Scottish Learning Festival 2013 (#slf13 & #tmslf13)
This will eventually be transferred to my conference blog. Apologies for quality of the photos - as I was travelling light I didn't take my camera with me!
I reckon this is must be the sixth year I've been up to Glasgow for the Scottish Learning Festival (SLF). It's an event I don't think I've ever presented at, but one that I certainly wouldn't miss. The clue's in the name - it's focused on learning, with attendees including the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education (Michael Russell), teachers, students, international observers and civil servants.
As usual, due to the timing of trains from Newcastle, I arrived half-way through Michael Russell's opening speech and so headed to the overspill room. It was much more overtly political than in previous years, but then he's part of the Scottish National Party who have organised a referendum for Scottish independence next year. At one point he seemed to suggest the Union was responsible for child poverty!
After the Q&A he presented the inaugural Robert Owen award to Dr. Avis Glaze, a Jamaican educator who has spent most of her career in Canada. No-one I know has ever heard of her, and her keynote that afternoon was highly problematic. I've written about that here. I asked Michael Russell on Twitter why Dr. Glaze won the award and, to his credit, he responded. I'll be following it up by email.
After that session I opted for Using Lego Mindstorms to raise the bar in programming. What I really appreciate about teachers who present at SLF is that they tend to be much more grounded in pedagogy than what I see at other conferences and events. These particular teachers had thought through the arc from Scratch, through Lego Mindstorms to Robot C.
After lunch it was Avis Glaze's talk. The least said about that the better. Suffice to say I have no idea why she was awarded a prize to mark Scottish educational achievement and commemorate one of the founders of socialism. I guess she's eloquent, presents other people's ideas well and has a nice smile.
I was so hacked off after that session I checked into my hotel room and crashed there until the TeachMeet in the evening. Scotland is the home of TeachMeets, so the SLF ones are usually excellent. This was no exception, held at the SQA offices and featuring:
An introduction from Iain Hallahan.
An audience in anticipation.
An enthusiastic presentation by Drew Burrett.
A presentation by Robert Drummond about Student Digital Leaders.
After the TeachMeet there was the now-customary TeachEat at a local cafe, kindly (but slightly oddly) sponsored by the Copyright Licensing Agency. They also did a quick presentation at the TeachMeet itself.
The first session I attended was The impact of mobile 1:1 technology in transforming learning which, inevitably, was all about iPads. I have to say I went in skeptical, but came out really impressed with the staff and (particularly) the students of Bellshill Academy. Not only did they present their school in a positive light, but they actually moderated the Q&A session with aplomb.
It's probably the first presentation I've seen on mobile learning at a conference which (without actually referencing it) demonstrated an upward trajectory on Ruben Puentedura's SAMR model.
I stayed in the same room for the next session which was: Glow is changing - see the evolving solution. For those unaware, Glow is the Scottish schools national intranet, first announced back in 2005. If it had been implemented straightaway back then it would have been revolutionary. Unfortunately, eight years later it's cost the taxpayer £100 million and completely jumped the shark. The new updates didn't really do anything to impress the audience, which is a shame.
After that session I caught up with Jaye Richards-Hill and talked about Glow, Scottish Education, politics, tablets and generally put the world to rights. I briefly bumped into Steve Bunce but we didn't manage to co-ordinate trains to have a chat on the way back to Newcastle unfortunately.
All in all, another enjoyable SLF. I'm very much looking forward to bringing my family up to Scotland to be part of a progressive education system!