Monday, May 13, 2013

‘Stop talking, start doing’ – create_Ed at the Barbican

Guest post by Tony Parkin
Disruptive Nostalgist & Independent Educational Consultant

Like many others, I was bitterly disappointed to get the news in January that the eagerly-anticipated Learning Without Frontiers, scheduled for June 17-21 at The Barbican, was cancelled (or at least 'delayed' and moved far, far East of London... somewhere in Asia)

Hands up, and time to declare an interest. I have been to all the LWF events, and their precursors as Handheld Learning, etc. I have even been on committees that helped steer some of them, delivered workshop sessions and judged student competitions.

It is well-known I am an advocate and general fan of Graham Brown-Martin, the founder and guiding light behind Learning Without Frontiers. Or rather, who WAS the guiding light before the suits took over the asylum – you know, those greyer suits with the strait-jackets? It was the suits in January who decided that the Barbican LWF event was out of the question, apparently because their business-based be-suited chums were not as yet showering sufficient corporate dollars in support.

Graham himself was quick to follow this announcement out of the LWF door. Self-propelled, as any man of principle would be.  But Graham is clearly still contractually bound where LWF is concerned, and is now busy launching his own exciting new venture, Education Design Labs (EDLabs). So the  main outstanding problem is a large, potentially exciting and creative gap in June where Learning Without Frontiers at The Barbican used to be…
Eylan Ezekiel (@eylanezekiel) was equally fed up at the LWF announcement, and had a good old rant about the loss on twitter and on his blog. This caught the attention of a bunch of like-minded mavericks and creatives, including @annapedroza

While some of us merely whinged, some of the dispossessed got creative. Anna and Eylan got going, and lo, #creat_ED was born. And, thanks to helpful support from The Barbican, it will be at the same place and at the same time as LWF, for the undoubted benefit of those who had already made their arrangements to be in London. Brilliant!

Contractually, of course, it is entirely separate from and different to Learning Without Frontiers, but it hopes to satisfy part of the LWF-shaped craving that other conferences can’t and won’t reach. For one thing, it isn’t a conference, but an unconference. Which in itself can excite the sort of creative debates and discussions that conferences frequently inhibit. Though, frankly, if it’s eloquent discursions and witty sophistry you seek that weekend, you could always head over to Wellington for the ‘Festival of Education’

I’m sure there will be erudite angels dancing on pinheads down there, but I am not sure how truly festive it will be? Great minds think alike, and fools Seldon differ (Ed: Groans). A lot will be said, and eloquently, and much will be excellent, but, when all is said and done, I doubt much will be done?
Now creat_ED, on the other hand, promises to be about DOING, not TALKING. As with LWF, it is the mixture of the creatives, the doers, alongside the educationalists, technologists and academics, that can turn an event from a talking shop to a really productive festival. With an enhanced focus on outputs, not on inputs. Anyone who has attended events like MozillaFest will understand what I mean - the emphasis is on the crowd-sourcing, sharing and creating, rather than the sitting and listening.
The event has already attracted some well-known creatives to help lead the day’s activities. The Maker movement is currently exciting educators everywhere. Who better to explain what is going on than Alice Taylor and Jo Roach, two of the co-founders of Makie Lab, producing the first 3D printed game-enabled toys. Alice will be known to many educators from her time at Channel 4 Education, where her team’s online and original digital thinking totally transformed what the world of education expected from their television companies, and won lots of well-deserved awards too.

Also on hand will be Stevyn Colgyn, currently employed as a QI elf, a job title not often noted down the Jobcentre, and one I know many would kill for – though I believe the QI elves are somewhat less belligerent than Legolas and his mates.  

And wearing the top hat, as master of ceremonies, there will be Fred Garnett, probably the least Bectan of all that organisation’s ex-employees. And mercifully better known for his thoughtful facilitative anarchy at academic events and his life-long passion and erudition on all things Beatle-related.
Why am I going? To be honest, I don’t know… and that is exactly WHY I am going. If it was that predictable, I probably wouldn’t be interested in being there. 

But as LWF showed, if you bring together the right anarchic and creative bunch of people into a shared space, some great things can happen. And I know that creat_ED has already managed to attract enough interesting people for me to have a great time. OK, there may be bits that don’t hit my button, but with multiple strands of activity and so many of the right people there, there is bound to be something that fires me up.  And talking of the ticket money, the price of this unconference is significantly less expensive than LWF would have been. It is easy to register via the site through Eventbrite. And at £40 a pop it’s cheaper than taking my kids out for a pizza, and sure to be infinitely more exciting. (Note: I will NOT be starving my kids to pay for the ticket – it was not meant as a literal alternative. ;)

Education Design Labs / EDLabs: (coming soon)

Alice Taylor  & Jo Roach:

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