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 🙂





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.


TeachMeet CESI 2014


Last Friday saw me make my way to Galway for the annual CESI Conference.  The event was preceded by a TeachMeet (replacing the previously held CESIMeets).  There was lots of information shared on the night.  Here’s a flavour of the night from Twitter.
























As you can see there were lots of great ideas shared at the TeachMeet.  To see the full twitter conversation and to access the links shared check out the transcript here.   Well done to Helen and John for facilitating a great night of sharing ideas.

Due to some technical difficulties on the night it was not possible for me to login to show Flickr.  Check out my Prezi on Flickr here.

Personal Learning Networks and Organisations

Week 3 in the Exploring Personal Learning Networks seminar has us looking at PLNs and Organisations.  In some ways it’s dto ifficult to see where the overlap comes between the two.  PLNs by their very nature are personal.  They evolve and grow as a result of the interests and passion of the person involved so I’m struggling with how they fit with organisations.  There is however no denying, that organisations can and do benefit from the very strong PLNs of their employees.   My major concern is that, as so often happens, trying to fix something that isn’t broken can lead to smashing the very thing you valued.

Over the last few weeks of the seminar many of the participants have been grappling with defining PLNs and after a fashion we have come up with our definitions but they’re personal to each of us.  This makes it very difficult for an organisation to ‘adopt’ PLNs in my opinion.  For each persons  definition of a PLN, there is also a set of tools which helps them to connect with those in their PLN.  This can involve entirely virtual connections to entirely ‘in-person’ and everything in between!  I think it’s fair to say that for most people it’s probably a mix of the two especially in this connected world we now live in.  I know it is for me.

The biggest challenge for organisations as they look at adopting PLNs, is that there are so many ways for people to connect, that it can be difficult to be supportive without being specific about the tools which people could or should use and the manner in which they could and should connect.  What works for one person will not work for another when it comes to their PLN.  If we look at four of the many tools which can be used to facilitate connections: Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.  For me personally, Twitter is my go to place.  I love the brevity of the 140 character message as it forces people to really focus on their key message.  I also love the open nature of Twitter, as, for the most part, you can dive into a conversation without even following those involved in the conversation.  Yet for others, Twitter is their worst nightmare!  I don’t see Facebook as part of my PLN for the most part.  I have an account but keep it mostly for personal use with most of my contacts on Facebook personally known to me.  Yet for others, Facebook is where most of their connections are fostered.  Google+ hasn’t lit the same fire in me as Twitter as a means of connecting with others.  I find the lack of brevity more overwhelming and find that I have to work harder to find the information of interest to me.  This has been helped with the Communities option but I worry that this is narrowing the focus as mentioned in my previous post. Yet, for a growing number of people Google+ is becoming their go to place for connecting.  Finally LinkedIn for me is just somewhere to have my digital CV of sorts but I haven’t leveraged the power of the discussions and so many other aspects of this networking application that so many others seem to use to their advantage.  What I am hoping to illustrate is that when it comes to PLN’s


So maybe the challenge for organisations is more to do with supporting the many different ways to connect rather than adopting PLNs …..

4731898939_e972eb3594image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/birgerking/4731898939/

Defining Personal Learning Networks

Week 2 of the Exploring Personal Networks (PLNs) online seminar has us looking towards defining a PLN.  At first glance this seems quite straightforward – in fact I’ve already defined a PLN in my previous post as “the people I come in contact with, both in person and virtually from whom I can learn”.  But is this definition enough?

My definition could equally apply to a Community of Practice (CoP) so how can we differentiate between the two?  Etienne-Wagner(1) defines a Communities of Practice as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”.  There is certainly an overlap between CoPs and PLNs, but for me the crucial difference, is the intentionality behind the coming together of a CoP, and the incidental nature that often characterises a PLN for me.  My PLN consists of people across a variety of interests from Maths to Programming to teaching to technology in education to ….. just the general thought provoking people you spot in passing.    The incidental, accidental learning that happens, as you spot ideas from one domain which could have a positive impact in another domain, is why I love the many interactions that the virtual world facilitates.  Sometimes we tend to apply a set of blinkers, which prohibits breaking down barriers, when we narrow the focus to people we know share a common interest.  In my previous post I referred to the cross-pollination of ideas across the levels in twitter chats like #edchatie.  For me this is such a powerful interaction that allows people to see outside the “box” they find themselves in, whether it be primary, secondary or third-level.

The next overlap which is interesting to examine is that between Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).  It’s difficult to find a universally recognised definition of a PLE, but there seems to be a consensus that a PLE refers to the the technological tools or environment which facilitates the connection.  In my reseach on this topic I came across Joyce Seitzinger’s graphic


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catspyjamasnz/3118564555/sizes/m/in/photostream/

I like this idea of a PLE as a subset of PLN.  It fits best with my own views about PLN’s which places people at its very core.  A graphic posted by Catherine Cronin to the 1 pic a day Flickr group that I am also a part of really caught my attention earlier this year


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/catherinecronin/8444998755/sizes/m/in/photostream/

I love this idea of connecting to think together.   The very real friendships that develop among people who “know” each other virtually before they meet in person is a testament to the depth of the connections which are forged through a sense of shared values. Of course meeting face to face is not obligatory, but I do find that some level of face to face contact does help to grow and sustain the connections.

So where does this leave me in regards to defining a PLN?   I started my previous post and this one with a definition of a Personal Learning Network as “the people I come in contact with, both in person and virtually from whom I can learn” and I’m sticking with that for now 🙂  But maybe I should redefine it as a Passionate Learning Network a la Shelly Terrell …

PLN Sign

Image credit: http://weconnect.pbworks.com/w/page/24566813/PLN


(1)    http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/

Exploring Personal Learning Networks

I’ve just started an online seminar called ‘Exploring Personal Learning Networks‘.  The seminar started on October 7th but I’ve just started this week so I’m a little behind the curve on it.  In spite of my tardiness starting, I’m really enjoying being involved so far, as I read other participants blog posts about their Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), vc c and attempt to catch up on what seems to be a very busy twitter chat on the #xplrpln hashtag!


One of the first tasks we’ve been set, is to share our stories, regarding how having a PLN has changed how we learn and practice in our professional fields.  For me, my PLN has dramatically changed how I practice as a lecturer.  It’s hard to believe that I didn’t really even know what a PLN was a little more than a year ago.  To be honest I’m not sure that I’m any more wise now but at least I now know the term!   I’m not really going to delve deeply into a definition of a PLN in this post, as this will come in my next post for the seminar.  I haven’t yet researched this topic, so I’m going to address my sense of what a PLN is about, as well as, what I can and do get, from my PLN.

My current loose definition of a PLN is “the people I come in contact with, both in person and virtually from whom I can learn”.  I know this is vague and probably overly broad but it works for me right now.  I’m lucky to be part of a very rich, vibrant PLN who have challenged, encouraged and supported me in the various endeavours I undertake from lecturing in Maths and Programming, to organising the ICT in Education conference, to taking my first tentative steps in presenting at conferences and so much more.  I suppose my primary point of contact for many in my PLN is Twitter.  I love the openness of Twitter, as you often come across ideas that may not be related to anything you are currently doing or planning, but which could be adapted to work for you.  The other really positive aspect of Twitter for me is the diversity of experiences and viewpoints you get from the many people you connect with.  I love the ease with which I can connect with other educators across the spectrum of education as too often we see a disconnect between the levels.  Here in Ireland, and in other jurisdictions, we have a tendency to see primary, secondary and third level education as completely separate when in reality our children don’t dramatically change in the couple of months between finishing primary and starting secondary or between finishing secondary and starting third level.  On hashtags like #edchatie, we can and do learn from each other.

The second task we’ve been set is to try something new.  I decided to give Storify a try.  I’d signed up a while ago but never progressed past a test, so I decided to use it to put together a Story of the #mathsfest conference I went to last weekend.  Have a look at the fruits of my labours here.