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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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Emporium Photographs Now Available

Photographs from the two week Emporium are now available and can be viewed on the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas facebook page.


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Emporium Finale

The last day of the Emporium took place today at The Kelpies.  Some of the photos below:

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance"

That was perhaps the best quote from a day packed with creating ideas that will ensure that education is not going to kill creativity and enterprise. It’s a challenge to sum up the energy and vitality of  the day, but here are some of the highlights!

Jamie Cooke from RSA provided an eloquent and thought-provoking account of the RSA’s tradition of funding enterprise and innovation through a focus on disruption and creativity, giving the resurgence of the premium (a public prize for innovation) as one it’s recent endeavours.  He gave a clear context for the RSA’s interest in creativity – 53,000 young people not in work or education – we need to encourage ‘the power to create’ as creativity is without a doubt our most important resource. For Jamie it was clearly a move from employability to enterprise.
Brian Humphrey, Innovation Manager, Skills Development Scotland
 provided with us a fascinating overview of what is happening elsewhere in Europe, where unemployment figures for young people have not hit the dizzying heights of the UK. He focussed on comparisons with Switzerland, Germany and Norway where there is a greater emphasis on vocation education and being able to make greater choices of where you study at an earlier age.  There appears to be greater fluidity in the other European models and more parity of esteem between academic and vocational routes with employers  much more engaged in the curriculum design as well as delivery. 
Brian also talked about the focus on STEM subjects and of course made reference to the Wood Report and the Government’s focus on encouraging growth in the sciences.  There was a sense that we need to consider what jobs there are going to be for young people on leaving education, and perhaps guide young people earlier into potential growth areas.  However, this immediately raises a conflict with encouraging young people to ‘find their passion’ and develop their creativity.  One participant wrote “STEM is important but it is not the only growth sector. To write off the creative industries is to wrote off £54 billion into the economy. How about  expending energy into linking STEM with the creative industries?”
If Jamie and Brian provided a wider context for the day, perhaps illustrating the struggle between agendas on creativity, enterprise and employability, the next two speakers illustrated incredible enterprising and creative approaches to education that would certainly result in learners becoming both employable and with the ability to start and maintain their own business.
Alison Fletcher and the Teampreneurs  from Team Academy Bristol really challenged what we mean by an enterprising curriculum. The four teampreneurs exemplified learner centred learning assisted by no formal classes and a team coaching approach.  They had all set up businesses, made loads of mistakes, reflected on the learning and used theory and knowledge to support their endeavours. It seems an ideal model, and not one that should be restricted to higher education.  They engaged us completely with a well-focused  activity, turning our varied table of participants into entrepreneurs. Is this the way forward.  Don’t wait to be employed, use your passions and built your skills and knowledge to support your ventures.  Certainly some of the teampreneurs saw themselves as being self-emplyed but two wanted to work in an organisation,  putting  their varied skills and knowledge into an established practice for a few years.
Working in an enterprising way with established micros and SMEs was at the heart of Dundee and Angus College’s Fiona Mushin and  Dawn Ritchie’s  presentation.  Fiona described how she had gone from lecturer in a classroom to project manager, ripping up the timetable along the way.  She described a changing role for lecturers, again with more emphasis on coaching, and teaching through webinars designed around learners’ needs.  All of this was fascinating, providing models for what can be done if we approach the curriculum creatively, enter into dialogue with awarding bodies like SQA and engage businesses in the design of the curriculum.  Moreover, from learner Dawn’s perspective it’s engaged her in real, challenging work, where  she has had to think for herself, use the lecturer as a resource, and view herself in a business relationship.
By the end of the day, participants from across the educational landscape were willing to commit to taking many of the ideas generated and shared from the day forward. Small networks sprung up keen to take forward both Fiona’s model and team Academy’s approach.  Jamie Cooke from RSA was also committing to providing a space for further dialogue bringing the silos of education, employers, enterprise and creativity together.  
This wasn’t an event for just sharing dangerous ideas, this was definitely the springboard for action that ensures that education does not kill creativity and enterprise.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Invisible Launch became visible..

The launch came and went in the blink of an eye.  Suddenly all was visible, but was it what participants (and speakers) expected and did it live up to our expectations of creating something that was challenging, unlike a traditional launch, and would it shift the axis in education?

Unlike a traditional format, speakers did not appear on a podium one after another to provoke or inspire.  They were hidden in the shops on The Street in the Riverside Museum - an Emporium of Dangerous Ideas. Each shop became a den of danger, with merchants selling their ideas, but more importantly engaging in conversations about enterprising education, public services, town centres, international cooperation,  the importance of failure and what the future for Scotland could be (regardless of the referendum).   In one den, only one person could enter at a time, and without even a merchant present, they were invited to enter a dream like state that will unfold throughout the rest of the Emporium.  It certainly wasn't a traditional launch.

The photography shop hosted some stunning images of Glasgow captured by students at City of Glasgow of students.  They could have sold many, but they didn't.  Why not?  Across the street Elinor Vettraino , from Fife College was inspiring every customer with her account of Team Academy and a whole, enterprising movement that using coaching instead of formal teaching and students set their businesses up from the beginning.  In talking to the art students the thought of making their art a business was far from their minds, but should it be this way? 

A man who certainly challenged our thoughts about the status quo and the role we all play in creating change was Nick Carter. More, more used to exploring the heights of mountains and polar icecaps Nick found himself in the 'subway', and played the nearest thing to the role of traditional speaker.  His tales of adventure and challenge, with equal doses of risk taking and failure were captivating and exhilarating.  He was also extremely challenging in his endeavour to make us take responsibility for our failures.  None of the "it wasn't me"," I told you this wasn't going to work"," it will all work out in the end"," well we did our best" , if circumstances were different". The point was - take ownership of your failure and learn from it! Don't allow yourself to remain in the blame culture that would be appear to be endemic in our culture, including our education. 

At the physical and metaphorical heart of the Emporium was the real David Cameron, holding court in the pub, as customers came and went.  As David himself said, never has he seemed so comfortable in a role. He played the part excellently, as if he was chatting to a bunch of regulars about every aspect of life: their thoughts; gripes; hopes; ideas; aspirations.  I am sure there were punters in there for the entire duration of the launch.  David's skill and ability to include everyone in a discussion, to remember people's names, jobs and ideas, and demonstrate interest in them goes unparalleled. He demonstrates what it means to be an excellent teacher. 

The Launch was demanding of its participants - they had to negotiate the Street, decide which emporia to visit, consider what this meant to their contexts and how they could take this further (if desired) into their future work. Some, I think we have preferred to be talked at, to be inspired from afar.  
However, that is not in the ethos of a Curriculum for Excellence, or a move towards developing a more creative and enterprising culture in education.  

In his final words for the day David Cameron  persuaded us to reconsider where learning  takes place: not only in the institutions set up for this purpose but also in the magnificent public buildings like the Riverside Museum.  How can we use public spaces differently? With a finale that ends inside the most iconic of  public art in Scotland: The kelpies,   he also reminded us that "while others talk about imagination, adventure, risk taking The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas, run by College Development Network, goes ahead and delivers all of that!"

Thursday, 5 June 2014

So what's it all about?

As the launch draws ever nearer ( only 14 hours to go) I have been reflecting on what the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas is really about.  The interest from various press agencies looking for examples of schools and children doing dangerous things, or developing a curriculum that encourages risk taking and failure, has
once again struck me that anything to do with education is automatically associated with children - perhaps not surprisingly so.

The Emporium is of course mainly about (but not exclusively)  about college education and how we can do things differently.  Colleges connect to all other sectors of education so essentially the Emporium taps into every area of learning, and if we consider this as a system, when we change one area it should/could bring changes to the whole system.

Increasing I've come to realise that the Emporium is about creativity in education: how we view the education system, how we lead it, they way we develop and deliver the curriculum.  The Emporium allows a genuine opportunity to play with possibilities, to share ideas, visions, take risks by modelling a different view or a different way to engage with learners.

The risk taking is difficult to manage in a climate that wants to know in advance what the outcomes will be.  In the run up to the Emporium there is a paradoxical motivation to provide events that will please the participants with a need to model creative approaches that fully engage the participants in their learning. That's not always comfortable.  Each year we do something we haven't done before and I think each year we take more risks - failure is never far from our minds.  And yet, isn't that one of our key aims - to model trying something different and not succeeding in order to learn and develop.

If we keep in mind that the purpose is to generate and share ideas, to play with possibilities, in order to shift the axis in education, we will learn from whatever happens.

Enjoy the Emporium and make sure you you take a risk in shaping the education of the future.


The Invisible Launch

Come and see the photography shop as you have never seen it before as City of Glasgow College students showcase their incredible work at the Riverside Museum.  View the photos on Facebook.

Book online for The Invisible Launch: