Thank you, Bianca Ni Ghrógáin

The 23rd of May 2015 was one of the last interactions I enjoyed with Bianca Ni Grógháin on Twitter.  It was Ireland's Equality Day and it started with an appreciation of her social media campaign for a YES vote over the previous weeks and months. It was a conversation full of hope, history and jubilation and it ended with an intention to celebrate in-person in that most Irish of ways - with a cup a tae next time we met with her great friend and mentor, Mags Amond. It was also full of fun and a gentle sense of 'divilment'.

Two weeks later it became clear that we will never get to drink that cup of tae. Bianca died on Saturday 6th June and the Irish EdTech community is still reeling from the news. Over the past two years she had taken the scene by storm - sharing her teaching and learning insights on Scratch, a programming language for kids, the MakeyMakey  'invention kit' - but she was about much more than the technology.

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Bianca talked about the classroom as a creative space for kids and by kids. She talked about making them awesome - empowering them to do meaningful learning together - technology was just one medium for making this happen. 

Her talks at teaching and learning conferences and teachmeets made teachers feel they could be awesome too - they were jam packed with technology ideas already road-tested for the classroom. But again, it was about much more than technology - she shared ways of putting the child at the centre of the learning experience and empowering *them* to teach as well as learn. Her presentation at the recent ICTEDU conference in Thurles was no exception: she brought to life TarsiasPlickersCoLARGoogle Cardboard - as well as openly sharing her own difficulties with maths when she was in school. 

One scene in particular made a lasting impression on me - it was a description of her kids earning points in class which could be redeemed for privileges and one of the most sought-after privileges was the chance to teach the class for 10 or 15 mins. She talked about handing over the role of teacher to pupils and watching from the sideline as they made a fine fist of 'being teacher'. You wanted your child to be in a classroom like Bianca's - you wanted to be there yourself. She spoke directly to the child and the learner inside all of us. What her PhD research would have produced is a great imponderable and just one of the gaping questions she leaves behind.

She was an unassuming iconoclast and a passionate advocate for equality. Her friend, Mags Amond referred to her as the 'social conscience of the edtech world'. Again, we have to wonder how that would have shown up in her research and how it would have impacted education in Ireland and beyond.

Bianca was a banlaoch - an Irish woman warrior - and as Mags noted wisely today she woke the banlaoch in many of us lucky enough to meet her. Her spirit and her spark lives on in us. We may not see her research output - but there is no doubt we will see her legacy unfold over the coming months and years. She has infected a tribe of educators who will carry on her work and I look forward to seeing the many forms it will take. Already, I'm hearing about plans for spaces that will bear her name echoing the spaces in our hearts. We'll miss you, Bianca...

 

Among friends - Helen Bullock, Catherine Cronin, Leigh Graves Wolf, Pam O'Brien, Bianca Ni Groghain and me.

Above right - Bianca with human rights giants, Colm O'Gorman & Senator David Norris.

 

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