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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Monday, 8 September 2014

You teach who you are?

Education conferences can be a bit of a mixed bag, but invariably you learn something. Rather than just adding to the range of teaching methodologies, the best speakers question the nature and purpose of education, including the role of the teacher/lecturer. I recently attended an education conference in Newcastle, and two speakers stood out, ultimately because they challenged the orthodoxy of educational institutions as the disseminators of knowledge,and their genuine interest in the promotion of authentic learning experiences for young people.

Both David Price, author of 'Open', championed by Ken Robinson, and Colin Jones, from the Innovation Research Dept. in the University of Tasmania, argued that the nature of technology and changing work patterns mean that learners have different needs for social and borderless learning where there is a predominance of challenge, fun and collegiality. No longer will the lecturer be the director of learning, the holder of knowledge, based in a static institution. For both these speakers there has been a shift from pedagogy to andragogy to heutagogy.  

Colin Jones, in explaining his emancipatory approach to education pedagogy asks us educators about the following:
Who decides?
  1. Learning outcomes
  2. Content
  3. Learning activities
  4. Nature and application of assessment
  5. Timing of all learning processes
Colin inspired us by asking great questions. 
How engaged are your students? What type of emancipatory behaviours should educators use?
I particularly liked this question from jeans and tee-shirt clad Colin "Do you need to dress up to look as if you have authority, and you also need to stand at the front of the class?" 

He also asked us questions he asks of his learners. What is your purpose? If you can't figure out your purpose, figure out your passion, for your passion will lead you directly to your purpose. Always start with your passion. His emphasis was on developing and encouraging curiosity in students, and supporting them to be more self-directed.

What does this mean for educators? For me, it means teaching from the side, helping students and staff to create challenging and authentic learning experiences, encouraging them to learn what they are passionate about and engaging with them in different places, at different times and through different means.

Many of the lecturers present at the conference were less than happy about this vision of the future preferring the institutionally based learning and a traditional pedagogical approach.One asked Colin about the work/life balance which could be in jeopardy from emailing students at different times of the day and evening. His reply was "you teach who you are" - it suited him but individual lecturers would have to find their own style. 

Do you know what you are passionate about, do you teach who you are?

Both David and Colin have been asked to participate in next year's Emporium of Dangerous Ideas.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Could The Emporium Be a Micro-brewery?

The Emporium will shortly reopen as we start to plan next year’s extravaganza.  Though it’s a loose sort of plan, never really knowing what will happen and what key themes will emerge.   At the moment all we know is that it will happen in June, and we need to keep it dangerous. Please use this forum to highlight the issues and ideas that matter to you, as this keeps the events relevant and meaningful.
We are still working on both the evaluations and creating a virtual tour where you will be able to access some of the videos and materials  that were produced over the two weeks. Already we have a sense of how important the concept of the Emporium is and some of the comments are outlined below: 

·         The concept captures the imagination, making you feel empowered, liberated and that anything is possible.
·         Great concept, brilliant to keep pushing forward with education and to keep encouraging creativity, also great to offer inspiration and motivation for people working in the sector
·         It gives you ‘permission’ to try things in a new way, and the guts to talk about things that are often taboo – it’s unique, refreshing and vital for the sector
·         It’s a much needed concept which should enable the education sector and beyond to challenge their understanding of current and planned practice

This is at the heart of the Emporium; the need to challenge orthodoxy, whether this is in practice or in policy.  However, the Emporium is only open in June and we need to ensure that this ethos or spirit exists throughout the year, particularly in light of the national frenzy around employability and the development of initiatives that will embed the employability skills into all areas of the school and college curriculum.  At the same time we also have a national agenda for developing the creativity skills of all young people.  So we now have to evidence how we are promoting and embedding the development and value of creative skills​ within the context of the employability.
This has an impact on the professional development (CPD) offered in schools and colleges and on those who manage it. A concern highlighted in numerous conversations is that a managerialist and reductionist approach could become prevalent resulting in a series of limited CPD offerings, with traditional pedagogical approaches on  how to embed creativity and employability into the curriculum, paradoxically further diminishing the creativity of teachers/lecturers and the innate creativity and passions of learners.  Much could also be said about the dominance of a discourse that infers that the reasons young people are not in employment is due to their lack of ‘employability skills’ rather than focussing on  the economic system, and the privileging of a   curriculum which prioritises subjects that are deemed to be relevant to the current employment , but that will be for a future debate.
As someone, whose  raison d’etre  is to lead and support professional development, with a particular focus on creativity I’m been reflecting on my own learning and development , and what this means for the coming academic year, and more particularly for the Emporium.  Last week I met up with Paul Gorman from Hidden Giants, ostensibly to reflect on some of the Emporium events and also consider some changes to another leadership programme we work on together. As with all good, enriching conversations we meandered from one subject to another, until Paul told me about his current interest in micro-breweries. He knew little more than I did (though he had a book), but was both curious and intrigued by micro-brewers’ ability to create a range of diverse, specialist beers that appealed to an equally diverse and discerning customer.   Perhaps we both just liked the quote from the book 'I always saw CAMRA (campaign for real ales) as political, as a radical movement, challenging entrenched and powerful interests' ( Christopher Hutt, 2013). This sparked off the most wonderful of conversations about teaching/lecturing as a micro-brewery activity.  It was fantastical, imaginative and challenging.  It made me reassess all the recent creativity workshops I had delivered, with a consideration that all I had been offering was a Tennents Special approach (apologies to Tennents).   Was I focusing my teaching on fixed notions of creativity, and whose interests were being served? Could I have  supported each individual to develop their own sense of creativity in how they approached their teaching practice.  I could tell you more, but it’s Paul’s idea, his creativity and his exploration – I’m just nicking a bit.

Conversations like this are vital, to not only  the development of creativity in learning, but also the personal and professional development of  practitioners. They are born out of trust, a willingness to be challenged, to take risks, to consider that we can all learn from one another.  There is a joy in sharing ideas, building on those ideas, watching them flourish, whilst also knowing they may not actually go anywhere.   Even if Paul doesn't take forward his micro-brewery approach to creative learning, my ideas have changed, my understanding of my practice has developed and I feel that I have been part of a creative process.  Was this a nationally, validated and certificated CDP session organised by my HR department? No. Could the Emporium become a micro-brewery of creative learning next year?  Let me know what you think, while I nip off to visit Leith’s micro-brewery, all in the name of research.