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"Meitheal - Using the old Irish tradition of a Meitheal to develop a resilient, adaptive, autopoetic learning community"

CONCEPT: Meitheal is an ancient Irish tradition of a group coming together for a common purpose and working together and for each other to ensure that all succeed in achieving their goal. (An aspect of Meitheal would be akin to the traditional Coop structure.) There are other layers and to Meitheals such as the rhythms, stories, memories, sounds, smells, landscapes, myths and other EQ’s and SQ’s which embodies and nurtures the Genius of the group. When cultivated and conscientised, this richness provides the lubrication, creativity, magic, self belief and resilience for the Meitheal to respond to changes in its environment and to demands made on its members, whether they are rapid and unpredictable, or foreseeable and moderately paced, in a balanced, congruent, holistic and effective manner. In terms of managing change, particularly against the world view of accelerating chaotic unpredictable change, Meitheal can operate as an aware, congruent, self reliant, adaptive self organizing organism

In the Electronics Dept. in DKIT we have revived these values and aim to create a Learning Community where students and staff together engage in teams to master exciting new technologies in Electronics, Computers, Audio/Visual, Communications, Robotics etc. Meitheal starts from the premise of creating Community as a core value. We seek to tune into the various rhythms and issues that are present with the particular student/staff dynamic. It is an advantage that Meitheal is being developed within an Engineering sphere, where there is lots of room for interfusing the three C’s of Communication, Creativity and Cooperation with the well developed three R’s of Reading, writing and arithmetic. Using Problem/Project – based syllabi with a fair mix of hands-on and theoretical content, there is a great opportunity for creating soul and rhythm within the learning community. Through focusing on building the Meitheal synergy, it is possible to introduce, safely, the concept of challenge with peer support. In the forming of stakeholder-meaning and self-value for all members of the student/staff partnership, the Meitheal negotiates appropriate rituals and permissions which enable it to go about its learning tasks with the proactive personal enrollment and commitment of all the members. This approach will promote development of the reflective practitioner engineering graduate who has had an experiential introduction to lifelong learning and to the lifelong community of their Meitheal. The outcomes are Win-Win-Win for the students, Staff and Institute and for Industry and Community. The Meitheal experience also greatly humanizes Engineering and Technology and by inculcating and tapping into the real, personal and human aspects of the members lives, Meitheal can enhance the members’ capacities to consider ethical/human/moral/community impacts and consequences of technological development. The Meitheal concept is presently being developed and rolled-out in a reflective organic way in the First year of the Electronics course in DKIT Dundalk, Ireland, since September 2001. Even in this very short period there have been huge impacts on student and staff. The proposal for this conference is to provide a “real-time” window to the conference delegates into to what this “messy” change process looks and “feels” like by involving a group of students and staff in reflecting on their experiences to date, their fears and hopes and how their own views are changing as the Meitheal self realizes.


In parallel with the interactive element of the workshop there will be a presentation/narrative into the mapping of the Meitheal vision and to a consideration of its appropriateness to other learning environments. It will also reflect on issues such as: Leadership styles within Meitheal,  The catalytic energy surge demanded from change agents,  Motivation and reward issues,  Sustainability of vision and momentum  Resources, ingredients, environments etc necessary to develop Meitheal. A core element of the success of Meitheal will be the build up of trust within the learning community. Traditionally teaching and learning has been an individual process where staff and students can perform as individuals and the need to engage with peers and to resolve community issues have been limited. Within the nature of Linear Engineering Education where the nonnumeracy skillsets have been largely either taken for granted or given lip-service, there is not much experience and older wisdoms to tap into for those students and staff undertaking this project. A large element of project expenditure needs to be directed towards upskilling the staff in PBL, community building and change issues. There will be need for substantive group work training and bringing in experts to loosen up mindsets and to facilitate creativity.

Map of Meitheal issues

Meitheal A community In Electronics  Fixed Resources for Students to consult  Teaching/Learning Methodologies  Assessment  Research/Pilot Evaluation  External Supports  Community Development  Resources  Values/Ethos/Vision/Mission  Landscape  Outcomes  Motivation  Stakeholders  Staff group development  Location Teaching/Learning Methodologies Projects kit based Presentations Powerpoint Video/digital images/VCD/DVD/CD multimedia Articulation, self-esteem Toastmasters Report writing repurposed for different audiences. Web based presentations IMovie, Flash E-Reality communications, Email techniques and psychology, NLP and web conferencing Knowledge management


Web searching and advanced focusing techniques Info searching techniques Library usage Mind mapping Emotional Intelligence and NLP Conflict Management and resolution Team Building Industrial visits Ice Breakers Concurrent discussions with groups of lecturers , technicians and students Experiential Learning Challenge through Peer support Miscellaneous Thoughts PBL project/problem based learning Assessment Rebalancing End exam and Continuous assessment Recognition by professional bodies Industrial partner evaluations Personally negotiated Self assessment Peer assessment Staff group assessment Learning contracts Paddy Greer workshops on assessment techniques and issues Porfolio/CD/VCD/DVD :Adobe Acrobat Personal video Reflective diary Year lab work Research Material and references Scan PDF and rough hand notes Up to date CV with progression map/ multimedia presentation Research/Pilot Evaluation Ongoing evaluation Action Research/ Kolb model Grant Aid for Research bringing extra supports onboard Marketing the initiative and the Research in real-time Networking with others with similar outlooks and objectives Miscellaneous Thoughts Presenting findings at conferences and workshops


External Supports Denis McCarthy Multimedia assisted education in Engineering Paddy Greer Educational and Pedagogical Philosophy and assessment Pat Colgan, Margeret Carroll, Pat Clinton Communications and self-esteem Gerry Weldon Team building and Educational Techniques IEI, IEE and other Professional bodies Tony Lennon Quality perspectives and metrics Malachy Conlon pastoral, community and the person Breda Brennan Learning support Unit Kevin Starrs, Patricia McGlone peer consultants on process Eugene McCabe/Jim Maguire Degree model experience project/problem ideas and suggestions Pat McCaul Chris Ryan 2nd year projects experience Vincent Duffy, Christy MacAreavey, Pat Cunningham:- Skills History, Wisdom, perspective and the longer view.

Resources PC's with multimedia, Web and intranet access. Darkened projection room AV data projection facilities High quality Audio equipment Digital cameras/ web cams/ video conferencing Digital Video cards and editing software. DV cameras CD writers Scanners/ Adobe Acrobat Graphics Packages Photoshop, Arcsoft, VCD , DVD burning Mind mapping software Base area within Electronics labs Electronic Project kits for development Satellite Rooms near Base Extended Lab equipment power supplies/meters etc

Stakeholders Students Present 1st year lecturing staff mech. Eng Physics maths Languages Core electronics subjects


Parents 2nd and 3rd year and Degree Lecturers Technicians Second level schools in Region Technology Teachers in second level Learning Support Centre Students Union Student Services Head of Eng. School Head of Electronics Dept. Other schools in DKIT Community at large Industry Past students and graduates

Location Satellite Room for presentation/group discussions LIRC Facility External Trips Sport events


Meitheal proposal for pbl1