CoderDojo Nenagh 3 years on

We’re coming up to our 3rd birthday at CoderDojo Nenagh so I thought I’d share some of what has been happening over the past 3 years. 聽We’ve been running once a month since the 18th April 2012 with the exception of the summer break and we’ve settled into a great routine. 聽In the beginning Scratch was the mainstay of the Dojo but we also had Arduino and Python workshops. 聽For the last year we’ve had Scratch and HTML groups happily working on projects.

For me one of the highlights of the past 3 years was in February 2014 when James Daly and Michael Murphy from Atom Split Games came to do a workshop. 聽We all thought James and Michael would come with cool technology to show us (well I certainly did 馃檪 ), but they came with … paper and markers! 聽What transpired was a Design workshop that certainly stopped me in my tracks. Our instructions were to put away the laptops and get drawing. 聽It was an electric session that culminated in a series of presentations that symbolise for me all that is good in CoderDojo. 聽Here’s a selection of images form that workshop


DesignWS2Another highlight has been the collaboration with Nenagh For贸ige that has just begun. 聽Our Dojo has been lucky to have a space provided for us by Nenagh Arts Centre since the beginning. For贸ige are housed in the same building and before Christmas I was approached with a view to a collaboration. 聽For贸ige run an entrepreneurship programme and they wanted to work with a group of our ninjas with CoderDojo providing the technological know how. 聽A group was chosen and the fun and games started at the beginning of February. 聽It’s mostly team building at the moment but in their second week they went to Google HQ in Dublin. 聽I wasn’t a bit jealous! 聽10 of our ninjas went and took part in a Dragon’s Den on the day and one of our teams won 馃檪 聽I’m really looking forward to seeing how this evolves over the coming year …


Over the years there have been many other highlights that come as part of the package that is CoderDojo … the hum of conversation as ninjas work together making their own games, animations and websites, the smile as a problem is sorted, the quiet confidence as ninjas share what they’ve been working on not to mention the smiling faces coming in the door and the groan when I tell them it’s time to pack up …

It’s been a great few years as CoderDojo Nenagh has evolved. 聽This has been possible with the help of the parents, some of my former students who have been generous with their time and of course the ninjas themselves. 聽I’m looking forward to what comes next for the Dojo … 馃檪


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. 聽This is in no small part due to the many projects her class are undertaking under the guidance of her teacher. 聽They’ve undertaken a variety of research projects as well as the Intel Mini Scientist Programme and more recently the Junior Entrepreneur Programme聽(JEP).聽聽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. 聽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. 聽They then worked in small groups and each group chose one idea to bring forward. 聽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. 聽Each team then worked on their idea before presenting it at a Dragon’s Den in the school. 聽After the Dragons’s Den one idea was chosen for the entire class to progress with and another iteration of the process began. 聽The class were divided into teams including : 聽StoryTelling, Finance, Sales, Design & Production and Marketing. 聽Each team had an area to work on and got to work. 聽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. 聽 The teams showed articles from the local paper, 聽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.

Coolest Projects

DCU My daughter聽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. 聽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. 聽The icing on the cake was that it was a day out for just the two of us 馃檪 After the opening ceremony, we got a chance to check out some of the more than 250 projects on show on the day. 聽As a Scratch fan and with a growing interest in the Makey Makey kit we made our way to the Scratch room first. 聽 We saw lots of interesting ideas but I think our favourite project was ‘Are you smarter than a cat?’ 聽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. 聽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 馃檪


We finished off the day as we started it, hanging around the DCU sign, except this time it was with Bianca N铆 Ghr贸gain 馃檪


Scratch National Finals


May 2nd saw me make my way to Dublin Castle for the National Scratch Finals. The decision was made to run the finals on the same day as the Formula 1 in Schools finals which were taking place at the end of the first Irish Tech Week. 聽 I’d been asked a few weeks previously to judge the competition and despite some hesitation I decided to agree. My hesitation came from my lack of experience of judging a competition like this, or in fact any competition. 聽I’m so glad that I did agree as I got a chance to see first hand the creativity on display.


I arrived in Dublin Castle at about 10.30 to be briefed on the task in hand. 聽I was down to judge in the 5th and 6th class category with two other judges. 聽We were to judge the entries separately and then meet to agree the winner in the category. 聽Then came the hard work of judging. 聽I have to admit I really enjoyed this part as it gave me an opportunity to chat聽with the students about their projects. 聽There were five projects in total and in my naivety I thought I’d get through them reasonably quickly giving me the chance to see some of the other projects on display. 聽This wasn’t to be the case because I found that once I started asking questions the children just wanted to talk about their projects. 聽It was clear that they all really enjoyed working on them and that they had learnt a lot in the process. 聽From my perspective, this made them all winners 馃檪 Of course, they couldn’t all be winners but choosing our overall winner wasn’t as difficult as I had originally thought. 聽Sometimes one project stands out from the others and this was the case for us. 聽Having said that, it was a close contest and it was great to see two projects from our category awarded the ‘Best Educational Content’ award and the ‘Best Social Project’ award. 聽I even got to present the Best Technical Sophistication award

Photo courtesy of the website

Photo courtesy of the website

All in all it was a great day with the beautiful Dublin Castle providing a stunning backdrop for the days proceedings.




BETT 2014

I’ve followed the BETT story of many #edchatie teachers on Twitter over the past few years jealously. 聽It never seemed to work out that I too could go – that is until this year. 聽Anyone who had previously been, extolled the virtues of going to BETT, and I wondered if it could possibly live up to the hype. 聽Having now seen it for myself, I can categorically state that it did! BETT runs over four days and I went for the last two – the Friday which included a TeachMeet and the Saturday.


I had done a little bit of preparation before making the trip but it was of the download the app and the material variety rather than actually engaging with what was available. 聽On the Thursday night I had a look at the talks and made a rough plan of what talks I wanted to see over the following few days. 聽I figured that from an exhibitor point of view I would just wait and see what caught my eye. 聽It turned out that I was completely unprepared for the wide variety of exhibitors that were at BETT. 聽There was something for everyone, but I have to admit that I found the sheer volume a bit overwhelming, particularly on the Friday. 聽As a result I made the decision to focus almost entirely on the talks. 聽There was plenty to choose from with more than 50 talks on Friday alone!

First up for me was Arvin Ross talking about Digital Storytelling. 聽Arvin gave a very engaging talk and shared his pick of the best apps to help with Storytelling


The Puppet Pals app also got a mention as a great app for Story telling.

Next choice for me was Ed Cooke talking about memory techniques and how they can be used to super power student learning. 聽What struck me was how Ed got us all to remember 20 seemingly unrelated objects by weaving them into a story. 聽Seeing how we remembered the items both backwards and forwards was a revelation. 聽The final surprise was revealed when Ed told us that the 20 objects were in fact elements from the Periodic Table (the balloon representing Helium etc.). 聽Check out for more information.

At lunchtime I decided to go to the Flipped Learning session in the main arena. 聽The session was given by Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann, co-founders of the Flipped Classroom. 聽I’ve been toying with the idea of introducing some aspects of flipped learning so it was great to hear about how others have made it work and what their students have gained from it.聽 One of my takeaways from this session, was that the Flipped Classroom does not dehumanise the classroom, but rather that it places the teacher even more at the centre of the class 聽as the focus has changed. 聽The very strong message was the importance of relationships in the classroom, a point that was reinforced in the drawings that were to be found on the outside of the BETT arena


After a quick bite to eat it was time to go to Doug Belshaw’s masterclass on improving digital literacy among staff and students. 聽What I loved about Doug’s talk was that it was more of a conversation starter than a masterclass as it prodded us to consider a broad range of literacies as opposed to a single one.


I particularly loved this 聽proverb


I know which is my preference – what’s yours?


My final session of the day was Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ talk – ‘Beyond the Limits’. It was billed as an Inspirational Keynote and boy did it聽deliver! 聽Hearing Sir Ranulph recount his tales of crossing both the Artic and the Antartic was active learning at it’s very best. 聽It’s great to get a chance to hear people of this calibre speak at events like this. 聽I love to hear people from outside the educational domain speak at educational events as they often have a different perspective which challenges up to think differently. 聽


By this stage it was time for me to do a talk of my own. 聽I had been asked to speak at the OCR stand about CoderDojo with Mags Amond. 聽I wasn’t sure how it was going to work as it wasn’t a scheduled talk – it was more a case of start talking and hope that people would stop and listen. 聽It turned out to be a more enjoyable experience than I had imagined – Mags and I worked well together and a good few people stopped and listened.

The rest of Friday was taken up with the TeachMeet which I’ve previously written about here and the TeachEat, an opportunity to chat and mingle and generally relax after a long, busy day.

First up on Saturday was ‘Learning Science with iPads’ with Ed Walsh.

edwalshI was very interested in the next session ‘Analytical and predictive primary math teaching in Finland. 聽Finland is often held up as an exemplar regarding education so I was curious as to what we might find out from this talk. 聽 I was a bit taken aback to find that the same issues around Maths education are to be found there

IMG_8609We heard about the emphasis on autonomy and teacher training that are so central to the Finnish education system but also the issues around integrating ICT into the system


It’s good to get this viewpoint and to see that teachers in many different countries are dealing with similar issues to the ones we face in this country.

IMG_8650One of the last sessions I went to was the Stemettes Hackathon. 聽It was such an enjoyable session and reminded me a lot of CoderDojo. 聽I loved how Anne Marie led the hackathon and used the example of making a jam sandwich to demonstrate the concept of an algorithm with the girls who had come to work on developing websites in real time.


The future is safe with these kinds of initiatives …

And so we come to the last session of BETT2014 – ‘The Great Education Debate – can technology ever replace the classroom?’ 聽We heard short presentations from the panelists : Tim Rylands who stole the show in my view, Anne Lise Kjaer, Maggie Philbin, Ian Bauckham and Simon Milner. 聽I learned a new term from Tim – the elsie as opposed to the selfie.

elsieOne of the ideas that was reinforced during the closing session was the importance of the teacher in the classroom while recognising the power of technology to hook students and to facilitate learning. 聽It’s good to see that the emphasis on technology in education is entirely about its integration into the classroom, as an aid to teaching and learning, and not about it’s use for it’s own sake. 聽Plenty of food for thought until next year …

IMG_8654聽While I’ve focused in this post on the talks I attended, the most important aspect of attending conferences for me is the opportunity to chat to other educators. 聽 I was fortunate to spend the weekend at BETT in the company of Helen, Bianca, Mags and Kathleen as well as many of the #edchatie folk who made the trip to BETT. 聽Chatting about what you are hearing and seeing helps to process all of the information that is being thrown in your direction. 聽I definitely get more from a conference when I get a chance to discuss it with others. 聽It’s also good to hear about the work going on in classrooms across Ireland and beyond … hearing Bianca talking about “her” kids and the amazing projects that they are working on, hearing Mags and Kathleen talk about the importance of the relationships they have with their students, hearing Helen talk about the success of the How I Learn book all serve to invigorate you in what you are doing in you own classroom. 聽It’s also amazing to get the chance to catch up with people like Steve Bunce, Doug Belshaw, Helen Keegan, Dughall McCormack, Joe Dale and so many more. 聽It’s only when you get a chance to reflect on the overall experience of BETT that you begin to realise just how much you get from attending! 聽I’m looking forward to BETT 2015 already 馃檪

Young Innovators 2014


As part of the ITLG Silicon Valley Global Technical Forum in Limerick this week an event aimed specifically at second level students took place in Shannon airport on Monday. 聽More than 600 students descended on the airport to look at how we might be living, working, playing, shopping, travelling and learning in the future. 聽We took an ICT in Education Conference Youth Media Team (YMT) to the event to capture the day.

The event was MC’d by RTE DJ Ruth Scott and was kicked off in style by Music Generation Limerick City.


Next up were Rose Hynes from Shannon Airport, Maria Hinfelaar from LIT, Colm O’Neill from BT, Craig Barrett from Intel


and Ingrid Vanderveldt, Entrepreneur in Residence in Dell


We then heard from some Young Entrepreneurs before the competition was deemed to be underway. 聽At this stage the Youth Media Team had identified some of the speakers and exhibitors that they would like to interview so it was time to get to work…

They started by interviewing some of the exhibitors like Grasp Wearable Technologies, Lero, CoderDojo and the Connecting Women in Technology Group. 聽They wanted to interview Mission V but the queues to try out the Oculus Rift were relentless all day so it was nearly the end of the day before they got their chance to do the interview! 聽They also interviewed Eamon Dalton, one of the judges, Pat Donohue, mentor of the winning team and three of the teams involved in the competition including the winning team from Castletroy College.

Over the course of the day we were delighted to also get the opportunity to interview Ingrid Vanderveldt, Minister of State for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon as well as three of the Dragons from the Dragon’s Den: Sean O’Sullivan, Gavin Duffy and Peter Casey. 聽 Not a bad day’s work 馃檪


This the third outing for the team and my second time working with them and they continue to be a pleasure to work with 馃檪

Check out their interviews聽here.