Aims of the Festival

The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible! It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

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Thursday, 28 November 2013

How Far Has The Axis Shifted - 31st January

The Programme is now up, but here are some danger bites to tempt you.  Make sure you book a place:

Danger zones to visit including:

This session will consider the current and developing context of games in education and how education can embrace the potential for these environments. We will share highlights from the Festival where participants were encouraged to be as ‘dangerous’ as possible in considering how gaming can influence pedagogy and encourage greater engagement with learning.

Walk on the Wild Side
What happened when a mix of practitioners from education and the arts went walking along the West Highland Way? What ideas have they developed and what have the put into practice? Join participants from the walk to discover what really happened and what dangerous ideas they are working on now.

Adaptive Comparative Judgement
For too long now in education we have been excusing ourselves for not developing creativity, problem solving and collaboration skills because we have no reliable way of capturing and assessing them. Adaptive Comparative Judgement technology can do exactly this. The technology is not about driving forward change within the existing system, it is about embracing radical change in education. This session will share the findings of the Adaptive Comparative Judgement pilot conducted by TAG Assessment and College Development Network after last year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas. We will share our dangerous plans on how we intend to revolutionise assessment in 2014.

Without Walls – play time!
The vibrant team from the three colleges that now make up Ayrshire College worked the games designer and artist Thom Scullion to host an inspiring event in Dean Park, using ipads and their imagination. Their aim was to work out-with physical and metaphorical walls and to consider the role of play in learning. Members of the team will share their experience and their plans for more dangerous ideas.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Why Robert Owen Makes My Heart Sink

Whenever I hear the name Robert Owen my heart sinks.    This isn't so much to do with the reformist himself, rather the impact he has add on educational visits to New Lanark – of which I have had five!   Two when studying geography and history at school, one when briefly studying town planning (I think that visit led to a quick exist from that degree), another during my social work degree, followed by a visit during my post-grad year studying leisure , recreation and the heritage industry (strange but true).   It was suggested as a potential place to visit when I was studying for my education degree, but I declined the coach trip.  I was even there last week for the IRISS Conference, but honestly I could have led the Annie McLeod Experience tour.

So, I have to confess that when Mark Murphy @robertowenctr first told me about the Launch of the new Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change, I had to suppress the fear of another visit to New Lanark, and then rejoice that it was safely based in Glasgow University.  He did look a bit taken aback when I asked for confirmation that anyone involved with the centre wouldn’t actually have to go to New Lanark. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Festival of Dangerous Ideas – Dangerous Design Competition

Wanted:  Visual, media, communication and creative students from the college sector for an exciting, challenging poster competition.

  This is an outstanding opportunity for a creative communicator to make their name in the industry, with a £200 prize as well as a fantastic chance to undertake a placement with a top design/advertising agency.  In addition, the winner’s name and the name of their college will appear on the final poster.

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas is an innovative and exciting national education festival which has generated lots of interest, ideas, facts and figures, which we currently have available in a very unexciting, boring and not at all dangerous format!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Public workshops - a dangerous idea?

I went to an incredibly inspiring RSA lecture by Mark Miodownik where he set out his argument that public libraries were set up to empower the public by giving free access to books at a time when few people could possibly own them or indeed readily access them.  However this has changed and books in general are readily available via technology.  He was arguing that  people are de-skilled in making things and we need access to public workshops we we can make things, but also borrow tools.  He also related this to creativity, innovation, enterprise, industry and cross curricula provision.  

Out of the debate and discussion that followed there was a lamenting in the audience on the demise of the technical colleges and the general split between academic and occupation/craft and skills based education.  There was a great deal of talk about the missed opportunity when some colleges became universities and how the skills based, contextualised learning had been lost in Scotland.  No-one mentioned colleges! I did my best, but it really hit home that for many people there is little knowledge of what the sector has to offer.  Who better to offer a range of skills based public workshops that a college?  What more can we do to raise the profile of the skills based learning opportunities that colleges have to offer?

I think this could be a good area to develop during the Festival of Dangerous Ideas - hands on experience of making, demonstrating cross-curricula skilled based work in action?  Let me know what you think. 


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

How Far has the Axis Shifted?

Friday 31 January 2014
College Development Network, Stirling

Further Information and Book Online

Please join us for this one-day event to reflect on how far the axis has shifted.  There will be opportunities to hear from our partner organisations and individuals about how they have the used the inspiration of the festival to change policy and practice, as well as sharing highlights from the festival.  There will also be opportunities to shape next year's festival happening in June 2014 all across Scotland, and beyond!

Be part of the programme!

If you were inspired by the last festival and put your dangerous idea into practice, please email Karen Lawson - we would love to give you the opportunity to share your experiences at this event.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dangerous June 2014 - Date for your Diary

Key themes will be:
  • Small nations, big ideas for education
  • Games for learning
  • Businesses doing it for themselves: If the trend is for businesses to offer their own degrees, academies and training, what does that say about state funded education?
  • Enterprising, entrepreneurial or excluded: What skills do young people really need?
  • Engaging learners: do lecturers and teachers have the  required youth work skills?
  • Research: dangerous ideas from theory to practice.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Festival of Dangerous Ideas Animation

Summary of the Festival which was held from Thursday 13 June 2013 - Friday 21 June 2013.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Changing The Landscape - Reflection from Paul Gorman

Rant One:  Walk
What the point of the West Highland Way?
Why would anyone want to walk 96 miles? 
What’s the F’ing point of that?  It’s not even a recognised Pilgrimaged. 
And it’s in Scotland – you don’t even get a tan??? 

So what if you can walk 96 miles – who cares?  What does it matter?  You get this certificate at the end – but why does anyone need a certificate?
Mile after mile of path – never ending roads into the distance
The devils staircase  XXXXXX
The long road into Kinlochleven and Fort William -
Body getting sorer by the mile
Feet  - Blisters – burning soles
Joints aching
Chaffing – Vaseline – Talcum Powder – Savlon
Weather – Sun, Rain, Heat, Cold,
Midges – spray – bites – not being able to stop
NO reward – All you have is an end goal – and its Fort William.  They put you through hell and give you Fort William as a reward.


Why would anyone want to live alongside strangers in old, smelly hostels?
Beds – matress – others peoples sweat
Snoring – smelly socks and pants
Single beds – SMALL single beds.  Feet bang off bottom rungs
Cooking alongside a bunch of teenagers from the West End of Glasgow and their recorder playing teacher.    PROBLEMS OF KITCHEN LIFE.
RELAXING AND trying to work – load, noisy etc
Eating breakfast with the strangers you spent all of yesterday and all of today and all of tomorrow – no escape?
Why would anyone put there self through this?



Why would anyone chose to spend 5 days with a group of strangers  
Different backgrounds – Different opinions – same stories
No escape – making all decisions together
Seeing their blisters – hearing about their chaffing – thankfully not seeing it
Over and over again – people you would have walked past in the street
Forever Talking and Speaking
Laughing Moaning
Trying to stay friends
Trying to Stay positive
Exposing your vulnerabilities and trying not to upset others
Listening and Talking
Conversations to fill time


I would like us to stop for a moment and close your eyes – We are going to fall silent for 5mins.


Our dangerous idea was to find an alternative to CPD – so we decide to walk the West Highland Way as Strangers? 
But what’s dangerous about walking?  The paths are formed, the route is marked, the destination is set. 
Our success criteria is easy to measure – if we complete every mile we pass.  If we don’t we fail.  It is easy.

Mathew Failed.  Alison was a Failure. So was Naomi. Frank was an out and out fail.  Keith was the biggest failure (he didn’t even start with us).
I passed.  So did the two Johns, and Alan, and Diane and Eileen, and Mountain Paul and Audrey, so did Stevie.

What’s dangerous about walking the West Highland Way?   If we know what the learning intention – it is easy.  We move from A to B.  If we succeed we get a certificate.  But what do we learn?

·       We learn when we push our self or are pushed by others out with our comfort zone.  Even though it’s painful and you don’t understand why and it’s sometime terrifying.  We learn we ask our self – what stops me, why not?
·       When learn when we unsettle the rules.  Even a tree can be called something else if we imagine it can.
·       We learn by holding hands with someone despite not knowing why?  We begin to understand that touch brings us closer to together. 
·       We learn to trust another human as we are led blindfolded through an unknown world?  Fear soon becomes comforting. 
·       We learn resilience when trying to move a mountain one stone at a time?
·       We learn that not answering questions with an answer is difficult?  Why as educators do we feel to constantly answer the question posed by the student – ask them a question to help them find the answer.
·       We learn that a presentation can take many forms?  Do we always need a powerpoint?  Does it always involve us staying in a classroom? 
·       We learn what a college might look like in the future by re-imaging the one in Fort William after a deadly terrorist attack
·       We learn that time pressure makes us panic and that defaults us back to the what we know – not what we believe?  Lack of space and time to think and collaborate is deadly. 
·       We learn that storytelling is crucial when structuring learning – we learn from the passion in others stories?
·       We learn that the final destination should not be the mark of what we have learn.  How to apply our experience perhaps becomes more important.

So how do we change the landscape?
How do we move a mountain one stone at a time?
How do we challenge the learning criteria within the assessment guidelines?
How do we change the way colleges are structured to nurture radical approaches to learning?

I wish we had found the answer to these questions over our 5 days walking the West Highland Way.  But maybe that would be too easy.  Maybe our manifesto would stifle the abundance of creativity and innovation in colleges throughout Scotland.   Maybe it’s not our job to tell you how to change.

We are still process what we have learned – we imagine this will take some time. 

What we do know – the most dangerous thing is to believe everything is fixed.  We walked through a landscape formed over millions of years.  A land shaped from fiery volcanos and frozen ice.  But we still managed to change it – one stone at a time.

We decided to spend a day picking up a stone and moving it a mile.  Then picking up another one and carrying it. 

Did this move a mountain – no.  Would anyone walking the path today notice – probably not.  Do I still have the stone I carried on the final day – yes.  Things change because we do.  To remain the same and not take the risk of accepting change is terrifying. 

I have my stone here.  I don’t know what good it will do to pass it to someone in the room but not offering it means I stick by the rules.  Does anyone want to take this stone from me?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Touching Children should be an expectation not a taboo

A reflective piece
By Catriona Grant

The Festival for Dangerous Ideas allows us to think outside the box, to debate and discuss….. dangerous ideas.  My career in social care and social work spans 23 years. I have had a varied career working in criminal justice with offenders, with women and their children experiencing domestic abuse, in homes with older people, in residential care with adults with learning disabilities and with children - and in various development posts. I have found touch an important part of my practice in welcoming service users, offering them comfort, consoling them, showing that I care about their distress, laughing and playing together and depending on their needs due to age or disability giving intimate personal care.  I have always felt uncomfortable that I sometimes touched the people I worked with, like I had breached a taboo. How can we be in a caring profession where touch is a taboo? How can you nurture and demonstrate care without touch?

At long last I found myself involved in organising an event called “touching children shouldn’t be taboo, it should be an expectation” as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.   A plethora of practitioners and invited speakers gave their reflections: that children prefer to carry their rucksacks on their backs than put them in lockers as they are comforted by the weight; that monkeys who can’t predict where their food and shelter comes from reject their babies and become depressed more so than monkey who are fed less often and fewer amounts of food: that cuddles are scientific – there is something chemical and biological happening in our brains and bodies when we hug one another – our stress levels reduce; that in an experiment comparing a young person living with their birth family with a looked after child living in care the looked after child was touched five times in a day, the other young person more than 70!

A panel of experts spoke about their experience of touching kids and their reflections.  Steven Kelly, a Head Teacher in a busy high school reflected that schools are emotionally sterile environments – that a gym teacher would rather fill in an accident form than teach a teenage girl a gymnastics move. At a prize giving he found himself hugging the head boy, proud of achievements but then immediately in a position of an embarrassment embracing the head girl. Children need love especially when they don't deserve it. He reminded us that teenagers are ‘jaggy’ but they need love. How do you touch a young man who sees touch as a provocation? Or girls with sexualised behaviour? A young man coming to terms with his sexuality? Children and young people who have never been loved and hate themselves? We don’t need guidelines, Stephen argued, we need a culture of emotionally intelligent teachers and staff who know when to offer comfort and support to the children in their care.  We are on a journey.

Lesley McDowall, a Quality Improvement Officer, whilst visiting a nursery was reading a story to a little girl who wanted to “sit on her legs”. She welcomed the child on to her knee. She then wanted a cuddle...Lesley became aware of the staff watching her.  Some children, some very young children are in nurseries for up to ten hours, they need support with personal care, to be safe when they throw a tantrum, to be comforted when they hurt themselves and encouraged when learning new things, touch is important to their health and wellbeing.  Would guidelines help?  We need to develop emotional intelligence, use our judgement, and to have a stimulating and nurturing environment, all encouraging touch; we need to be able to talk about it in an open and healthy way. 

Mark Smith, Senior Lecturer at Edinburgh University quoted Steve Biddulph from Bringing up Boys, stating that boys enjoy rough play. In residential child care how do we play, nurture and care for children?   How do you show a child or young person you care for them and like them?  By hugging and nudging them? 

Should touching children be compulsory?  “Heavens no!” says Smith. Some research has shown that guidelines create problems rather than assist.  Football coaches and PE teachers need to be able to support younger children to put their boots and socks on.  He challenged that even some of the education children get about adults touching them is not helpful; we need to challenge the fear of being touched. 

Laura Steckley, from Strathclyde University reflected on research by Tiffany Fields who travelled the world watching people in coffee shops catching up with a friend.   In Puerto Rico they touched one another 140 times…. in London it was zero (a comment from the audience was in Scotland it would be minus two!!!)  Fields theorises that cultures where there is more positive touch have lower levels of aggression.   Research in a hospital, where in the first three days of life skin to skin touch was extended found that three years later there were more touching interactions and the children had higher IQ than those who remained in incubators and cots. There had been a cascade of touch throughout the child’s life - infants touched more as new borns were touched more throughout their lives and they thrived better. 

Our media and novels overly focus on the sexually abused child.  The abused and abuser has replaced angels and demons, it has become evil versus good. We need to talk about touching children, Helen Piper’s research showed that policies and guidelines only made workers more anxious and “hyper sensitive”.  We need to talk about touch within relationships not just touch itself, what our anxieties are, how we protect children from adults intent on harming them and how we support children and young people who are in crisis to move along the road to recovery, how we become more attuned to their needs to be touched and not to be touched.  It’s a big, long conversation!! 

Tam Baillie, the Children and Young Person’s Commissioner in Scotland reflected that as a West of Scotland male, he doesn’t do touch very well and is often exposed when meeting his European counterparts – he doesn’t know what cheek to kiss, whether to embrace, how many kisses to give or indeed if he should just shake hands.  We need to live in the moment and be able to adapt, but something in our head stops us living in the moment. We need to think about looked after children who don’t get cuddles and kisses. Some children are Looked After earlier in their development - not just ten hours in a nursery but maybe 10 years in care. Imagine never being touched when being looked after by professionals, never getting kisses and cuddles or being tickled?   We know that kangaroo care – a technique used with preterm babies who are hugged by their parents and given skin-to-skin care out of plastic incubators thrive and do better than those in incubators. There has been positive media interest in this topic.  The time and place to have a sensible conversation might just be now – this debate might just be happening at the right time.  We know we are not in a place where we want to be, so we need to talk about it, touch is part of children's nurturing needs.

There were so many conversations in the room; our European pedagogues in the room were slightly alarmed by the reserved nature and even anxiety around touching children in Scotland.  Some of us remembered the horror of the Edinburgh Enquiry to find out trusted members of staff had abused children in our care and foster carers in the room shared that they “broke the rules” regarding touch.  Some of us were just relieved the discussion was being had.  We know that some adults harm children and we must always be vigilant to adults intent on harm but we also need to continue our conversation about how we care and nurture Scotland’s children and young people and whether or not touch should be an expectation in that nurture?

Catriona Grant
Employee Development Officer (Child Protection)

Some references from the day

Mark and Laura both mentioned Heather Piper....
Piper, H and Stronach, I (2008), Don’t Touch! The Educational Story of a Panic, London, Routledge

Laura also mentioned Tiffany Field, an academic from Miami who is the founder of the Touch Therapy Institute. Here is a link to the website: 

Follow this link to a research paper by Field on ‘relational touch’

Field has also has written a book called ‘Touch’. Some of the research Laura was quoting is in this book.
Field, T (2003), Touch, Bradford Books.

You can also listen to a podcast of Laura Steckley talking about touch (and containment theory) at the Scottish Attachment In Action 2011 Conference

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

And so the finale to the 'festival' arrived with the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas. This event was about sharing the initial discoveries of the festival and an opportunity for merchants to persuade participants with their dangerous ideas.

David Cameron introduced the event and reminded participants that this was an opportunity to challenge ourselves, and our way of  regarding education. 

Karen Lawson gave an overview of the festival achievements so far 30 events, almost half delivered by partner orgnaisations. over 1000 people attending from Thurso to Ayr and 3 college regions deliver events as part of their merger strategy.  Karen also gave an overview of some of the major themes arising from festival events so far:

1. Without Walls: both metaphorical and physical walls that constrain how we provide learning opportunities.  This could be outdoor learning, gaming and also the walls we create that restrict our thinking and ability to be creative in practice.
2. The focus on employability and essential skills - should we now be focussing on the skills young people need to be employers, to be able to create, innovate and manage  their lives.
3. The need for youth work skills training for all teachers and lecturers - how to engage with young people and keep the passion for young people's potential alive.
4. What success and failure mean, and an assessment system and assessment criteria that limit learning.
5. Our own personal and professional power to take risks, try out new ideas - not waiting for permission, but also the type of leadership that builds on peoples capacity to innovate.

 Gillian Hunt from  City of Edinburgh Council and Diarmuid McAuliffe for UWS gave overviews of their events and why they had become involved in the festival.  Gillian talked openly about the taboo subject of touching children and the interest that the event had created, while Diarnuid discussed the intervention of walking, drawing and extending sites of learning as necessary to counteract learning in isolation and in silos.

We had two rounds of dynamic trading from a very mixed group of merchants (see Merchant's Guide) and photos who persuaded and exchanged ideas for dangerous dollars.

The winners from the Merchants were Sense over Sectarinism, Rownbank Environment Education
and Angus College.

One of the highlights of this year's festival was A Walk On the Wildside and Creative leaders for the walk, Paul Gorman gave a challenging account of what was dangerous about the walk and challenged us as participants to think differently and creatively., while Matthew Sowerby shared  his first attempts at making a film about the walk  - See Walk On the Wildside  blog for further Information.

The finale to the day at the Emporium came with the auction of dangerous ideas:

1.    I'm no doing nothin for nothin - student volunteers. 39/42 volunteered. If you perform so well doing something for nothing imagine how good you'll be when you're paid
2.    People can get stuck in their old ways - put into action in self-directed support
3.    Ideas go - platform for your ideas and place to ask for resources. Can put ideas in by categories, use a map.  Could be a collaborative process. Flexible tool.
4.    F... the Timetable Friday (FTTF)- children enter primary as the most excited and creative beings. By time they leave school/college we've kicked that out if them. We're still preparing children for the 18th century.  Trust lecturers, don't give schedule, give time and space.
5.    Inter generational change - we're headed for an inter generational conflict. Middle generation hold the power - it should be the young and old who make the decisions together, take the risks.
6.    College? - free app called strava (?)  Record a journey as you're on it. Physical and internal journey.
7.    Imagination gyms - a workout for the mind. Look for innovation and enterprise but we don't work our imagination to enable us to do it.  15 minute workouts built in to the curriculum.
8.    Pilot your own spaceship - you've got to believe in young people for them to believe in themselves. Imagine and pilot the spaceship. Imagine outside of the ordinary. A spaceship designed for what you are about. Creative skills, imagination.   
9.    Coursemaster - we currently have hugely difficult system to get people into college. Like ticketmaster
10. Gardening - invite retired people to work with children on allotments. Young and old.
11. The answer to good experiences - he has the answer but he needs the dollars to reveal it.

The winners were FTTF and using the Strava App. 

The Emporium was an excellent event for rounding off what had been a dynamic festival, where not only had there been plenty of ideas generated, but also a willingness and energy for putting ideas into practice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education: Walking, Drawing and Extending Sites for Learning

What do you think Prof Tim Ingold was describing here? He was our keynote at the Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education seminar at UWS on Tuesday 18th June 2013. Only those who could not attend this packed out event need respond.

'Without Walls' - An Outdoor Game in Kilmarnock

This morning, Kilmarnock College hosted an outdoor experience for staff from Kilmarnock, James Watt and Ayr colleges, as a way to bring staff together ahead of the upcoming merger into the new Ayrshire College.

We worked with Thom Scullion, a game designer from Glasgow, to create a playful experience to take place in the scenic Dean Country Park. We created 6 teams, each with a mix of staff from the three colleges. The teams were racing to creatively document the park using iPads, receiving instructions by text message from Thom.

We had a brilliant sunny day for our game, and it was great seeing everyone having fun and getting to know new people. The teams responded very creatively to their mission, and bravely experimented with what the iPads could do, creating images, sounds and videos, with some bolder players creating combinations of all three!

After the game was complete, we headed back to the college and used peer marking to determine our winners. In the spirit of the event, we even used our iPads for our evaluation, and are looking forward to going through the players' feedback, however they chose to record it.

Our main aim for today was to explore how we can work without walls, both physically and metaphorically. We are really happy with how the day went, and what was even better was to hear staff members' own ideas of how they could implement similar models for their colleagues and students.

So at the end of it, maybe our dangerous idea is that we can work and learn by allowing ourselves to be playful - and if it's a sunny day in Scotland, even better!

Lesley, Greg, Kenny and Thom

Celebrating Failure and Success in Fort William

As the finale to the Walk On the Wild Side the participants of the walk fed back on what they had learned from their 5 day experience on the West Highland Way. They shared stories about success and failure and what that meant to them within the context of educational assessment.  If success meant completing all of the walk, then several people failed, but, if it meant overcoming obstacles and challenges, supporting others, reflecting on their learning and developing ideas for education than there was an abundance of successes.  The walkers will produce their own reflections and learning from the walk, but all felt it had been an extremely worthwhile experience and one they wouldn't forget.  There was a sense that they had been invested in as individuals in way previously not experienced, and the photographs to follow will tell their own story.

Outward Bound gave a fantastic overview of  Carol Dweck's work on mindsets and demonstrated how they had used this extensively in their work.  It was great to link up  through Skype with UWS and their own event as part of the Festival - Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education, and share some of the findings from the Walk.   Without a doubt the walkers will keep on walking, and we already thinking about what next's year's walk will look like - surely an indication of success.

June 18th- Mindfulness At College : How Can This Enhance Learning and Teaching ?

Lyndsay Lunan  from City of Glasgow  College facilitated a fabulous session on Mindfulness.  The session could have been filled twice over with college staff .They came from a range of teaching areas including Construction, Leisure and Recreation, Hospitality, Business and Administration and Social Sciences. Embedding mindfulness practices into the learning process could be seen as a dangerous idea and slightly subversive as value in our culture is attached to ‘doing’ and being busy . However the evidence  would suggest that it could be dangerous not to practice daily mindfulness based stress reduction  strategies and embed these into our daily lives !

This half day experiential workshop offered a basic introduction to mindfulness and its application in the learning environment. Lyndsay interspersed mindfulness exercises with information giving in a seamless way . She gave practical examples of how mindfulness tools can be applied to everyday college life to enhance the learning and teaching experience for both staff and students.The only criticism was that the session was too short and the morning flew in. I definitely shifted from being mindless to more mindful as the morning progressed  and I think everyone else did . Long may that last ! Everyone is keen to keep the mindfulness conversation going next session so watch this space !

Breakfast in the Botanics

An early morning breakfast of free and local foods was a great way for myself and sixty others to start their day at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I began my breakfast with a coffee and a sausage sandwich (thanks to Pepper Pig  previously of Gorgie City Farm) before being introduced to some of their chickens (not on the menu) who were making their debut the following day at the Highland Show .  I then moved onto the buckwheat blinis with creme fraiche, chrysanthemum petals and chive flowers and washed it down with nettle tea.

In between the munching, gardening and foraging experts were on hand to show us how to gather and grow food in the city .The focus was on organic and sustainable techniques from permaculture to living walls. In addition we were provided with a variety of recipes to try out for ourselves so be warned!

Sandy MacLean, College Development Network

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

17th June -Teaching Communication Units : Flashflood Meeting of Minds

Communication lecturers from across Scotland came together to share their 'dangerous' ideas ! The focus was specifically on the teaching of Communication Units at both Core Skills and HN levels. It was recognised that 'dangerous' was a subjective concept and a teaching approach might feel  'dangerous' or risky to one lecturer but not another or with one group of students and not another .

The event focused on the following themes :
  • Engaging and fun ways to teach reading, writing, listening and talking
  • Digital teaching - what's fun and accessible
  • What differentiates teaching approaches/methodology in Commuication Units at Core Skills and HN levels
  • Integrating Communication Units with ICT Units
  • Going paperless with assessment and feedback evidence
There were brief presentations by members of the network on each of these themes . This acted as a stimulus for small group discussions and the generation of ideas which were fed back into the larger group in very creative and innovative ways as evidenced by the photos.

Practitoners were energetic,enthusiastic and highly motivated . The College Development Network will collate all ideas and the resources generated and disseminate to both those who attended the event and the wider Network.


Edinburgh Dangerous Philosophy Cafe

It was great to sit round the table with a diverse group of people debating whether or not it was time to tear up the foundations of an outmoded education system and rebuild to a new design for modern times.

We were joined by the New School Action Group who are calling for alternatives within state education.

Interesting that 3 of our participants had been education in former communist regimes but still found our Scottish education system oppressive.

Some of the hotly debated issues were:
  • personalisation and choice
  • Poor leadership in schools
  • No career progression for teachers - young, creative teachers are not heard
  • Class sizes are too big, resources are limited
  • Need more diversity to give real choice - free schools
  • Stifled by exams
  • What are the outcomes of our education system?
  • Need an alternative to SQA
  • Teachers should have more autonomy
  • Academies in the state system
thanks to Ray Miller for facilitating the cafe. And to The Links Bar for providing an excellent venue.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Moving Image as a Vehicle for Knowledge Creation

We had a thought provoking cinematic experience on Friday.   The GTC Scotland HQ in Edinburgh was transformed into multi-screen cinema for the afternoon, complete with popcorn! 

The event was run by the GTC Scotland in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and Lansdowne Productions with the aim of exploring a new teaching resource called ‘Learning Through Film’.  The resource is based on 10 short documentary films that make up The New 10 Commandments, a feature length film that looks at the meaning of Human Rights in Scotland.    Created by artists and filmmakers such as Tilda Swinton, Irvine Welsh and Douglas Gordon, these films use powerful images to explore hard hitting Human Rights issues including:
  • Right not to be tortured
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to privacy
  • Right not to be enslaved
  • Right to freedom of thought
  • Right to life
  • Right to freedom of assembly
  • Right to asylum
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to a fair trial.

We were split into four groups and given one of the short films to watch and then discuss, before coming together for a panel discussion with the facilitators and Human Rights organisations.  We were delighted that a group of 5th year pupils from the local high school were able to join us for the afternoon.

For more information about this new resource, visit

Hugh thank you to GTC Scotland for organising such a dangerous event!

Change the Way We Design Everything! Ellen McArthur Foundation

Thanks to Colin Webster and the Ellen McArthur Foundation for a great evening as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on Thursday 13 June at the MAKLAB in The Lighthouse Glasgow. 

Colin led us through an exploration of the economy as it is and how we could work towards developing a more circular economy.  We looked at the influences affecting fundamental changes to how we design products and systems and as you can see from the photographs we had a chance to ‘teardown’ some objects and play with screwdrivers and related tools!  It was an excellent opportunity to really think about system change, considering how to approach design of products and services with rebuild rather than redundancy built in. 

Feedback from the session has been really positive with 100% of respondents choosing the most positive answer for most of the questions which included:
  • I have enjoyed the day
  • The ideas we have been dealing with today stimulated me

 Comments made included:
  • Always good to have a good forum for the discussion on change
  • Love the MAKLAB
  • The circular economy supports the concept of radical change being possible
  • We need this fundamental rethinking of manufacturing
  • So excited about using ideas in the classroom
  • Q: What would I change? A: Nothing, absolutely nothing.  Brilliant
  • I've been given a lot to think about, thanks
  • I'd like to have longer to explore further
  • Perfect venue - alive with innovation and creativity!
  • Really interesting event
See the website for more information on the Ellen McArthur Foundation

Lesley Whelan, College Development Network