marloft's blog

Thank you, Seamus Heaney


'Seamus made friends with the person you wanted to be' - Gerry Hanberry

Last Wednesday, NUI Galway hosted a celebration of the life and work of Seamus Heaney and thanks to my dear friend, Catherine Cronin, I was lucky enough to be there. Poetry seems to have the most power when it is shared between friends and when it intersects with our lives in unexpected ways.   

Back in July 2012, when we saw Mary Robinson in Galway, she offered her friend, Seamus Heaney's words in answer to Catherine's question: 'what should we tell our children' to connect them to her work for social justice.  A few weeks before, I had tweeted a picture of some Heaney first editions from Kenny's bookshop in Galway.  This was picked up by Pam Moran who thought it would be lovely to be able to give a signed Heaney book to her friend, and mine, Ira Socol.  Ira in turn had drawn great inspiration from Heaney in his own journey as an author.  So, we hatched a plan to try and get a book signed at Heaney's reading in Sligo in August 2012.

Circle of B


A virtual circle of women learning

To connect across a digital ocean

Making each other in word gifts

Each a node across the decades:


Being Possibility

Love Commitment Work

Unexpected Adolescence Of Midlife 

Wisdom Ripening But Questioning Still


As each of us stands in our age

Together we pool our power

And buoy up our weaknesses

Tapping unreachable potential


This spiral connects us to ourselves

To the teachers who shaped us

And in turn to our curious students

On a journey of loving the questions


Seamus Heaney RIP

Images from my Flickr & Instagram streams over the past year and a half


Today we lost a national hero - Seamus Heaney left us much too soon and much too suddenly. My good friend and mentor, Catherine Cronin announced the news with a heavy-hearted tweet and within minutes, our circle of fellow Heaney-admirer, educator friends checked in to share their grief and shock - starting with Pam Moran, Leigh Graves-Wolf, Ira Socol, Hellie Bullock, Mary Ann Reilly, Pam O'Brien, Evelyn O'Connor - and more.

Over the past year and a half, we have shared many wonderful Heaney moments featuring favourite verses, videos, books, readings, book signing adventures and confluences of events, worlds and truths. We have lifted each other's spirits, offered comfort and shared inspiration by sharing his words. Small seedlings of online interaction blossomed into beautiful moments of friendship and understanding across oceans and networks - across space and time.

Thank you, Seamus for all you have given to us and all you have left behind for us still to discover and share. And thank you dear friends x

Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann.


It was somewhere over the northeastern coast of Brazil,
over Fortaleza, a city of which I knew nothing,
except that it is full of people—
the life of each one a mystery
greater than the Amazon River—
it was there, as the toy plane on the flight monistor
nudged over the equator
and veered east towards Marrakech,
that I started to think again of hands,
of how strange it is that our lives—
the life of the red-haired French girl to my left,
the life of the Argentinean boy to my right,
my life, and the lives of all the dozing passengers,
who are being carried fast in the dark
over the darkened Amazon—
all of these lives are now being held
in the hands of a pilot,
in the consciousness of the pilot,
and I think of other hands which can hold our lives,
the hands of the surgeon
whom I must meet again when I return home,
the hands of the intelligent, black-haired nurse
who unwound the birth-cord from my neck,
the soft hands of my mother,
the hands of those others
who have loved me,
until it seems almost
as though this is what a human life is,
to be passed from hand to hand,
to be borne up, improbably, over an ocean.
by Moya Cannon

Viola d’amore

Sometimes love does die,
but sometimes, a stream on porous rock,
it slips down into the inner dark of a hill,
joins with other hidden streams
to travel blind as the white fish that live in it.
It forsakes one underground streambed
for the cave that runs under it.
Unseen, it informs the hill,
And, like the strings of the viola d’amore,
Makes the hill reverberate,
So that people who wander there
Wonder why the hill sings,
Wonder why they find wells.


How could I have forgotten
the sickness, 
the inescapability.
My strange love,
it frightens my life. 
We sail high seas 
and watch the voyages of stars. 
Sometimes they collide.
Did you know, you make my head flame.
Blue flames and purple flames leap about my head.
I had once a thousand tongues,
but tonight,
my head is crashing through the sky,
my head is flaming on a dish.
My love,
carry it in carefully,
My love,
carry it in with trumpets.
by Moya Cannon

CoderDojo, Play, Passion & Purpose

Coderdojo is a great news story: an 18 year old starts an after-school computer club and open-sources the model. A year and a half later, there are nearly 200 dojos dotted around the world. Here, kids and their mentors meet in an un-structured, environment which promotes creativity and collaboration. I was delighted to be able to attend the annual conference on Sat 13 Apr - #DojoCon2013



In his book, 'Creating Innovators', Tony Wagner tries to identify the conditions necessary for fostering innovation. In my 5 minute 'lightning talk' at #dojocon2013 we explored the connection between these conditions and CoderDojos.


Wagner identifies 'Play, Passion & Purpose' as the main ingredients in creating young innovators by helping them build intrinsic motivation. He also highlights the importance of being open to risk taking and to failing productively. CoderDojo scores very high on the first two: it makes space for kids to play with technology and encourages them to develop their own passions, to follow their own instincts, to have agency.

But what about purpose? What do we mean by purpose - Wagner identified it as an attitude of 'Give back - make a difference'. This is a wonderful challenge for the CoderDojo movement... building on the foundations of play and passion. In a short while, this worldwide movement is going to have a lot of skilled kids - and the question will be: what are they going to do with this coding and cognitive surplus?

Elearning & Digital Cultures #edcmooc #week1

 I've been doing the 'signing up to moocs' thing again. This time it's 'Elearning and Digital Cultures' or #edcmooc which is a co-production between Coursera and the University of Edinburgh's MSc in Digital Education team.  I have signed up for many of the big mooc initiatives - my first foray was 'Facilitating Online Communities' which wasn't massive - but it was open - and facilitated by Leigh Blackhall of Otago University in New Zealand.  
That was 2006. I remember setting my alarm for a 2am conference call back then and feeling dizzy with the idea that I was attending a university course in NZ!  That in turn led me to other learning adventures.  Why this mooc?  There is something about it which reminds me of my undergraduate experience - a BA in Communications Studies, with an emphasis on media studies and a smattering of philosophical, cultural and sociological topics.  Time is a big constraint right now - but I'm going to at least loiter with intent around this one.  
Week 1 of #edcmooc featured content in the form of short animations and films which explored technology, media and communication through the lenses of utopia and dystopia.  One of the questions that arose in my undergraduate degree was the notion of power: where does it reside? How aware are we of where power lies in our everyday experiences?  It promoted critical thinking, in other words.  

Graduation - a reminder

 Last week, I travelled to Galway to meet our students graduating from the Masters in Software Engineering and Database Technologies - part of the IT Online program.  I've done this most years since I graduated from the same program in 2006.  It is a lovely occasion: finally meeting the people we have worked with online throughout the two year stretch; looking into their eyes and seeing their pride; feeling their elation at the end of a long, hard road.  We also feel the glow of their supportive family and friends who helped them to get across the line.

There are two ceremonies: first there is a big ceremony involving a couple of hundred students across other faculties, and then a much smaller ceremony with our Regis University colleagues.  Both are a joy.  Many students travel long distances to be there - we have had students come from Australia, the USA and Germany, down the years. Sometimes, those travelling far arrive alone - without family or friends to share the moment.  


Natalie Merchant has grey hair

 Look, Natalie Merchant has beautiful grey hair.  

You can see her here in full flight!  

Photo by Arnold Gatilao

I only discovered her amazing voice a couple of years ago after @catherinecronintweeted this TED Talk - where she 'sang old poems to life' and featured her 'Leave Your Sleep' project.  I was immediately taken with her independence of spirit and the way she had reached back into history to create musical myths from the words of writers from the past - many of whom I had never encountered before.  She was an education in poetry and music.  I bought the record - the first of many - and my youngest child, in particular knows the words of most of the songs by heart. 



This was more than just the music, for me, it was a re-awakening to poetry.  In national school, I had experienced poetry through the metre-stick teaching method and I came to hate it.  There was no joy there, no feeling.  Merchant talked of coming late to poetry and how it only came alive for her when she felt in her own mouth - and I related to that.  I was getting a second chance to feel poems and her work added so much to that experience.


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