• #MozFest and the London Festival of Education (#LFE2012)

    by  • November 17, 2012 • Conferences • 2 Comments

    #MozFest

    (images from MozFest)

    This is the story of two festivals. I’m doing it this way instead of separate posts for two reasons: first, for the very pragmatic reason that I’ll never get round to writing more than one post; and second, it’s interesting to compare and contrast two education-related festivals.

    I’m writing this in Kings Cross station with one eye on my laptop’s battery indicator so apologies in advance if the end of it seems rushed! Increasingly, my job means having to travel to and from London from my home in Northumberland. It’s a bit of a bind to do the journey there and back in a day but it’s doable – as I’ll be demonstrating when I’m here again for the Whole Education annual conference on Wednesday.

    The Mozilla Festival (MozFest) was at Ravensbourne College (the one opposite the O2 arena) between Friday and Sunday last week (9-11 November). The inaugural London Festival of Education (LFoE) was at the Institute of Education today (17 November). Both had a really good mix of people, but each had different emphases. Today the focus was primarily upon education as delivered within formal education contexts, whereas MozFest was more about informal learning. What was striking about both festivals was the informal, upbeat and interest-based approaches. Instead of the usual plodding conference schedule, a festival format allows for serendipity, chance encounters, and (I don’t exactly know how) a sense of solidarity.

    I really enjoyed both events, but for different reasons. I enjoyed today’s LFoE was because I felt a connection with those around me, as though we had a national common cause. There was actually less backlash against Michael Gove in the opening session than I’d expected. Although there was some resistance, it’s hard to accuse him of lacking conviction: this man really believes what he’s proposing. Most of that, of course, is ridiculous and shows a complete lack of understanding of education. Take, for example, his assertion that making exams harder ‘raises standards’. This may sound plausible to Middle England but is so ridiculous (in a you-can-weigh-the-pig-but-it-doesn’t-make-it-fatter way) that it actually makes Gove the subject of ridicule by educators.

    At MozFest I still felt a connection with those around me but it was for a different reason. The common cause that we’re all committed to is a free and open web, a platform for creativity, democracy and expression. This is manifested in different forms, hence the Journalism, Webmaker, Hackable Games and Mobile floors. There’s an unrivalled energy at MozFest that really blew me away last year before I’d joined Mozilla. This time last year MozFest was four floors and 400 people. This year we took over the entire building (nine floors) and had over 1,000 people passing through. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to fit everyone into Ravensbourne next year…

    I was involved in a few sessions at both events. I’m perilously close to battery drainage now so I’ll do this as bullet points:

    • Open Badges in the Wild – this was a very well attended conjunction of two one-hour sessions on the Saturday of MozFest. The first part was all about the ‘yack’ (talking about applications of Open Badges) with the second all about the ‘hack’ (actually making badges).
    • Skills and Literacies: what do you need to know about the web? – a smaller and more conversational session on theĀ  Sunday of MozFest focused on the Web Literacies framework and white paper I’m working on at the moment.
    • Mozilla Open Badges: rewarding skills digitally – this was a ‘fireside chat’ (complete with video of a campfire on a plasma screen!) in the Digital Making room at LFoE. There were a range of people there including teachers and a reporter from the TES. It’s always good to talk about Mozilla’s work in various context – later, for example, I showed some journalists from The Independent’s i newspaper how to use Thimble. Thanks to DigitalMe and Makewaves for organising this!
    • How learning technologies are changing teaching – this was a bit of a platform to discuss Nesta’s new report entitled Decoding Learning: proof, promise and potential of digital education. I had a chance to discuss some of my thoughts on a panel that included Rose Luckin, one of the authors of the report. You can see my notes from this session here.

    Were you at either of these events? I’d love to hear what you thought of them!

    About

    Dr. Doug Belshaw works on education-related stuff for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Things like the Web Literacy Standard, Open Badges and helping others teach the Web.

    2 Responses to #MozFest and the London Festival of Education (#LFE2012)

    1. Freya
      November 17, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Initially disappointed not to have Ian Gilbert on the panel today but really enjoyed the session and found it thought provoking. I will be reading the report. Thank you.

    2. November 18, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Interesting to see your evernotes on the Decoded Learning document as I am obviously not physically able to get out and about to these events. I thought your Keri Facer quote very telling in response to the Nesta Doc.

      “”Rather than envisaging a ‘future-proof school that tries to insure itself against socio-technical change, therefore, we have the opportunity to create future-building schools that actively support their communities to tip the balance of socio-tehcnical change in favour of fair, sustainable and democratic futures.”"

      There seems to be a constant quest for El Dorado when it comes to using ed tech within the system as it stands the Nesta Document is pointing to a different frame of reference but it is still searching for the evidence of change within schools. Yes you can have the idea of ecologies of resources but then to set it in schools only when the communities are being connected through a wider context is a narrowing. At one point the report bemoans the fact that teachers don’t take academic research on board. Perhaps they would if they themselves were leading the research and aggregating it. TeachMeets and blogs are dismissed as grey literature and something that academics can’t quite fit into the frame of reference for this report – teacher peer to peer learning is surely one of the most powerful drivers. I find it interesting that at the TeachMeet Essex event on the 19th http://teachmeet.pbworks.com/w/page/58803451/TeachMeet%20Essex#view=page the one academic presenting does not have a Twitter handle and this is not uncommon – (I’m sure many academics probably do this for for good reasons). But it means that research is behind the cultural dynamism implied by Keri’s quote – or so I read that.

      The Decoded Learning report is a start as is the Makers pump priming initiative by Nesta / Mozilla. However they won’t fund schools so there needs to be a DMZ for people working in these twilight zones between chool and home because, in my opinion, this is where the most interesting cultural change in how communities are evolving around learning. It has probably always been that way it is just more connected now. I see no research into that area.

      “it is clear that some learning activities are more easily conducted in the classroom because,
      for example, of the availability of specialist equipment or expertise. nevertheless there is
      clearly room for further technological innovation that looks beyond the classroom. indeed,
      one of the key benefits of many digital tools is that they can be used in many learning
      environments. but the particular learning benefits of digital tools are not automatically
      transferrable from one learning environment to another.” Nesta Decoded Learning Page 54

      I see the world of makers opening up with stakeholders forming alliances with schools – but I think those alliances can only be true representations of any one community where social buffers are in place e.g. Mozilla is not a commercial entity but provides commercial services. Computing at School, likewise, is an affiliation of a ground up membership with a very lean management and most of what both those organisations do well is ad hoc gradually coalescing around what works and what people seem to want – they facilitate that in terms of the evolving culture of knowledge. Until teachers can run action research with partnerships that plug and play with a variety of institutions there is going to be this looking in the driving mirror approach.

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