Friday, February 24, 2012

CESI Meet 2012: An 'Education Hack Day' for Ireland?

If you're visiting the blog while attending CESI Meet in Portlaoise this evening then you're very welcome. If you're not, please join the discussion anyway!

This evening in Portlaoise I am giving a mini  presentation (7 minutes) to a group of similarly minded technophile teachers at CESI Meet 2012, a Teach Meet style "anti-conference" which will formally kick off the CESI (Computers in Education Society of Ireland) Annual Conference. I am really looking forward to the event as this is my first CESI Meet and, by all accounts, they are incredibly enjoyable evenings that inspire, educate and motivate. I'm looking forward to hearing new ideas for incorporating technology in to my classroom / teaching and on how to get more from the technology I already use. 

My own short talk is about plugging an idea - a first 'Education Hack Day' for Ireland. Let me explain. 

What's a Hack? 
A hack is a solution to a problem, not always the most eloquent solution but, more often than not, the cleverest. Think of a problem (let's say poor attendance) - now think of a solution (maybe a simple app which texts parents instantly when a student is marked absent).

What's a Hack Day? 
A Hack Day is a meeting of minds - people with ideas and people with know how. It's about sharing information with other experts in order to make cool and most importantly useful things!! They are generally free to attend (people don't get paid to attend either) and typically last between 24 and 48 hours. Hack Days bring together individuals from a range of fields - scientists, politicians, educators, engineers, programmers, designers, web developers, people with ideas and "makers" etc. and usually have a central theme (There have been "Government Hack Days", "Science Hack Days" (the Irish Robotics Club have organised Science Hack Day Dublin this March) and "Music Hack Days"). The purpose of the events are to think of real life issues related to the theme and develop effective solutions during an intense 24 / 48 hour period. There are normally prizes at the end of the event for the teams that come up with the best solutions to their problem. Everything happens at the event - idea, design, production even things like marketing and funding are discussed. There are usually a number of speakers and workshops organised to kick start the event.

An Education Hack Day?
Why not? We all have ideas for making our jobs easier - both in terms of teaching and administration. We can all identify problems with the tools we currently use but may not have the technological ability to find the solution ourselves. At the moment many educational tools / software are being developed without sufficient input from the people who will ultimately use them. 

As far as I am aware, the one and only Education Hack Day took place last November in Baltimore (the US not West Cork). There is another planned for New York but no date has been set. Some of the ideas that became reality that day include an iPad app that allowed students in the class to browse specific websites relevant to the lesson but no others, a browser extension which allowed a teacher highlight a specific section of a website while making the rest invisible, a tool to help make parent / teacher meetings easier to schedule, an image-to-speech application for autistic pupils, a checklist tool for students and a homework tracker for teachers. Individual teachers are being asked to submit their own ideas too - here's a list of what's come in so far.

The possibilities are endless - think of the ideas YOU have for web apps, mobile apps, widgets, online games, websites, IWB tools, software, hardware, social networking tools for teachers / students or assessment for learning tools? Now think of being able to put those to software developers and designers and seeing them turned in to reality in a day!

What's next?
I want a number of things to emerge from my presentation / post this evening. Firstly, I would like this post (or the Twitter Hashtag #EDHACKIRL) to act as a discussion forum to hear what other teachers think of the idea. Secondly, I would like it to serve as a platform for discussion on what "hacks" you would like for problems you currently have. What ideas would you like turned in to reality? Thirdly, if you are a designer, software developer, maker, doer, programmer etc and you would like to get involved - leave your name below! Finally, if there is an agreement that an Education Hack Day would be worthwhile attempting, I want someone to make the idea a reality. I don't personally believe I have the skills, contacts or time to put such an event together but I know there is someone out there who could. Maybe CESI might want to bring the concept to fruition? Maybe another organisation? Of course I would love to help and will be the first person to sign up - guaranteed!

That's my lot - let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CESI Conference 2012

There is just about enough time to register for this year's Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI) Annual Conference this Saturday in Portloaise - a brilliant event which brings together the leaders in educational technology in Ireland. The event takes place in Portlaoise College and promises a wide range of workshops, talks and presentations for anyone interested in using technology to improve teaching and learning in their classrooms. Some of the possible highlights include Fred Boss on the hugely successful #edchatIE twitter hashtag, Caroline Carswell and Miriam Walsh on Captioning Videos for School Use, John Heffernan on A Brief History of the Near Future, Simon Lewis on Creating a Mobile App for your School, and Mags Amond on Edmodo in the Classroom. However, the programme is jam packed with workshops and presentation to meet everyone's needs and tastes - check it out.

I am particularly excited to be attending Friday night's 'CESI Meet' (my first one!) - an "anti-conference" where the talks are short and snappy (15minutes, 7 minutes or 2 minutes) and the atmosphere more relaxed. Look out for my CESI Meet post on Friday night - hopefully you might find it interesting?

David Puttnam on 'Technology, Education and Ireland'

The 'Open Minds Series' returns next Monday (February 27th) with the brilliant David Puttnam speaking on "Technology, education and Ireland: How new ways of learning can assist economic recovery". The 'Open Mind Series' is a collaborative effort from McCann FitzGerald and TCD's Science Gallery, which will see some of the world’s leading thinkers coming together to support the development of Ireland as a global centre for science, technology and innovation. The event kicks off at 6:30pm sharp and pre-booking is essential. Tickets cost €10 or €6 if you are a student. Further information can be access from the Science Gallery website here.

David Puttnam - A Short Biography.

As well as producing award winning films like The Mission, The Killing Fields, Local Hero, Chariots of Fire, Midnight Express, Bugsy Malone and Memphis Belle, David Puttnam has been working in the areas of education, the environment, and the 'creative and communications' for nearly 15 years. He founded the National Teaching Awards, was the founding Chair of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and spent 10 years as the Chancellor of The University of Sunderland. He is President of the Film Distributors’ Association, Chairman of The Sage Gateshead, Deputy Chairman of Channel Four, Deputy Chairman of Profero and a trustee of the Eden Project. He is also the present Chancellor of the Open University,

The talk is sure to inspire and engage, and might prove a nice way to top off what is sure to be a cracking weekend at the CESI Conference in Portlaoise?

Monday, February 6, 2012

DES to Roll Out 100Mb Broadband to All Schools by 2014

The Minister for Education & Skills, RuairĂ­ Quinn, along with Pat Rabbitte, the Minister for Communications, Energy & Natural Resources, have announced that super-fast 100Mb broadband will be rolled out to every second level school in the country by 2014.

Originally launched by in 2009, the 100Mb Schools Programme was originally piloted in 78 schools across the country - initially rolled out from May 2010. The pilot project, as expected, was extremely successful with these schools utilising the super fast internet connection to further incorporate the use of ICT in to teaching and learning in the school.

The national roll-out will be completed over three stages with 200 schools being connected by September 2012, a further 200 being connected next year and the remaining 250 schools being connected in 2014. Commenting on the launch, Minister Quinn said:
“We need to ensure that appropriate digital technology and high-speed internet are in place in our schools as a basic building block to deliver a 21st Century learning experience to all learners. This major ICT investment in our education system follows on from the commitment in the Programme for Government to incorporate the integration of ICT in teaching and learning across the curriculum and investing in broadband development to ensure schools have access to modern high-speed networks”
Minister Rabbitte added: 
“Our second-level schools need industrial strength broadband. Students’ experience of using technology in their everyday lives must be reflected in their learning experiences in schools. We must encourage students and teachers to integrate the possibilities presented by ICT with the traditional teaching methods".
The Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources is funding all of the capital costs of this project, estimated to be approximately €11m as well as contributing some €10m in current costs for the years 2013 to 2015. The Department of Education & Skills (DES) will fund the remaining current costs (estimated to be some €20m up to 2015). DES will also fund the on-going costs on an annual basis into the future.

Obviously this is fantastic news, but why will it take over 5 years from the initial annoucement. If the DES are serious about integrating ICT in to teaching and learning, the roll out should be prioritised and accelerated. For the meantime, schools in the following lucky counties can look forward to increased speeds in the coming months: 
  • Cavan
  • Louth 
  • Clare 
  • Mayo
  • Donegal 
  • Monaghan
  • Galway 
  • Offaly
  • Laois 
  • Roscommon
  • Leitrim 
  • Sligo 
  • Longford 
  • Westmeath