CESI Conference 2009

On Friday and Saturday, 13th & 14th February, the Computer Education Society of Ireland (CESI) held their annual conference and this time there were some changes.  Due to the Department of Education’s crazy substitution cover ruling, CESI felt that they needed to work outside of school hours so for the first time, the event was held on a Friday night and all-day Saturday.  Friday night was restricted to 70 people and was held in a conference room in the Malron Hotel, Tallaght.
CESI-Meet, as Friday evening was known, was a fantastic and fascinating evening.  It had a great format of short presentations (between 2 and 7 minutes long), interspersed with 15 minute discussion groups, fun-activities (raffles, interactive voting).  Throughout the evening, John Heffernan from NCTE used Twitter to tell his “Followers” about the speakers and the general going-ons of the evening.
There were a couple of highlights of the presentations, both from the 2 minute “Nano” presentations – both of whom represented 2nd level.  Noel Cunningham spoke about Science and ICT and how he felt that IT is the gap between teenagers being interested in his subject.  It wasn’t so much the topic that was brilliant – it was his delivery – the whole room was engaged with his witty perspective on teenagers.  Adrienne Webb gave a two minute talk on how her classroom has evolved in the last 15 years with the advent of ICT.  Again, her delivery was brilliant and she used her prop of an 1980’s mobile phone brilliantly!
CESI Meet ended at 9pm but, as with many conferences held in hotels, the bar was the venue for more discussion.
It was a tired head that woke up on the Saturday morning to head to Coláiste De hÍde for day two the Conference.  All the usual exhibitors were there selling their wares, one of which kept me for over 30 minutes trying to convince me why his IWB was better than everybody elses.  A review will be written when (if) he sends me the specs sheet.  The format of the day was good.  There were a few keynote speakers who spoke about areas such as Apple and Learning and the EuroCreator project.  The first speaker, Laurie McDonnell spoke about Scotland’s IT infrastructure. Scotland has a similar demographic to Ireland.  It has 1 and a half  million more people than Ireland but much less schools.  They also are light years ahead of us when it comes to ICT in education.  I’m not sure if Laurie was prepped up on how bad the situation is here in Ireland but he may not have bothered coming if he had!
I gave a talk on blogging, which coincided with a talk I really wanted to go to by Dr. Daithí O’Múrchú on iLearning.  How and ever, I feel I convinced the 20 or so people in the room that Blogging is better for primary schools.  I used the new Scoilnet service (review coming in March) and it was very good.  I also chaired a questions and answers session by Scoilnet on their new blogging service, which went very well, though I inadvertantly put my foot in it at the end of the session so apologies to John.  I think between these two sessions, there will be a good number of schools blogging instead of hacking at the WebsiteX5 dinosaur.
The overall feeling of this year’s conference was that it was a success.  I felt the Friday night CESI meet was a definite plus and I hope it continues in the future.  The chair of CESI stepped aside after two years at the AGM but I had to leave halfway through so I don’t know who will be leading CESI for the coming year yet.  Congratulations to the whole CESI committee on a brilliant conference.

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