Five Stars for the ISTA Conference!

It's taken me a while to get around to this - sorry! The 50th annual Irish Science Teachers Association conference took place in Trinity College Dublin at the weekend and was universally accepted as a triumphant success. The quality of the lectures / speakers that I attended was exceptional, with others also returned nothing but good reports from those that I sadly missed. The event opened on Friday evening in the Science Gallery (getting a sneak peak of some of the HAPPY exhibits), where some of the biggest names in Irish science assembled. As well as the formal opening to the event we were treated to a stimulating introduction to nanotechnology by the head of CRANN, Prof. John Boland. Afterwards, casual drinks and nibbles were shared amongst the one hundred or so guests. I did have time to squeeze in a quick chat with Sylvia Leatham from the Scibernia crew so look out for that shortly!

Saturday was jam packed full of excellent lectures, practical courses (including one on DNA profiling which I sadly missed - D'Oh) and exhibition stands. I attended five excellent talks that day - Luke O'Neill spoke excellently on why we do science, the excellent Paul McCrory inspired me to bring more personality in to my lessons (and fed me marshmallows), the personable and talented Alom Shaha gave a rousing talk on the meaning of science and science education and everyone was enthralled by Aoife McLysaght's wonderful presentation on the last fifty years of genetic research. The plenary lecture was from BBC's Dr. Michael Mosley, a talented, genuine and unassuming character. He spoke about his journey in the BBC and on how he feels science programming needs to be delivered (It was such a pity no one from RTÉ was there - they would have learnt a lot!). His talk shared many themes with that of Paul McCrory's earlier - particular on the need to create an emotional response in your audience (be that 10 million BBC viewers or 24 students in a classroom). We can learn a lot from how Michael and his BBC colleagues communicate science - taking a topic, telling a story around the topic and gently inserting the science in to the story. That evening we all enjoyed a lovely meal at the conference dinner in the Alexander Hotel before Crana College were annouced as the winners of the ISTA Pharmachemical Ireland Teacher Awards 2012 (St. Columba's named as runners up).

On Sunday morning, 15 brave souls took part in Mary Mulvihill's Ingenious Ireland science tour of Dublin, while other arrived at the Old Chemistry Building for the final two lectures of the conference. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to close the conference and was equally delighted with the very high turn-out for my presentation on iPad Apps in the Science Classroom. If you missed it - no worries - here are the 20 apps I featured in the talk.

Finally I would like to thank Mary Mullaghy and her team from the Dublin Branch of the ISTA. They planned an ambitious event to mark the organisation's 50th anniversary and their hard work was rewarded no end. I'm looking forward to next year's conference in Wexford already!

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