It wouldn’t be March is we didn’t have the annual transit of planet #cesicon, and its satellite #tmCESI, across the education horizon. Three weeks have passed since, so better jot down the happenings while the memory still holds!

Friday night

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SarahJayne, Caitríona, Susan

Thanks to the CESImeet team – Sarah Jayne Carey, Susan NicReamoinn, and Catriona Lane – we had a great evening in the ballroom of the Regency Hotel. Details of the speakers and topics will be loaded to the Irish TeachMeets wiki in due course. I was delighted to see both Dughall McCormick and Martin Bailey, NAACE buddies, had flown over to join us; and equally happy to meet CESI friends from all over Ireland. (We should have done a county check – I suspect there was someone for every county jersey there. Next time.)

I did a nanopresentation about the nanosecond – a modern take on the Grace Hopper version, using ‘scoobies’. In the Soap Box breakout we made some binary bracelets using the same scoobies and some ‘hama’ beads.  The only downside to leading a Soap Box is missing the other 4 – Danny Murray, Richard Millwood, Jake Byrne, Stephen Howell, and each had a group in thrall. The upside is watching out for the one or two people who combine the Law of Two Feet with a touch of fomo and manage to get around to all the breakout demo corners!

We also had a mini BreakoutEDU challenge to each table to get folk in the humour for the workshop next day. There was huge variety in the presentations, I’ve never seen such fast and furious note-taking and picture snapping. I really enjoyed Martin Bailey’s live appsmashin’ demo, between the Geordie accent and deft screen swiping I was pushed to keep up!

Saturday

To get a more dynamic feel for the vibrancy of the day, have a look back thru the Twitter posts at twitter.com/#cesicon. The full CESI conference programme is hanging on the website, and it well worth a look to see the variety, breath and depth of what a group of volunteers can out together when working with a shared vision. Both keynotes, Brendan Tangney and Anne Looney, were superb food for thought and action.

One lovely moment was the Bianca awards – Pauline and Gerry Grogan were there with Miriam Judge to present two awards sponsored by DCU in honour of Bianca’s outstanding career. Claire Daly and Mark Baldwin were the worthy recipients of a bursary each, one for research and one for teaching. A runner up award was made to Maggie Green.

Being involved in two workshops meant little time to zip around and see what others were doing, but the atmosphere seemed to be one of happy campers teaching and learning in equal measures. That mad mix of primary, secondary, further and third level education that is one of the CESI hallmarks, was evident as folk passed in the corridors. The now ever present red t-shirts and white pergola of the Youth Media Team were there – teenagers professional in every way, interviewing and live blogging throughout the day.

Pam O’Brien, Paul O’Callaghan and me presented a BreakoutEDU workshop straight after lunch. It was a packed room, four lively teams tackling a series of code cracking challenges. The competition was fierce, and there was evident skullduggery in certain corners. We should have recorded it – the soundtrack would not have suggested 40 teachers in a classroom at a conference! The pictures show that those who almost broke out had as much enjoyment as those “Saturday Wasters” who did break out first.

The stand out experience of the day for me was the ‘unconference’ session co-hosted by CESI & the CT4L (computational thinking for life) cohort – Richard Millwood, Nina Bresnihan, Elizabeth Oldham, John Hegarty, agus mise freisin –  from Trinity College, Dublin. Prompted by the recent announcement of imminent Computer Science for Leaving Cert, it took place in a (foreshortened) Open Space Technology format. Deftly curated by Richard, it was as intense and productive an hour as ever spent at any CESI conference to date. Data gathered is on post-production, and will be published as soon as humanly possible (can’t trust the machines!!!). (And timely use was made of the PDST A3 whiteboards we’d received at #tmwellbeing the previous Thursday night).

All in all,#cesicon 2017 rocked. Meeting good friends – never enough time to talk! – is such a highlight. Making new friends is a delight.

Busy times ahead for CESI, summed up nicely by this quote:

Who knows what will be happening by the next transit of #tmCESI and #cesicon 2018? Whatever you do, don’t blink – it’ll be round again very quickly.

 

 

TeachMeet100cakeThanks to Paul Knox and Suzanne Graham of the PDST for a terrific evening at #tmwellbeing on March 2nd in Dublin West Education Centre. It was cool to be back in Tallaght, the location for the very first TeachMeet fadó fadó in 2009. The awful weather was forgotten inside, as about 40 teachers (all bar three at their firstTM) shared their ideas and experience around wellbeing in their schools and their lives. The breadth, depth, sensitivity and honesty across the range of presentations was quite startling, and very affirming.

This was one of the loveliest TeachMeets I’ve been to; I’m very glad to have been there. And delighted with the idea of celebration of Ireland’s 100th TeachMeet with a cake – nice thought Suzanne and Paul.

 

 

img_20170209_164832Thanks to Joanna Norton, who invited us on a Morning of Inspiration around London on the Saturday of our BETT visit. Joanna is an Irish teacher in London, who we’d met at last year’s TeachMeet. Hassan, Pamela, Adrienne and me from Ireland, Denis from Brazil and Sharon from Scotland were Joanna’s students for this morning. She led us through a wonderful morning of learning which stretched well into the afternoon. She had all the hallmarks of the gifted teacher – preparation so meticulous it became almost invisible, but so bespoke it had us questioning everything we saw all morning and way beyond. We walked through Mayfair, Portland Street, took the tube to Portobello; all along the way we used the pavement, the buildings, the shops, the museums, and even the underground as our classroom materials. We used our phones and our senses and our minds and each other. The connecting theme was books – hence the 10 000 mainly French books in the high end Sonia Rykiel store, the book shore of the RIBA, and the last stop, a book store-cum-restaurant in All Saint’s Street. img_20170209_165202The food, prepared in front of us, was damned delicious; the coffee was perfect; the chats there went on for quite some time while we set the world of education to rights.

This model of learning by looking around you, by interrogating your surroundings as you move through them, is one that Joanna is evolving – it would be good to see what she would imagine for students in Dublin.When ‘class’ was over, we met up with John for a leisurely stroll through Portobello market followed by street food in Covent Garden, serenaded by opera buskers. We finished our cultural day in the last minute cheap seats of the Fortune Theatre, being spooked by The Woman In Black. 

Thanks again Joanna – we’re delighted you’re coming to present at #cesicon on March 4th.

At the tail end of the BETT visit this year was a long awaited and eagerly planned “top o’ the bucket list” day trip to Bletchley Park. Even torrential rain, and a train delay at Hemel Hempstead did not dampen the excitement. The only disappointment was that we hadn’t afforded enough time to see everything, so a return visit is now on the bucket list.

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Bombe, Enigma, Lorenz, Colossus, Turing, Flowers – before this they were words and names in a story. It was a good to see and hear and feel the whole story recreated. To stand in front of a Lorenz and an Enigma, to watch and listen as the engineers ran the Bombe, and to stand in awe as Colossus clanked away, was quite the affecting experience. As with everything in Ed Tech, in the end  – rise or fall – it is all as much about the humans as it is about the tech. The Bletchley volunteers are eloquently helpful with patient explanations, and the displays are top notch curation.

Although I’d read the book Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black and Stevyn Colgan – in fact, having been an Unbound kickstarter for the book, even though unwittingly (I thought I was buying a digital download late one night, imagine my delight when a hard back copy arrives with my name in it!), I had to read it all over again when I got home.

Thanks to my CESI friends John Hearty and and Adrienne Webb for the unashamedly geeky company on this trip – hopefully you’ll be there also for the rematch (next time without the Midlands Railway delays).

TeachMeet BETT details 2017 on the UK wiki page

TeachMeet is now a fixture in the Excel Arena on the Friday night of the BETT show. This year chief curator Drew Buddie invited Nathalie Scott and Amjad Ali to compere, and once more Martin Burret was the watchful tech supervisor and saviour (think of a Michael McIntyre [a silent version] / Marcel Marceau mash up – that’s the one!). ‘Action’ Jackson, his guitar and his enthusiasm were on stage also, getting us off our butts and mixing about.
This year the applications to speak were graded in favour of rookies and those who missed out last year – fair move, Drew! Bill Lord gave us a group challenge, via google docs, to get us thinking and chatting during the break.

My top takeaway from the presentations were Rowena Beedel’s idea using a Come Dine With Me format for peer assessment in biology revision (she had me at enzymes), and Louise Stone’s school radio run by digital leaders in a school for infants. She had me at school radio run by digital leaders in a school for infants. 

[ Can I hang a thought out here – is is just me, or is there a sort of ‘Excel ennui’ developing? The past few BETTs I’ve been increasingly underwhelmed with the Excel Arena as a venue for a TeachMeet – there is large expanse of anxiety-inducing distance between the stage and the bleachers where most of the audience likes to lounge about. It is Friday night, folk are tired but happy, and straight rows of straight backed seats just don’t call out ‘sit here’ to everyone. All those empty blue chairs must look scary from the presenters’ vantage point also. I long for the round wedding tables of the Olympia venue. It might be just me, but I’d fancy a switch back, if it could be done at no cost, to a venue where we could sit at tables with each other and have the chats.]

Which is exactly what we did when we left the Arena and headed across to Tapa Tapa for the social part of the evening – props to Dawn Hallybone for organising this for us, and to Lucas Moffitt of Knewton for hosting. It was a lovely venue with great company (and top notch tapas – who’d have thought zucchini could be sliced to such translucent thinness?). The exchange between us Irish teachers who’d travelled over, and our UK counterparts, was as good as ever. (And yes, you can all build and ark, sail over and live here with us.)

Thanks to Drew, Martin, Nathalie, Amjad, ‘Action’, Bill and Dawn for your voluntary work on behalf of your fellow teachers. See you all  in 2018. 💘 TeachMeet

This year, BETT was all about the small things – simple projects that students can get stuck straight into, small bots, small enterprises. All small but lovely. The Microsoft hosted maker space was full of free-form projects like the articulated hand made from straws but coded in Arduino; Pi corner gets more inspirational every year; the BBC microbit activities; Ozobots, Chickbots, floor bots of every shape and size (and price) all caught the eye.
labtocat-be5eee0434960a8f73e54910df8e87b8a5a3b2d651c0b301670c04a9cc26a70fThe Git Hub Education stand was eye-catching and excellent, staffed with enthusiastic and helpful youngsters, who team-tagged all day presenting introductory tutorials in their tiny cool ‘schoolroom’ booth. Any teacher launching in to teaching CS next September in Ireland, get yourself and your students signed up immediately.
The Google stand was mobbed, mainly with people inquiring about Chromebooks, and with enthusiasts (mea culpa) having a go with the new $10 stylus.

The other fab section was that with the small educational software stands, many run by sole traders or tiny business. I went to find Pobble (I’d met founder Simon at Practical Pedagogies in November), and I was not disappointed – this is a super idea for getting children’s writing out to audience that will give them meaningful feedback. Primary teachers – have a look.
The other stand I could’t miss was the Entreprenaws app for teaching children about business, fronted with enthusiasm and grace by Irishman Dylan McCarthy. Although I haven’t a business oriented bone in my none, he had me making and selling smoothies to puppies within minutes – maybe I’ll be rich yet. Dylan is a truly great ambassador for Ireland in the UK education system.

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The Excel centre didn’t seem as annoyingly noisy this year; and though it wasn’t terrific, the wifi was better than last year’s debacle. As ever, the highlight of the visit to BETT is meeting friends from near and far. Where else would you see a Friday morning entrance greeting like this one from Lisa Stevens?

Thanks to the “BETT Fellowship” of CESI & ICTEDU travellers – Pamela, Adrienne, Hassan and John – for the wonderful company, at the conference, on the tube and DLR, around the city. (Remaining sterling coins already stashed for next year; first one to spot the cheap flights to the East End, shout out!).

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