Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, and she shared her experiences of EU Code Week which saw Ireland punch far above our weight with the most events.  Helen Keegangave the closing presentation of the day, sharing her global collaborations which she undertook with her third level students.


The Youth Media Team returned to their ‘home’ conference after a hugely successful year and under the guidance of Joe Dale, Conor Galvin and Catherine Cronin they produced an eBook of the days’s proceedings.  We’re currently in the process of getting it published.


It was a jam packed day of sharing, chatting and being happy 🙂