mathmeetie-logoThe idea of a TeachMeet*/MakerMeet just for Maths teachers was a hot topic of conversation at last April in Thurles – there was so much fun had trying out the Fold and Cut Theorem (inspired by the Katie Steckles YouTube version) at the #ictedu Maker Meet that it was bound to happen.

And so now, thanks to the generous support of the authorities in LIT, Pam O’Brien is adding to her already busy ‘meet’ portfolio by hosting #MathMeetIE, along with Neil Butler agus mise.

MathsMeetIE open to all educators who have maths as a topic or an interest – either come along and get some ideas, or better again, share some of your own! The MathsMeetIE Eventbrite page is where to sign up – entry is free but you need to be registered. And it is an timely way to get kick started into a week beginning with Megadojo in Limerick on Oct 15, Maths Week and CodeWeekEU nationwide from Oct 15-23rd, and ending with Dojocon 2016 in Dun Laoghaire the weekend of Oct 22-24

The program builds as people sign up to present, but we can release one nugget – there will DEFINITELY be a session of BreakoutEDU, in which attendees can take a team code breaking challenge, unlocking some pretty engaging ideas for their classroom in the process. (There are some more details on BreakoutEDU in the previous post). Watch the #MathsMeetIE twitter timeline for updates.

Please pass this message to all your Maths friends, be they reluctant or unashamed nerds – all are welcome!

mathmeetie-flyerHere’s a mini MathsMeetIE-flyer to print and display on a noticeboard near you!

*according to the data at the Irish TeachMeets wiki, this will be the 70th Teachmeet in Ireland since it was introduced in Feb 2009!



A chance tweet from Joe Dale in the UK (thanks Joe!) alerted us to the fact that Nebraska teacher, Dr Lynne Herr, proponent of the increasingly popular BreakoutEDU activity, was visiting Ireland at the end of the summer. Lynne  was offering to give up a day of her vacation along our Wild Atlantic Way to introduce Irish educators to the “something different” that is BreakoutEDU. And so a flurry of emails ensued between Lynne, CESI, and champion supporter Avril Ronan of Trend Micro in Cork. And there we ended up on September 3rd – in a spacious room in the River Lee Hotel in Cork, with coffee and food on tap, for our day of immersive learning with Lynne, of fun and teamwork, of time flying while we solved the clues and literally ‘unlocked our learning”. As ever with events in the CESI tribe, we had the enriching mix  of educators from Primary, Secondary, Third Level, voluntary, non-profit and ed-tech support worlds.

Lynn is a gifted teacher – the perfect mix of deep empathy and a light touch – and we were thrilled to have had a day with her in Ireland – lets hope she will return! BreakoutEDU is definitely a very clever and engaging methodology, based on a very simple idea – the answer is locked in a box, if you want to open it you have to learn your way to solving the code that opens the lock. This has huge potential as a straight content-teaching tool, and could be a very powerful cooperative learning method. The simplicity of the idea lends it extreme flexibility and has potential to be used in all levels and sectors of education.

Those curious for more details – or to see the huge bank of resources and ideas already developed and  shared by BreakoutEDU community – can check out the BreakoutEDU website, BreakoutEDU Facebook page, the Twitter timelines @BreakoutEDU, #BreakoutEDU, and @lherr

(Those who are curious to experience a BreakoutEDU should get themselves along to MathsMeetIE in LIT, Moylish, Limerick on Friday October 15th – more details in next post!)






Team taking a well deserved valedictory bow – Amanda, Corinne, Bev, Barry, Tim and Daithí. Check out that super shiny floor – yacht varnish, no less!

Well done and thanks to the TeachMeet NI team for organising a cracking #EduFestNI day in Cullybacky College, Ballymena (and oh what a lovely school – never have I seen shinier floors) on August 17th . Highlight of the day for me was having a surprise catch up with Susan McCarthy from #tmDonegal, and having the chats with the amazingly inclusive and inspiring Jacinta Diamond. And oh yes, the Ice Cream van that turned up at lunchtime to match the blazing sunshine. The morning was workshops and the afternoon was TeachMeet  – a great combination for a CPD day. And I learned a new term – Toast & Technology. Great ideas going on up there in Norn Iorn!




…notes literally scratched on-the-run during the 2016 conference in MIT, Boston early in August…the Twitter #ScratchMIT2016 timeline is worth a look for a detailed, if backward, summary of the 3 day event. The programme schedule is here.


you know you’ve arrived when you’re on the welcome wall at MIT Media Lab

The welcoming event – a first look inside the stone and glass MIT Media Lab. Surprisingly sterile in atmosphere, apart from the giant riotous triptych of Marvin Minsky’s living room that hangs in the atrium. The “add yourself to the Scratch world map” was a fun way to start a conference. The everlasting finger food was oooh-la-la, as was meeting up with Scratchers from all over, and reuniting with those we’d got to know at previous gatherings. It was great to see others representing Ireland – presenters Stephen Howell, Mary Brown, Giustina Mizzoni.


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OPENING KEYNOTE – quite emotional – Mitch Resnick celebrating Seymour Papert RIP, godfather to the community. Mitch also introduced us to a pretty amazing teenager from South Africa called Taryn, a self-confessed ‘shy extrovert’ – better known as Bubble103 on Scratch – anyone educating for equality, inclusion, as well as some really clear coding lessons, should check out Taryn’s work here.


WORKSHOPS – I was really looking forward to attending Josh Burker workshop, and it did not disappoint. I had to attempt some with bilocation at both it and the beautiful Beetleblocks expo, as both were on at the same time. Josh is the perfect teacher – minimum fuss explanation of the task in hand, and maximum freedom to us, his ‘students’, to get to grips with building a marble machine. (This involved writing the only 6 lines of Scratch code I met over the three days. Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Scratch conference is really about almost everything else). This session was fun fun fun and the time just went too fast. And here we are with the finished-just-as-the-bell-went (phew!) marvellous contraption.


POSTERS –  in the late afternoon each day had some pretty high stuff on show – among my favourites were Brian Harvey’s Leap Motion ‘dragon’ and Dan Garcia’s mini Turing machine. I’d have loved if either or both of these had been a workshop so we could have explored and learned more. To be continued, hopefully…

PANELS – I was delighted to partake in Derek Breen ‘tower of Babel’ panel, which gave rise to the most fabulous conversations – I think we had 14 countries in the room sharing ideas. Best of all was meeting the inspiring Educreativos from Mexico – coding grandmas united!

IGNITE – These were, as with the last two Scratch conferences I’ve been to, a central highlight of the conference. Fast and furious stories from passionate educators, like a TeachMeet on speed. Genevieve Smith-Nunes from Ready Salted Code in Brighton UK, Clause Terosier from Magicmakers in Paris, Linda Lerardi from Coderdojo Bologna, Aaron Morris from PBS Kids USA, and (thanks to his sponsor Auntie Teresa!) Frank Sabaté from Barcelona all shone for me.


FINAL KEYNOTE – kudos to Karen Brennan for curating and chairing a riveting final conversation, centred on inclusion. This was way way bigger than just Scratch – it was relevant to every education scenario. Inclusion, inclusion, inclusion. Watch it online here.

Each of the panellists gave us a single central piece of advice to take away…

Many thanks to all the lovely folk of the Scratch Fellowship ( from Ireland, Italy, Spain, UK, Austria, Russia, France and The Netherlands) for your company at the conference, staying at the Hostel in Chinatown, riding the T around Boston, and having fun.


Last five standing after conference: mise with Stephen Howell, Andy Bruce, Derek Breen and Joek Van Montfort. 

Post conference resolution – check out Turtlestich ideas from Andrea Maier, then try mashing up with Beetleblocks a la Laurel Pollard:


Can’t wait to hear where Scratch 2017 will be. Until then, I’ll leave you with  the legend that is Cynthia Solomon, calmly watching over events from the MIT balcony…





#borderbites is a hashtag inhabited by group of friends. The ‘bites’ bit refers to the fact we love to eat together, and share experiences of good food. The ‘border’ bit is a loose geographic reference – Cavan-Monaghan, Cavan-Meath, Cavan-Leitrim. We are (usually) @magsamond, @caramcdermott, @cfoxcavan, @maudmonaghan, @doogarry and @foodborn, joined whenever possible by @tierneymajella and @jmlhayes. As the group more or less evolved via Twitter, we were happy to help out with social media coverage at this year’s Taste Of Cavan two day festival. Have a look at the resulting contributions to the original TOC accounts on Twitter and Facebook,  with new uploads to Instagram, Vine, and most fun of all, live updates with Cara on Snapchat.

IMHO, the Taste of Cavan is getting better every year, and truly is a credit to Cavan County.
Council officer Majella Tierney coordinates a team that seems to involve everyone from the CEO right through the entire County Council staff and beyond to a team of willing volunteers. Looking around over the two days of the event, I spotted a librarian directing traffic, a draughtsman sorting trash bins, a Director of Services on roadie duty helping stall holders getting set up, a road engineer fielding phone inquires…it was visibly and literally ‘all hands on deck’, and all done with a smile.

#TasteOfCavan has become a ‘don’t miss it’ local annual event. It is a great value family day out, with something for everyone – foods and drinks to taste, demos to watch, hands-on workshops, paint for faces (great fun with patient Ulster Bank staff making small folk very happy), experiments to try, farm animals to visit – name it and ToC has got it.


It is really tough to choose favourites, but here’s a baker’s dozen of my own highlights:

  1. Best family fun – the County Cavan Museum space – especially the spinning wheel, butter churning, and pride of place went to the 1916 photo booth (which was very popular with all who dressed up and came away with a period family picture for the mantlepiece. See below.) It has to be said – our museum curator Savina Donohoe is a National Treasure!
  2. Best food stand – Ciste Milis. Don’t just take my word for it – this won the Overall Award of ToC as well as the Best in Bakery award. It won on every level for me – proprietor Alan, aided by youngsters Oisin (11) and Liam (9) were amazing vendors, and their product, a selection of hand pressed shallow tarts, is top notch. Watch out for them.
  3. Best taste of any food product – the BlackBerry & Fig Balsamic Wild Wood vinegar by Fiontáin in Mayo. WOW!
  4. Best coffee – the late evening espresso from J&B Hope. Lifesaver.
  5. Best Chef demo – this was a tough category – but my top spot was chef Eddie Atwell preparing lunch without a stove – an eel from Lough Neagh cooked with a blowtorch, salad foraged from around his kitchen at St Kyran’s in Virginia, and dessert which included fudge made from…pineappleweed.
  6. Best suspense & fun – the inaugural Home Chef competition that was woven through the day. Six women and two men, all amateurs, brave enough to cook in front of an audience. A great idea by Neven Maguire. Well done to both winner Megan (salmon / cous cous / pesto) and runner-up Margaret (Corleggy goat cheese / zucchini frittata / spuds roast in home reared & rendered pig fat).
  7. Best Art / Craft – Jackie O’Neill’s embroidery-hooped mixed media canvasses, especially the Japanese collection.
  8. Best Inspiration – the Cavan County Council Pallet Garden area, which was beautifully presented. [It would have been even better if someone had been there all the time to give advice and explain how it was developed – let’s have that next year, please!]
  9. Best Groove – the event was enlivened every time the Cavan Big Band members took to the stand in the Ulster Bank Chill Zone.
  10. Best Transport – the “train” taking people in and out of town all day. Ding Ding.
  11. Best Science – Stem Aware investgative activities at the Cavan-Monaghan Science Week stand.
  12. Best Voluntarism – Cavan Cuan group, friends of Irish Cancer Society  – well done to Martina Lee Boyle and Co.
  13. Best Unexpected Beauty Advice – to keep skin smooth, use a mixture of natural yogurt and turmeric! Thanks for this goes to visiting inspirational guru of spices, Anjula Devi, who not only talks the talk but walks the walk. And who has now shared the secret of her eternal youth.

See you at #TasteOfCavan 2017.

PS – There was even time to indulge in a little historical cosplay – here we have some of the #borderbites brigade ‘on duty’ at the ‘GPO’ at the County Museum stand.


Front row L to R: Cmdt. Cara ‘Curly’ McDermott, Sgt. Joanne ‘Jolly’ Hayes, Capt. Margaret ‘Honky’ Griffin.
Back row L to R: Maj. Mags ‘Markievicz’ Amond, Gen. Marie ‘Smiley’ McKenna, Brig. Catherine ‘Fixit’ Fox.
(Missing In Action – Gen. Majella ‘Superwoman’ Tierney and Col. Mairéad ‘Potter’ Quinn.)




Reflection on our group’s work from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday midday >>>

Adam, Derrick, Gabe, Gabrielle, Joaquin, Lesley, Mags, ans Simona – USA, Italy, Ireland and Mexico. We’ve been looking at tech tools for teaching, learning and assessment, and discussing the possibilities of integration them in the cooperative learning class environment. Emphasis on the relationships stuff to trump the tech stuff at all times.

We checked to see if the tech can run alongside the protocols of cooperative group. Are they incompatible as chalk and cheese, or made for each other like cheese and crackers?

Some of the tech tools seem to designed and built more for competition than for collaborative work; some are more suitable for individual use than for paired or group work; and on and on… and so we need to decide how to share ideas on this. To be continued. Online.

Tools examined so far have included lots of Google apps, PearDeck, GoFormative, Prezi, EdPuzzle, Quizlet, Screencastify, GifCam,, Explain Everything, Screencastify, Quizziz, Triventi, Newsela, Birdbrain Science – there were more, but my brain imploded! 

We also discussed the fact that in most schools in the USA, broadband / wifi flows like electricity and air, so they can depend on a chose tech pathway through today’s lesson will not be interrupted. <<<<<Makes me wonder when we in the Olde Worlde will catch up in this regard – better keep our pencils sharpened in the meantime.>>>>>

Cooperative Learning principles – using tech – can both happen together?

(Disclaimer of protest – this is an assignment set by evil teachers Adam and Derrick! In my world its almost bedtime. the other posts will be at )

We had a morning of trial and error trying out various apps – inc. Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Prezi and Peardeck. Each member of the group tried something from their curriculum. I chose Peardeck because I’d never heard of it. Basically, teacher builds a lesson with pre-formed stops for student interaction. The same prepared set looks different on teachers and student screens. (free and premium versions – free is fine).

Liked a lot – Students answers can be viewed, changed and saved. Student log on is very easy (but must be thru a Gmail account). A lot of group interaction can by built in. Liked less – not as intuitive to use as other new apps I’ve met recently; however, the positive affordances I’ve seen so far make me want to do some more with this. I was able to drop a prepared set of slides into it and make them into a far more dynamic resource. Gabrielle use it to gather reactions to a short movie clip.

I loved Joaq’s use of Quizlet, in a class for EFL, to get students constructing their sentences properly. Quizlet randomy sorted us into teams – loved that. I found I new very little about Superhero actors at the start, but much more at the end. This has terrific potential for embedding positive interdependence and social skills.


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