This week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Handheld Learning 2009 at the Old Brewery in the Barbican in London. This was the ‘world’s leading event about learning using mobile and inexpensive access technologies’. There was an impressive list of speakers and for most of the conference more than one strand happening at a time.
The first day is known as the Festival and is free. In the afternoon there were very well attended sessions on ‘Learners Y Factor’ hosted by Jason Bradbury from the Gadget Show. This involves selected school children showcasing the work they have been doing to a live audience and a panel of judges. Having learners talk about their work is an excellent idea and probably something we should think about for our annual event. Alongside this was the ever popular Pecha Kucha, an idea which we did use this year. Both these events were very over subscribed and it was difficult to even get into the room never mind find a seat.
Tuesday was the first day of the conference proper and was opened by an interesting speech by Zenna Atkins who is the non-executive chair of ofsted. She certainly surprised me with her discussion on a possible future vision of education. She envisaged an education system which allows learners to ‘benchmark’ their abilities against others as and when they felt able. She repeatedly referred to pupils and their parents as consumers and their role in pushing educational reform. One memorable comment of hers was that ‘Schools are not about education and learning they are insitutions’. She did however, frequently state that these were her opinions and not those of ofsted.
Malcolm McLaren followed her with an entertaining wander through his early educational experiences and how he was inspired by early art professors to strive for ‘magnificent failure’. His tirade against what he termed ‘karaoke culture’ was thought provoking. Yvonne Roberts managed to alienate me in her first sentence by making a facile remark about dyslexia and then went on to offend the whole room. I think she probably had something valuable to say but as an example of how to turn an audience off it was priceless.
I’ll just mention a few of the highlights for me. John Davitt opened the afternoon session on Creativity and Innovation. He started with a slimmed down ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ – Know – Show – Grow- Flow. He showcased his random activity generator for the iPhone to – “put lesson planning back where it should be – in the corridor on they way to the classroom”. The audience produced a new font using fontcapture.com and also a ‘twit-school’ using google apps.
The final morning had the sub-title Inclusion. This was inclusion in its broadest sense with speakers talking about home access computers, One laptop per child and game based learning. Professor Elizabeth Hayes is doing some fascinating work on gender and social exclusion using a version of the Sims game. It is a mod based on the best selling book by Barbara Ehrenreich on (not) getting by in modern America. Finally Sal Cooke from Techdis highlighted the good work that is already going on in all sectors and thanked the delegates themselves.
As well as the conference there was an exhibition and I was particularly taken with the product from Sanako. This was developed as a language teaching facility but it is an excellent classroom mangement system which could be used for many subjects.
The conferece had a hash tag – #hhl09 which managed to get into the top 10 globally on the Tuesday morning. If you search twitter for this be prepared – there are thousands of posts and shows how twitter can be so effective. A couple of memorable tweets included ‘great – if I miss anything , someone else will tweet it’ and ‘are power sources the new water coolers’ a reference to the sight of lots of people sitting in huddles round the plug sockets!
Finally I’d like to say congratulations to Sandra Taylor from Ashton Sixth Form College who won the secondary teacher award at the award ceremony on Monday night. It was a great conference, one of the best, well done Graham and the team from Learning without Frontiers.