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 ūüôā 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 ūüôā



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 ūüôā

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.


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 Рa 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 ūüôāDSC_6999
  5. Makey Makey workshop РBianca 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 ūüôā




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. Daith√≠ √ď Murch√ļ 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. ¬†Daith√≠’s keynote was certainly inspirational.



He asked us to look to 2050


Daith√≠ 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.


Reflections on the ICT in Education conference


The theme for this years ICT in Education conference was decided at a planning meeting back in November or December. ¬†We felt that ‘Student Voices’ would be a suitable theme and at the meeting the idea of having students as roving reporters was mooted by Bernie Goldbach to embrace the theme in a meaningful way. The idea developed over the months and after talking to Conor Galvin at the CESI conference in February the ‘Youth Media Team’ was born. ¬†The plan was to have students from 12ish upwards to document the day – taking pictures, doing interviews and posting blog posts using mobile devices. ¬†Speaking personally I was completely overawed by the job the team did on the day. ¬†This was in no small part due to the mentoring team of Conor Galvin, Joe Dale and Bernie Goldbach who worked with the students during the day.


We didn’t prep the team prior to the event so they were unsure of what they had gotten themselves into! ¬†Seeing them grow in confidence as the day progressed was a sight to behold. ¬†Members of the team interviewed Minister of State Ciaran Cannon, LIT President Maria Hinfelaar and our three keynote speakers Grainne Conole, Catherine Cronin and Martha Rotter as well as anyone else who came their way and they took it all in their stride.



I found many of them them waiting impatiently in the corridors throughout the day for their victims workshop presenters to finish their sessions so that they could interview them.  They blogged about what they learned along the way and shared their experiences at the closing capstone session for the conference.  The experience seems to have been a very positive one for all involved.  Attendees seemed to enjoy the interaction with the students and the students themselves seem to have really enjoyed the experience too.

As well as the Youth Media team there were so many other positives to the conference this year. ¬†We had¬†the Minister of State Ciaran Cannon at the conference, a politician who seems engaged in the discourse on technology in education and genuinely interested in continuing the conversation. ¬†Our three ¬†female keynote speakers were exceptional as they sought to inspire attendees and send them on their way questioning what they do and how they do it. ¬†Our programme of workshop sessions was very comprehensive this year giving attendees great variety in their choice of breakout sessions to attend. ¬†I overheard many on the day speak of their wish to attend more than one session in each slot. ¬†The willingness of our attendees to¬†share their ideas and experiences of integrating technology in their teaching is the reason the conference is in its ninth year. ¬†Without this willingness to share, the conference would have become unsustainable, so it’s heartening to see educators more willing than ever to come together to connect, to share and to learn from each other. ¬†Which brings me nicely to my last point. which is that it was great to again attract more than one hundred educators across the spectrum of education, who were¬†willing to give up their Saturday in May, a busy month for people generally, to inspire and be inspired.

Talk has already turned to the 2014 conference, the 10th ICT in Education conference. ¬†Personally I’m already looking forward to it, as ¬†we look to celebrating this important milestone.

CESI Meet at #ictedu

The CESI Meet on Friday 10th May, on the eve of the ICT in Education Conference, was a great night of chat and sharing and learning. ¬†It was a bit different from the previous CESI Meets I’ve been to, because Bean an T√≠ Mags Amond decided to try the marshmallow challenge with the group. ¬†Essentially the challenge involves creating a structure to support a marshmallow from pasta, string and tape (more info in the post from the conference blog here). ¬†We arranged ourselves into groups of 3 and it was great fun seeing how people tackled the challenge. ¬†My group included myself, a colleague Laura Dargan and my son Dave. ¬†We had exactly 18 minutes to construct our structure. ¬†I couldn’t believe how quickly the time went and how competitive people got!! ¬†Our team decided to go big or go home!! which was unfortunately a risky strategy that didn’t work too well for us ūüė¶ ¬†Our final structure looked like this


the sad news is that as soon as we let go it smashed into what seemed like a million pieces! ¬†Seeing the different ways that people approached the challenge was fascinating with some taking a low risk strategy …


which ended up being the eventual winner and others suspending their structures from the ceiling …


and yet others spearing their marshmallow near the ceiling


The conference centre in LIT was a hive of creativity for the duration of the activity ūüôā

What followed was a series of soap box sessions on ‘Flipping the Classroom’ from Bianca Grogan, ‘Leap Motion in Maths Teaching’ from Stephen Howell, ‘Curation and Junior Cycle Reform’ from John Heffernan and ‘Raspberry Pi’ from Bill Quinn. ¬†Next came the gorgeous nibbles from Mitchell House ūüôā

The last session of the CESI Meet kicked off with a Skype call with Steve Bunce in the UK to hear about the similarities between coding and knitting. ¬†It was a very interesting session and it would have been great to follow through by getting the attendees to do their own finger knitting. ¬†Unfortunately this wasn’t possible due to the time constraints on the night. ¬†Next time!! ūüôā

Finally we heard from Mary Jo Bell about Voki, Conor Galvin about the power of using images in education, Joe Dale about classroom management apps, Marco Booth about his new education start up and Hellie Bullock about the How I Learn book in aid of Barnardos which will launch soon. ¬†I missed John Heffernan’s presentation so I’m not sure what he presented on but he’s beginning to get a reputation for x-rated presentations at the #ictedu CESI Meets ūüôā

Lots of interesting ideas were shared – a great appetite whetter for the following day.

ICT in Education Conference 2013

ICT in Education Conference Banner 2013

As many of you know, the 9th ICT in Education conference will take place in Thurles on Saturday May 11th this year.  As in previous years, the conference will be preceded by a CESI Meet on the previous night, Friday 10th May.  This conference is for educators across all levels to meet and share.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Student Voices” and the keynote speakers will be Grainne Conole and Catherine Cronin. We’re very excited about the theme for this year’s conference, as too often, the student voice is lost in the melee, as the many stakeholders in our education system clamour to have their voices heard. Having said that, it’s heartening to see teachers sharing what works in their classrooms, on social media and elsewhere, as they strive to provide their students with a platform from which their voice can be heard.

Student Voices

On the #edchatie hashtag every week there are many examples of teachers providing such a platform through

  • blogging
  • google hangouts with other classes in Ireland and further afield
  • social media in classrooms
  • gamification of education
  • art projects
  • audio projects

These are just some of the examples I’ve seen but there are so many more. ¬†If you’re a teacher who is willing to share what you’re doing in your classroom please consider submitting a proposal to present at the conference. ¬†More details on the conference and the call for proposals can be found at

ICT in Education Conference 2013 Flyer