Festival of Learning 2012

I was kindly asked to give a talk with @bronst at the cross-sector gathering (it was more than a conference) organised by PLANE. I didn’t get to the Friday, but there was clearly a lingering buzz as I arrived my Mr11 on Saturday morning. As a designer, I immediately liked the sense of purposeful fun that the Plane team had weaved throughout. I do like details, and found from the conference swing tag to the signage, there was flare and fun front and center of the event. If you’ve been to something like Educause, you know how somber ‘serious’ discussions can be presented – and I for one found the while vibe up-lifing. I’ve always admired Kevin Honeycutt’s “Podstock” event, and this weekend felt a lot like that. I really wondered if essentially an institutional ‘thing’ could feel grass-roots enough to at the same time feel like a viable network for peer interactions.

My verdict was yes – and that’s the foot I went out on. I have this thing about in-service learning – where anyone who has the humanity to go about helping and teaching someone else, in their service for any length of time is now – more than ever – essential in the rapid progression of technology in education. To me, its those people – the ones who are willing to address each persons ideas honestly and do something are the most important people in the world. I talked about a concern I have about the commercialisation of school vs technology – something that can be predicted from numerous economic and social research perspectives. In particular the need for everyone to recognise that the Tweetability of a message or a persona can easily appear more important than accountability.

You might have noticed the Back to the future hoax going around social media and reported by numerous popular online spaces such as Mashable. I read that via Facebook and though how useful the metaphor could be that the future I’m standing in – the one I’ve been working on since Mr11 was Mr6 and started school – isn’t what I’d hoped. The ironic joke being (I don’t yet have a hoverboard). Somewhere in the middle of the talk I put up a slide about using irony as way of knowing – a way of powering up imagination such that we can compare what we are being told (or familiar with) verses what we imagine can be possible. Of course, my ‘error’ was corrected, but not to the post about the hoax, more than I had doctored the image. I was over the moon with that and numerous other hoverboard related swipes by people who are clearly wise and of course distant.

I also commented that school is no more designed for the Internet that the high street was for online-shopping. This isn’t to say the high-street isn’t a useful social space, but more that there is a tendency to by those who spent a lot of time seeing the world though a glass screen – to miss serendipity of just wandering around among other people. Google and SEO of course adds a filter itself, so online, serendipity is less common than a decade ago. This is something I’m working on – the whole outside thing, and to be honest, I have not logged off anywhere near as much as I should have in the past. Of late I’ve become interested in looking at how other sub-cultures (yes I see ed-tech as a sub culture) use space and the Internet to achieve their goals. It turns out, saving the planet might also be achieved though many things, not just classrooms and technology – riding bikes, playing games, clean air groups … even coffee snobs all have a take on what ‘we’ can do to make the world better. I went with bikes as I remember as a kid I loved my bike – its the other thing I spend time doing when my VIC-20 was overheated.

I described ‘content’ as sediment, I mean that minute by minute the Internet fills up with more and more content which I imagine to be like pixel-particles falling to the bottom. They don’t decay like organic matter – as no one knows much about how long information actually lasts. Intead we see infographics about how big, how much and how fast. More importantly I think to many people it no more use that sediment – taking a pot shot of the complete lack of will by Kahn Academy to bother making their ‘content’ accessible.

When we imagine what might be, we are also playing a game of prediction – and all humans love experiences where they predict what happens next. This video I really like, as people watch the first shot, and then by the third, they are predicting the next and being rewarded when they guess right. It’s a great video – that shows not only what a long-standing technology can do – but how we can imagine what new things can be done with it when given a context.

This brings me to my last point. Minecraft was very very present at the conference – and every session was filled with people buzzing with predictions of what they could do with it – and talking to dozens of teachers who already use it in diverse and amazing ways. To me it was the first time – in a real world space – that I’ve seen such a thing. Of course there are the sub sub sub cultures who talk about it, but in this case these people brought a sense of freshness and imagining to something I think has a valid place in classrooms – despite the rather apathetic reaction from ‘leaders’.

I asked myself at the start “why would I bother with PLANE’, after all there’s Twitter. My take away is that I’d bother will it because numerous people have taken huge risks and personal hits to get it where it is – and it’s not subject to the kind of bias that social media has these days with in-groups and trolls. It’s a process network – something I’ve been into for a long time. So yes, I’d say join it – don’t support it – go collaborate and help someones ideas get a step closer to reality. There’s a new line-up of talent – people with new ideas and abilities … I for one don’t want to be the Old Major here. The days where a few control the many are at an end. The future looks very bright – especially for imagination, creativity and gaming.

PLANE might not be perfect, but I don’t think it’s trying to be – it succeeded in bringing a lot of fun and socialness to a weekend – to get parents and kids talking and playing … I just hope it sticks around – and to do that I guess like anyone else, it means lending a hand. I’m hoping a nice social bike-ride and picnic.

One thought on “Festival of Learning 2012

Comments are closed.