Photos from the Conference

Photographs taken at last weeks Connect Education Conference in the Dublin West Education Centre are now up on the Connect Education facebook page

Ronan Herron, Georgina Byrne, Shane Foley, Stephen Howell, Maria Donohoe, Lord David Puttnam and Noel Malone.

Have a look and let us know what you think.


Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, You're far too kind....

I'd just like to say a huge Thank You to everyone who presented at todays Connect Education Conference in the Dublin West Education Centre.

Thank You to Anne McMorrough, Shane Foley, Stephen Howell, Noel Malone, Georgina Byrne and of course Lord David Puttnam.

And to all who attended, thanks for engaging - there are no hurler-on-the-ditch when it comes to the subject of education which you are all so passionate about!

Next what we need to do is harness the massive positive energy that was so obvious today and and direct it into something practical.

I'll be in touch with all participants and attendees next week to see where we go from here.

In the meantime feel free to let us know what you thought of the Conference by leaving a comment below.

The Future's not what it used to be - ... and the only constant is change!

@rherron #ICTed

Speaker's Biographies - Noel Malone - Colaiste Chiarain.

When Noel Malone, @npmalone, started work in Coláiste Chiaráin in 1999 there were just 86 students, there are now approximately 900. Why is this? Noel recognized that something radical needed to be done to attract students to Colaiste Chiarain – part of the plan that he put in place involved the rolling out of laptops to all students, transforming the school into a cutting edge digital space, setting up a Virtual Environment using Moodle and moving storage to the cloud using Google Docs.  This year, his is the first school to roll out up to twelve new ‘Super Options’ for his new first years as part of the new Junior Cycle. Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation are hallmarks of this radical new approach. The school was featured prominently last November in a major article in the Irish Times, ‘Is this Ireland’s Best School?’ 

All of the textbooks used in Coláiste Chiaráin by first and second years are now on the students’ laptops with many opting in all the way up to and including senior cycle. It is remarkable that this has been achieved in a climate where the incumbent educational publishers have been reluctant to allow their books to be made available in digital format.
Listen to Noel tell the incredible story of Coláiste Chiaráin and learn how to replicate this success in your school.

Speakers Biographies - Shane Foley - Dunshaughlin Community College

Shane Foley is the former Deputy Principal of Adamstown Community College and as of this September the Principal of Dunshauglin Community College. In the schools where Shane has taught to date he has brought an emphasis on technology that has strongly influenced not just how teaching and learning take place but how the school is run. 

Shane would agree that teachers do their best work when they are free from many of the mundane administrative tasks that can eat into teaching time. Shane is a strong believer in the power of data to better inform pedagogical decisions within the school system. His work in Adamstown Community College has left that school in the vanguard of ICT in Education and his latest move to Dunshaughlin can only lead to great things for a school which is one of only 12 international “Microsoft Schools of the Future”

Conference Speakers - Georgina Byrne - South Dublin Libraries

Georgina Byrne, @georginabyrne is County Librarian for South Dublin Libraries – delivering contemporary library services to over 265,000 citizens across the County. South Dublin Libraries are recognized nationally for their use of technology in the delivery of services and have received national and international awards for their ebook service, library website and literacy programmes for families and young children. The County Library in Tallaght is one of the largest public libraries in the country, offering over one hundred public access computers and a rich programme of lifelong learning opportunities to local communities. 

Services provided by the library network throughout the county include over 600,000 books for loan, computer and wifi facilities, website and web-based services, reference, local studies, cultural and educational events, and children’s services. South Dublin Libraries believe strongly that to work effectively they must work as partners with local parents and educators to enhance teaching and learning outcomes for all.

Conference Speakers - Anne McMorrough - Marino Institute of Education

Anne McMorrough - @annemmcm, is a primary school teacher currently seconded to Marino Institute of Education, Dublin where she is lecturing in ICT/eLearning. In 2009,  Anne completed a Masters in Education at the School of Education, University College Dublin. The focus of her dissertation explored the creative and innovative use of digital technologies within an infant class setting, using eTwinning ( as a catalyst for collaborative learning and teaching.

As an Ambassador for eTwinning in Ireland, she has actively participated in a wide range of eTwinning projects and teacher professional workshops. She also participated in the recent Mission V Project ( aimed at enhancing children's learning through creative interaction and construction in a virtual world. She is a member of the National Executive, Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI, where she networks with teachers from around Ireland and beyond, sharing ideas and showcasing the potential of digital technologies in education today. In 2010 Anne began her doctoral studies under the supervision of Dr. Conor Galvin, PhD. at the UCD School of Education.

Conference Speakers - Stephen Howell, IT Tallaght.

Stephen Howell – Kinect2Scratch

We're really delighted to have Stephen presenting at our conference.  I've been meeting with Stephen on and off for the past 5 or 6 years through the Connect School Project and other mutual interests. One of the highlights along the way was the time when Stehen contacted me to say he had something I might be interested in - a way of controlling the Scratch sprite using the xbox kinect. What followed simply blew me away and it was also great fun! Myself and my colleague Gary Warren spent some "quality" time playing at being the missile launcher in Space Invaders! I remember Gary was particularly good at composing music by poncing about in front of the kinect controller. What particularly strikes me about Stephen is the way that he brings fun and learning together - I'm really looking forward to his presentation. Below is the official line on Stephen.

Stephen Howell, @saorog, is a Computing lecturer with the Institute of Technology Tallaght where he lectures on Interactive Media & Software Development. Prior to joining IT Tallaght, Stephen was a lecturer in Dublin City University and a software engineer at IBM Ireland. Stephen is a proponent of teaching children the 3Ds of software: Design, Develop & Debug in schools from an early age. To encourage this model, he developed free educational software (Kinect2Scratch) that allows children to program the Microsoft Kinect motion capture controller in the Scratch Language from MIT. This software is used in schools & universities internationally and has been presented at the Art & Code Conf. in Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Scratch@MIT 2012 Conference and nationally on many occasions.

Conference Speakers - Lord David Puttnam

Lord David Puttnam – Educationalist and Film-maker.

We're delighted to have Lord David Puttnam as our headline speaker at the Connect Education Conference. Here's a short biography of Lord Puttnam. This material is from wikipedia.

David Terence Puttnam, Baron Puttnam, CBE, FRSA (born 25 February 1941) is a British film producer and Educationalist. He sits on the Labour benches in the House of Lords, although he is not principally a politician. His successes as a film producer include Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express, The Duellists, Chariots of Fire (which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), Local Hero, Memphis Belle, Meeting Venus and The Killing Fields and The Mission, which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986.

He was for 10 years chairman of the National Film and Television School and taught people such as Nick Park. He founded Skillset, which trains young people to become members of the film and television industries. In 2002 he was elected UK president of Unicef. Lord Puttnam was the first chancellor of the University of Sunderland from 1997 until 13 July 2007. He was appointed an Honorary Doctor of Education during the School of Education and Lifelong Learning's Academic Awards Ceremonies in his final week as Chancellor. In 1998 he founded the National Teaching Awards and became its first chairman. 

He was the founding chairman of the General Teaching Council 2000-2002. He was appointed as chancellor of the Open University in 2006. He was also the Chairman of NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) from 1998 until 2003. He is also chairman of Futurelab at NFER, which is committed to developing creative and innovative approaches to education, teaching and learning.

Connect Education Conference 2012

Connect Education Conference 2012

The Connect Education Conference takes place on October 11th in the Dublin West Education Centre with the theme "The Future's not what it used to be".

The nature of ICT in the classroom has changes so much over the past few years that at times its difficult for teachers and school managers to know the correct direction to go in. And so while some technologies have seemed like a sure bet, invariably disruptive technologies have emerged that have challenged long-term thinking. Current disrupters would, I suppose, include the ipad and the self-publishing revolution, while netbooks and laptops would have been disrupters in the past.

So while it is true that "The futures not what it used to be" it is also true that stronger concensus is emerging on what the future of the classroom looks like. This concensus would probably adhere to the idea that:

  1. Classrooms should be internet-connected.
  2. Students should have personal learning devices.
  3. Textbooks should be on those devices and interactive.
  4. Schools should have an online aspect to their educational community, VLE's etc.

These are just some of the ideas emerging. The beauty of the emergence of ICT in Schools is not that it allows schools to do more efficiently what has always been done, it's the fact that it allows schools to do things that may not have been considered before. Things like getting our Geography students to record and upload a gps trace of their local area, or having language students brush up on their grammar using apps, or having History students work with their County Library's local history group.

Our half-day conference will look at some of these ideas and speaker, David Puttnam CBE, will have some very interesting input. In a time when the Junior Certis undergoing change is there a role for agencies like the Local Authority or the County Library to get involved in co-developing short courses for the new Junior Cert. And what about the role of Local Authorities in Education, can we learn from the British experience? There have already been successful partnerships in the delivery of new schools.

Other areas we'll be looking at include how students learn outside of formal educational settings and also how improved administrative processes can free up teachers to do what teachers do best - teaching.

We anticipate that our conference will have lots to offer to teachers, student teachers, school managers, and also to other agencies which are informally involved in education. The Conference is free but booking is essential. To book your place add your details to this booking form.

For updates please keep an eye on this blog and our facebook page over the coming weeks.

Fix Your Street dot ie.

I’ve been working on FixYourStreet since September of last year. I’m tasked with organising information events here in South Dublin County Council to support other local authorities in rolling out FixYourStreet. I’m the first point of contact for Local Authorities in rolling out FixYourStreet, the “Community Manager” if you like.

Fix Your Street (FYS) is a crowd sourced public realm fault reporting platform. What does that mean? It means that the public can use FYS to submit reports on faults like broken footpaths, overgrown trees, streetlights not working etc. And they don't need to login or set up an account.

Linus Torvalds, the lead developer of Linux, the open source operating system, famously said in relation to software development that “with enough eyes all bugs are trivial.” FixYourStreet aims to bring this same power, the power of “many eyes” to the management of the public realm.

At a time when government is leaner and we need to do more with less FYS has proven that the ideals of open source and crowd-sourcing can be applied to the public realm. The time was that a pothole, a litter problem or a broken public light necessitated a letter or phone call to the local authority to bring it to their attention. Now all the citizen need do is submit a report via the website or app (android only so far). This means that the many eyes of the citizens can have problems notified much more quickly which in turn means we can provide a better response. We can identify patterns and problem areas more quickly and can therefore better manage our resources.

So if you spot something amiss and you report it using what happens next?

First the report is moderated, it’s checked for inappropriate language or images. Then it’s published and assigned a county identifier. Local authorities who are not yet live will receive an email notifying them of the report and its details. Local Authorities who are already live with FYS will automatically get the report through their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or other application. The Local Authority with responsibility for that area has the ability to update the report with comments and to change the report status from “Open”, to “In Progress”, to “Closed with Commitment” and finally “Closed”. These are the only relevant statuses applicable to FYS.

FYS is possible because of the profusion of gps or Global Positioning Systems in devices nowadays. To submit a report it’s as easy as dropping a pin on a map for where the fault is, taking a picture of the fault, adding a note and selecting the appropriate fault category.

FYS was developed, tested and piloted by South Dublin County Council. The underlying technology is open source. The mapping platform itself is Ushahidi, an open source system developed in Africa, originally as an election monitoring tool. And the infrastructure the platform sits on is the open source stack LAMP – Linux Apache MqSql and Php.

Because South Dublin County Council is committed to using Open Source Software and to Open Data, we have developed a Public API to allow 3rd parties to integrate with the FixYourStreet dataset. This means that reports on FixYourStreet can be accessed by third parties and new reports can be generated outside of FixYourStreet and added to our database.

It is envisaged that FYS will go live throughout the entire country by the end of the year. At the moment FYS is live in the South Dublin County, Dublin City, and Galway County Council areas. A significant number of other Local Authorities are currently testing their integration with FYS.

The use of FixYourStreet by Local Authorities adds an element of crowd sourcing to the management of the public realm. The citizens’ eyes and ears on the ground become an invaluable tool in letting the Local Authority know of problems as they arise. This means that resources can be better managed by Local Authorities and patterns identified much earlier than through traditional methods. The use of FYS by the public is growing steadily and the response to date has been very positive. We find that our citizens appreciate the ability to report issues directly to their Local Authority and receive updates on those reports that are timely and meaningful.

by @rherron

NDRC's Design for Learning 2012 Competition.

I absolutely have to give this National Digital Research Centre competition a quick mention for a number of reasons:

Firstly it combines a number of my favourite things, education, innovation, invention and technology.

And secondly because I was lucky enough to be involved briefly in the NDRC's Swequity Program this summer. Unfortunately I felt couldn't continue with my involvement as I was going to be away from Dublin for much of the programme. But the swequity finals are on tomorrow and I intend being there.

I got involved with Swequity by entering a few ideas early in the summer. Although my ideas didn't make it into the 16 selected, the process was very informative. I then joined a team and the idea was that the 16 "idea owners" would present to the teams and the teams would then bid to work on the various ideas in exchange for an equity stake.

I'll certainly be hoping to enter Swequity again.

For more info see the NDRC's website -

The "equity for sweat" exchange model is a very interesting approach - could there be something here that might feed into the Design for Learning Competition itself?

I say this because I've been working with a large group of teachers within a Community of Practice for a few years now. The idea is that teachers come together and create and share digital curriculum content - so that by virtue of creating and sharing, each teacher ends up with loads of content.

This sounds simple but in practice is quite difficult to implement for many reasons. Perhaps it's time to look beyond the Creative Commons model  - to a model where content creators get a little more in return than the kudos afforded by ones colleagues' appreciation of ones work.

For more on the NDRC's Design for Learning Competition see -

John Curran - RIP
John Curran of St. Aidan’s Community School, Brookfield, Tallaght has died tragically.

John, who taught French and ICT was due to speak at our Connect Education Conference on Friday May 11th. He was a great believer in the use of ICT in Education and one of the strongest supporters of the Connect School Project.

The Conference has been postponed as a mark of respect to John, his family and the teachers and students of St Aidan's Community School.
Our thoughts are with John's family, and the students and teachers of St Aidan's Communtiy School.

Rest In Peace John.

Connect Education Conference


The Connect Education Conference has been postponed, see above article.

South Dublin County Council, the South Dublin Children's Services Committee and Connect Education present the Connect Education Conference which will take place on May 11th in the Dublin West Education Centre.
The title of the Conference is "The Future's not what it used to be". This title reflects the fast pace of change at the intersection of technology and education. This rapid change is well-evidenced by the Connect School Project in St Aidan's Community School, Brookfield, Tallaght, where 15" laptops were rolled out to students in yr 1, 2005, at a cost of 1000 euro each; to yr 5, 2010, where linux netbooks were rolled out costing less than a quarter of that price. Were it to be done now, students and teachers would most likely opt for some form of tablet, whether android or apple based.
In this context, how are schools to best plan and make use of technology in education while also future-proofing any technology strategy? Can any school afford not to prioritise the role of ICT in Education? Given the fast-changing life-experience of our students can the current system turn out twenty first century students and graduates?
These are some of the topics to be touched upon by our speakers at the Connect Education Conference on May 11th. Our guest speakers include Dr Chris Horn, founder of Iona Technologies, Graham Love of Science Foundation Ireland, Georgina Byrne, County Librarian, John Curran of St Aidan's Community School and Stephen Howell of IT Tallaght.
It has been a particular strength of the Connect School Project that education is never seen in isolation but within the wider context of community and indeed industry. Our Conference will conclude with a panel discussion discussion on the role of local authorities and other local agencies in Education.
Our speakers will present on the need for greater emphasis on STEM subjects (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics), on the place of youth mental health in any education intervention and on the wealth of teaching resources available through your local library. We will also see that some of the most interesting and compelling stories developing in the use of ICT in teaching and learning are coming from students themselves!
This year's Connect Education Conference promises to be both challenging and exciting. There will also be updates on the Connect Education Community of Practice. To book your free place at the Connect Education Confernece fill out this booking form.
While it's true that "the Future's not what it used to be.." it is also true that broad consensus is beginning to emerge on what the future of education should look like. Everyone involved in education is invited to our conference to take part in this exciting discussion about the future of Education. #FutureEd

#Edchatie Fantastic 50!

As Fred Boss, @fboss, is fond of saying - "The Education twitter chat #edchatie takes place on Monday evenings from 8.30 to 9.30 pm, did I mention it's on from 8.30 to 9.30 pm on Monday nights?"
Well the 50th #edchatie took place lastnight and although I couldn't take part because of prior commitments, I really enjoyed reading over the transcript today.

The stream was fast and furious, many reckoned it was the busiest #edchatie to date, this is most likely due to the phenomonally successful CESI Conference in Portlaoise on February 26th/27th.

I thought I'd write a quick post just to say well done to all taking part and also to throw in my two cents worh on some of the topics raised.

Well done all on the 50th #edchatie!!

Lastnights topic was suggested by @seomraranga "Technology on a Budget" and was inspired by the release last week of the Raspberry Pi, which is an arm-based computer on sale for £25. It's the size of a credit card, peripherals are added through usb and it looks like this:

For more info go to

The Arduino was also mentioned lastnight - and it's the arduino that I've been playing with recently. So far I've worked my way through most of this book from O Reilly

It's easy to follow and I'd say ideal as a guide for teachers intending teaching programming and or electronics. I should mention that I'm neither a programmer nor have I any electronics experience - but I found with a little perseverance I could follow the various projects. You hook up the Arduino board to your computer via usb, download and install the developer environment and then upload and execute little programmes or "sketches" on the arduino causing the led to blink or whatever. It looks like this -

So although you begin with the very basics, making an led blink, the open nature of this hardware/software combination means there's very little limiting the imagination and in no time your students may come up with something like this -

But I'm getting ahead of myself and am in danger of misrepresenting #edchatie! The Monday evening chats are about teaching and learning. Often technologies that can enhance education are discussed. The focus lastnight was on technology on a budget which is why the above examples arose. The cost of providing a consistent IT hardware environment for schools is prohibitive and in this context the idea of #byod - Bring Your Own Device was mentioned on a number of occasions. Perhaps if schools can provide a consistent online environment, ie Moodle + Google Apps, then we should just allow students to bring whatever devices to connect? @cullej29 wondered whether schools gave out the ssid password for their wifi networks to students using their own devices, and certainly care needs to be taken in this area. In St Aidan's CS Brookfield Tallaght, the school I was involved with over the past 5 years, we had always used an open wifi network until last year. Since the schools wired network was visible from the open wireless network and protection afforded by pasword protected shares only, we decided to separate the networks. So a separate VPN - virtual private network - was set up and protected with an encrypted password that only teachers have access to.

Another excellent idea mentioned lastnight was the DISC or Drop in Support Centre. This would allow students to share their expertise with each other and with staff. Many teachers mentioned the TCO - Total Cost of Ownership of computers in schools as not neccessarily being about the cost of the hardware but more about the ongoing cost of keeping that hardware up and running, by implementing a DISC the need for outside support should fall and the amount of in-house expertise should rise. In St Aidan's we looked after computer maintenance by cloning. Essentially, once a laptop needed repair we simply cloned it from a previously stored image. For this we used Clonezilla, an open source solution that any teacher could be trainind to use in less than an hour. Rebuilds take 10 - 15 minutes depending on hard disk size.

I see that my own name was taken in vain lastnight too - this from Stephen Howell, @saorog "@donenda #edchatie just say Linux 3 times and @rherron will appear" Hands up, I am absolutely a believer in using open technologies in Education and elsewhere, but I am inclined to agree with @doneda and @simonlewis - you will meet much resistance from teaching staff already proficient in using MS Office, and although Libre Office has come on in leaps and bounds over the past 18 months it still has some ground to make up.

But away from the techie end of things, what came through for me reading over the transcript today is the amount of great tools which can be incorporated into teaching and learning by any teacher. Tools like edmodo, twitter, audacity, scratch, moodle, sketchup .... the list goes on.

My own personal favourite at the moment is Modkit. As I said earlier I've been messing with the Arduino and am eagerly awaiting delivery of the Raspberry Pi. I'm tinkering out of a desire to learn programming and to see if I could get to a level where I could teach others how to do this. I know that Scratch has had great traction among teachers which is fantastic, but how about this respin of Scratch for the Arduino platform -

I'll finish with David Putnam's talk in the Science Gallery last week -
It was great to see so many familiar faces at this event including @simonlewis, @camaraireland and @humphreyjones! But I'll finish with this thought, towards the end of the discussion after his presentation David Putnam was asked what single quick change could have an immediate impact on the role of technology in teaching and learning. Putnam immediately cited the example of a classroom he recently visited where student were learning WWII History through various media including film and poetry. He was greatly impressed and suggested to the teacher that she perhaps strip out the film's audio and relplace it with her students reciting war poetry over the footage. The teachers response was that that would be illegal since remixing copyright content is now allowed. David Putnam's suggestion - to change copyright law to allow student to do at school what they're already doing at home, remixing and repurposing content as an ongoing form of digital expression.

Oh, and by the way - "The irish education twitter chat, #edchatie takes place on Monday evenings from 8.30 to 9.30 pm,.... did I mention it's on from 8.30 to 9.30 pm on Monday nights?"