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!).

I really enjoyed a chinwag with Ian Stuart and Ewan McIntosh of Notosh last weekend at BETT. They reported that the book to celebrate ten years of TeachMeet approaching final stages of editing and sorting. The guillotine for submissions from the TeachMeet community is set to fall on February 14.
So if you love TeachMeet, have a story to tell, or simply want to support a special children’s education charity, get thee to the link at bitly.com/teachmeet10 and this is what you meet:

“How has TeachMeet changed your teaching or learning? What is the one memorable talk or conversation you had? What is the most profound change you’ve seen in your classroom? Tell us here, and be part of the TeachMeet 10th Birthday book! The book will be given away on a Creative Commons licence, with donations to a children’s charity encouraged. We want to help more teachers than ever benefit from the TeachMeet community.”

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The form doesn’t take long to complete. The by-line  on the TeachMeet wiki is teachers sharing ideas with teachers, so don’t miss your chance to join teachers sharing TeachMeet with teachers.

G’wan, g’wan, g’wan!

 

happy-5th-birthday-code-week-euDetails of Code Week 2017 have just been released. Here’s the ‘headline’ version:

EU Code Week celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2017. To make it easier for schools to participate despite differences in holiday periods in Europe, EU Code Week will take place during two weeks 7-22 October 2017. It is already time to start planning your coding event. Get in touch with partners, book rooms, find coaches… Participants of all ages will flock to all Code Week events. There are toolkits, lesson plans and guides available on the EU Code Week website, to make the organisation of events easier.

The full press release is here: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/million-coded-in-record-2016-EU-code-week

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Congregation website with all details – http://congregation.ie/, including my ‘entry ticket’ blog post http://congregation.ie/blog-papers/if-teachmeet-is-the-answer.html

The first thing to say about CONGregation 2016 is that the date for CONGregation 2017 is November 24-26. That is how good it was. The second thing is that if Cong is this lovely a village to visit on a wet November day, it is high time to pencil in a visit in the summer.

Thanks to Eoin Kennedy for developing an unconference event that allows each attendee to present their case (this year on the theme of FUTURE), listen to that of others, and have questions posed and answered by others, in a series of small groups called huddles.

cong16-cardI don’t remember any other event I’ve attended where I was assigned to the sessions for the day – on registration one was given a ‘dance card’ already filled, so to speak! At each session one would join a huddle of 8 to ten people for an hour, during which the chair would invite three presenters to state their case, and prompt discussion among the group. Then we’d say thanks and leg it up or down the town to find our next huddle. One might be nervous at this lack of personal choice for a whole day, but from the first session to the fourth, and right thru lunch, it worked. The variety and quality of the interactions was wide and deep. The passion and empathy of the attendees was affecting. At the day’s final huddle, our group discovered that we’d each ‘presented’ already, so the chair allowed us a free range discussion about how we saw the future. All I can say is I’m still thinking about the people I met and the things we discussed – all that was good about Ireland was there. I have marked my calendar for next year – and this time I’ll be sure to be there for the entire weekend.

Thanks to my friend Margaret Griffin, @foodborn, for the company on the journey (once we got there, we never saw each other all day – but I did hear rumours that she enjoyed some terrific discussion on ethical food production, more about which next year I hope).

PS – one of my own takeaways was a realisation that the word Teachmeet isn’t yet in the dictionary. My blog post / presentation concerned the past and various possible futures of TeachMeet; the chats with folk from outside education made me decide that to discuss a topic it is easier to start with its definition! So watch this space…

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(TeachMeet discussion sketchnote by Gar McCroiste @mindrising)

PPS – took the first step…

 

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