TeachMeet Clare

A couple of weeks ago, one Friday evening I found myself driving to Ennis to the Clare TeachMeet.  This TeachMeet was organised by Leanne Lynch.  It was her first event of this type so I was looking forward to seeing what the vibe would be on the night.  I’ve been to many educational events over the years and more than my fair share of TeachMeets and I’ve found that each one has it’s own energy.  I made a spur of the moment decision to bring my daughter and my niece with me on the night.  They are both members of the Youth Media Team and I thought we might get a few interviews on the night.

Being met with food on arrival always bodes well for the night ahead … and what followed didn’t disappoint! We had a lively but leisurely 2 hours of learning preceded by a warm welcome from Leanne

Next up was Mags Amond sharing some of her research on TeachMeets …

… and challenging us to break in to (or out of) jars to get to the makings of her now legendary glowies 🙂

Followed by Chris Reina who took us on a whistle stop tour of 65 apps in 7 minutes!

Next, Martina O’Grady shared her experience of dropping the use of a Maths book in primary school …

… and Aaron Carroll told us about Flipping the Classroom with the irishhomework.ie website.

This was followed by Sean Murphy telling us about Minecraft and Raspberry Pi for coding …

… Roseanne Healy reminding us of the importance of using ‘concrete materials’ with students …

… and Niamh Quinn on extending Aistear into 1st and 2nd class

All of the above in not much more than an hour!! So now it was time to get up and get active with GoNoodle

It was good to get up and moving, which led nicely into the next presentation from Bryn Llewellyn from Tagtiv8


I loved Bryn’s idea to have students choose different Kahoot answers by making different shapes – active learning at its best!

Steve Holmes then talked us through his Scratch Climate Sensor application including some data on Hurricane Ophelia and Storm Brian …

… followed by a quick look at Green Screen film making with Cormac Cahill.

Next up was Lauren King sharing her ideas on Business in Action and the Tenner challenge

and finally Jackie Maurer spoke about the CRAFTEd project

All that was left to do was for Leanne to wrap up the night and this was the golden moment of the night for me as Leanne asked to reflect on why we do what we do …

Leanne reminded us of the impact of Bianca Ní Ghrógáin whose ideas percolated through many of the evenings presentations … and of Tim Rylands, whose memorial service was held on that evening … before signing off with a story that her current 6th class had written when she had taught them 4 years previously.  A beautiful way to end a fantastic night.  I loved the vibe on the night – a lot was covered in a short time frame but it was done in a very relaxed way. For me it was all that a TeachMeet should be!

The icing on the cake was that Cara and Amy got a chance to interview Bryn, Leanne, Pat Hanrahan (Director of the Education Centre) and Mags who shared a few thoughts on Tim Rylands.  You can check out their interviews here.











Junior Entrepreneur Programme in the Convent Primary Nenagh

My daughter is in 6th class at the moment and seems to be really enjoying her last year in Primary School.  This is in no small part due to the many projects her class are undertaking under the guidance of her teacher.  They’ve undertaken a variety of research projects as well as the Intel Mini Scientist Programme and more recently the Junior Entrepreneur Programme (JEP).  I was lucky enough to make it in to the school for the JEP showcase the week before last and I’m so glad that I did.  What greeted me was a class of 29 girls eager to share their ideas, evidence of their hard work and most of all their enthusiasm.

The programme started back around Christmas time when the girls were asked to each come up with an idea that they could produce as part of the programme.  They then worked in small groups and each group chose one idea to bring forward.  Some of the ideas included customised hoodies, smartphone speakers, bracelets and more …


Over the course of the programme the girls learned more about business and were visited by a local entrepreneur.  Each team then worked on their idea before presenting it at a Dragon’s Den in the school.  After the Dragons’s Den one idea was chosen for the entire class to progress with and another iteration of the process began.  The class were divided into teams including :  StoryTelling, Finance, Sales, Design & Production and Marketing.  Each team had an area to work on and got to work.  What blew me away at the showcase was that as soon as you stepped in to the hall, the girls were full of chat to tell you all about what they had done.   The teams showed articles from the local paper,  their ideas of the qualities an entrepreneur should have


their surveys


their fab logo


their flyer


and last but by no means least their fab bracelets


Check out the class blog post where you can find their PowerPoint of their JEP Story. One of the girls also created a website for the product based on the HTML she learned at CoderDojo Nenagh.

I’ve been going in to the girls showing them some IT concepts since they were in senior infants so it’s been lovely to see them grow into the confident young girls they have become.

Scratch with Silvermines NS

For the past four weeks I’ve been working with the 4th class pupils in Silvermines National School. We’ve been using Scratch and it’s been great fun for all of us 🙂 The class are in a mixed class with 5th and 6th so it was lovely for me to have a small group to work with.  We only had an hour a week but we’ve covered a lot.

The first week was taken up with showing the basics of Scratch and getting comfortable with how to get things done. Some of that morning was spent training their robots (i.e myself and their teacher).  What was lovely to see was that they had already played this game as Gaeilge over the previous couple of weeks so they had already begun to think algorithmically without even being aware of it.

Week 2 saw us working on a basic Scratch game involving a shark, a fish, some basic movement and changing costumes.  This game helped to introduce topics like collision detection, scores, broadcasting to trigger an event and many other game related concepts.  Weeks 3 and 4 then saw the group working in pairs to create their own games and animations.  I really enjoyed seeing what they came up with and seeing how getting something working really spurred them on to improve their game.


We also had fun with a Makey Makey apple piano …


… before bringing a human version back in to show the rest of their class 🙂


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.


Skyping with Commander Chris Hadfield

One of the teachers in my daughter’s school was lucky enough to organise a Skype call with the astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield.  She is currently completing her Masters and is researching the use of technology with her 2nd class students. They have been working on a cross curricular body of work centred around the topic of Space, the culmination of which was the Skype call with Chris. I was asked to come along on the day – thanks Leanne 🙂

1pm on the 9th of June was the appointed time and just before that I tweeted a picture of the girls waiting. When it was retweeted by the man himself I was more than a little chuffed 🙂


The next half an hour passed too quickly with the girls working in teams asking the questions they had already prepared. I loved their team names which included ‘Moon Stars’, ‘Space Buddies’ and ‘Sparkling Space Scientists’ among others. They asked fantastic questions too, ranging from Chris’s thoughts on lift-off through the availability of electricity in space, how they got rid of rubbish, his use of twitter and his preference for life on space vs earth. I loved the variety in the questions and the confident manner in which they were asked. But what I loved most about the call, was the thoughtful way in which Chris dealt with the girls. He was very careful to make sure he answered their questions thoroughly and to mention their team names throughout. I think there were a few starstruck adults (this one included!) in the room on the day not to mention the girls themselves.


Stop Motion Animation


During the week I was in 5th class in the Convent Primary school in Nenagh to work with the girls on Stop Motion animations.  My kit included 3 boxes of props and 6 Apple devices.  The boxes of props included a box of Lego, a box of small toy characters including Littlest Pet Shop toys, Sylvanian family characters and Tatty Teddy toys and the final box contained various toys including tables, chairs, beds a boat and lots of other interesting props.  There were 25 in the group and they were divided into 5 groups of 4 and a group of 5.  They hadn’t heard of stop motion animation before so I was curious to see how it would go.


After a brief overview of what was involved they got to work planning out their animations.  Then came the most difficult part of the process – choosing their characters and props.  Each group used a device with the Stop Motion Studio app installed. The next half an hour saw all of the groups working on their projects.  The hum of excited chatter told me I’d definitely chosen the perfect project for the afternoon 🙂


Here is some of their work

Some of the girls made a second animation

Not bad for an hours work 🙂

CESI Conference 2014


It’s been more than 2 weeks since the 2014 CESI conference and it’s only now that I’m getting to reflect on the event.  Because of my involvement with the Youth Media Team on the day, I didn’t get to sit in on as many of the presentations as I would have liked.  Having said that, working with the team was great so it was worth the sacrifice.

After CESI Chair, Adrienne Webb, welcomed us all to Galway Minister Ciaran Cannon then delivered his opening address.  He reminded us that we need to educate our students for their future not our past and spoke of the way in which technology will facilitate global collaboration in the classrooms of the future.  This really resonated with me as ‘Global Voices’ is our theme for the 2014 ‘ICT in Education’ conference.  He then spoke about a Digital festival of Learning to be held in Dublin Castle on May 30th and 31st May.  I’m looking forward to hearing more about this event and to being involved with the Youth Media Team.  There was a bit of discussion on the backchannel on Twitter about the Minister’s reference to coding.  My thoughts on coding are well known.  I lecture in a technology department to computing students and I’ve been involved in CoderDojo for more than two years.  I do however agree that coding must have a context in an educational setting and that it’s not just about teaching coding but about another way of thinking.


The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Spark the Imagination’ and I think it’s fair to say that Dr. Daithí Ó Murchú did just that! One of the things I most enjoy about conferences like the CESI one is the mix of inspirational keynote addresses and practical workshops and presentations.  Daithí’s keynote was certainly inspirational.



He asked us to look to 2050


Daithí reminded us of the need to develop coping strategies.  He spoke of Continuous Partial Attention as opposed to Multitasking. His parting shot was to remind us of the need to take time out.  Turn the phone off, meditate …  This is something that becomes harder to do but which becomes more and more important  in this ever changing, connected world.

Next up were Dr. Michael Hallissy and Dr. Deirdre Butler who spoke about the National Digital Strategy and the future of education.  Unfortunately I missed this session but judging from the proliferation of tweets they provided attendees with plenty of food for thought.

The packed schedule of breakout sessions provided lots of variety for attendees, so much so, that the Youth Media Team found it difficult to find people who had time to give their thoughts on the event, for  much of the early part of the day!

The closing plenary sessions were a great way to round off what was a fantastic day, of sharing all that is good about technology in education across all levels.  James Corbett, from MissionV, combined the past and the future in his presentation using the Oculus Rift.  Stephen Howell, from Microsoft, then took us on a tour of Project Spark.  Dave even got the chance to have a play


Sending people home with their heads filled with inspiration, ideas and lots of practical ways to make changes in their classroom is what you hope for as an organiser of any conference.  I think the organisers of the CESI conference certainly fulfilled this remit.  All I can hope for, is that we can do the same for the attendees of the ICT in Education conference in Thurles in May!

The full transcript of tweets of the event can be found here.