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 the 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!