21 years a growing with TeachNet

The recent launch of Masters of the Air miniseries on Apple TV brought a flurry of comments on a long dormant Facebook group consisting of an international group of teachers who completed a teacher residency at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, just outside Cambridge in 2014. After a catch up with what we were all doing, the conversations switched to our shared experience working out of the American Air Museum and some of the US 8th Army Airforce primary sources which included some from the Bloody 100th of Masters of the Air fame. One memory that resurfaced with many was the escape activity we created for the kids summer camp that ran in tandem with our residency. We had them making fake Ausweis passes, writing with invisible ink and escaping down a tunnel we made. The genesis of this group of activities came from my first Teachnet project.*

Sally B- The B-17 star of the film Memphis Belle in IWM Duxford

About 20 years ago, Teachnet, funded by Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies gave grants to teachers to create content for the Irish Education curriculum. Allied POW escapes from Germany during WWII was my Leaving Cert History research project. As a H. Dip student, burning out as they do in early April and stuck with a Transition Year group who demanded a topic that was totally different from what they had done for the Junior Cert, my RSR was dusted off and made a bit more engaging with cross curricular activities where we tried to copy maps using jelly, cracking codes and building a tunnel in class. We used a lot of tech, as well. Using AOL Instant Messenger, we interviewed Bert Markle, a B-17 pilot who crashed outside Essen on a raid to Berlin and ended up in Stalag Luft III the month after the Great Escape. We also used an Escape from Colditz game from Channel 4, and trawled through the US Air Force WWII archive, listening to primary source interviews on the sole Internet enabled PC courtesy of IT 2000. All these activities made it into my first Teachnet project along with other resources using Hot Potatoes and Quandary.

Over the years, I completed three Teachnet projects and attended all the PD sessions that they offered in Dublin West Education Centre. The other two projects were on the American Revolution and the 1798 rebellion. However, the real value to me of the Teachnet experience was finding a tribe when as a young techie teacher in a school with no other techie teachers, the camaraderie and peer learning found at the Teachnet sessions was invaluable and started me on my ed tech journey. The freedom and support to design an interesting resource that would be used by other teachers was a great challenge allied with immense satisfaction when it was completed. It also brought opportunities to work with teachers in other subjects and levels, almost like a proto-Teachmeet. While we may not have been Masters of the Air, we were a Band of Brothers (and Sisters), paths crossing on a regular basis at CESI conferences and other events.  

Since early this year, I have been trawling the Internet Archive, exploring some of the resources that I created and some of the primary sources used, some sadly suffering from link rot. Playing around with the earliest Google Earth kml files, so cutting edge in 2006 but sadly dated compared to the resources available today. There was good work created on that Teachnet server and it also brought back to mind some great memories too.

John, Micheal and Pat, thanks for the memories.

*The Internet Archive did not save some links correctly so just edit the URL to get to the next page if it breaks.

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