On Tuesday 20th June 2017, the first National SCRATCH Conference in Ireland was held in Trim Co. Meath, Ireland (not far from Dublin).  It was part-sponsored by Meath County Council and organised by Seamus O’Neill (We and Us, Educational Design Services). Ticket sales defrayed costs not covered by sponsorship. There was a full attendance of almost 60 teachers from all over Ireland, each with their own laptop. They included, primary,  secondary, further education, adult education tutors, librarians, education centre directors, interested parents and invited guests. All had prepared by installing the offline Scratch editor in advance. Also present were children from local schools, to demonstrate workshop projects and take informal questions from the participants.

The first session began at 9:30 am and the day closed at 5:00 pm after the final session. It was arranged around two morning workshops, one after lunch and there was a closing session on School Planning followed by Q & A. Each participant was given a Training Pack which had a booklet and target sheet for each workshop (1) Move a Sprite, (2) Talking Sprites and (3) The Magic Mix. Feedback worked well, as everyone was encouraged to complete feedback after each workshop, rather than cram feedback after the last session. Publicity for weeks before the conference, made clear that the day would be an engaging, hands-on, easy-to-follow introduction to SCRATCH. It would consist of  age-appropriate workshops. Almost everyone had little or no prior experience of Scratch and the conference would be their  introduction to SCRATCH and coding.

There were three breakout rooms for workshops (for teachers of children 7 – 8 yrs, 9-12 yrs and students aged 13yrs to adult). On the day, the participants preferred to remain in the main conference hall for the workshops. There they could ask the tutor questions, they could observe and chat with the children about their individual Scratch demonstrations and they could work the assignments individually or supported by peer-learning.

Ten days before, on 10th June, the Scratch team in the MIT Media Lab, Boston added the conference organiser’s vector grids into the Scratch backdrop library to make it even better as a tool for school. Scratch was better at making Thinking Visual for Creative and Constructivist learning, especially for Maths. The Conference was the stage to launch the Ready-Steady-Code vector grids and show how they made Scratch even better for teachers. As Scratch is the most popular free coding language for kids in the world with over 25 million shared projects, it made the occasion a unique world launch and a particular highlight of a memorable event.

42 of the 60 attendees gave feedback on the conference, all of it very positive and most of feedback was signed by name. There was particular reference to the organisation of the event, to the standard of the workshops and the training pack and some gave very complimentary feedback such as:

“I was never at a conference as well organised as this. Brilliant. Really enjoyed it.”  

The 2nd National SCRATCH Conference will take place in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, Co. Meath on Tuesday 19th June 2018. You can book your place on this web site. See you there! Seamus O’Neill

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