Cardiff may be a small city but it certainly knows how to put on a good show. The beautiful Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff Bay was jam-packed with exhibitors, speakers, workshops and discussions with attendees ranging from wannabe start-ups to big business moguls, politicians to street food vendors.
Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies featured highly on the agenda, which seems hugely different to DigitalFest 2017 where the only mention of blockchain I heard was by accident sitting at the back of a small presentation drinking my coffee. It was obvious from the discussions that most people have no idea what it is or how it works. Thankfully the consensus was that most people don’t need to, in the same way that most people don’t know how their mobile phone works, you can remain blissfully unaware whilst blockchain technology is working away in the background, quietly de-centralising your data storage.
The most interesting and useful parts of conferences for me are always the interactive workshops and round-table discussions. I’m in good company because these sessions were well attended. Sadly the layout let us down and what was probably envisaged as an open space, open discussion, was more like, well, trying to hold a workshop in a busy corridor. Nevertheless I managed to take plenty away from it all; how social enterprises can harness digital for the greater good, lessons to be learned from digital innovations in rural Africa, Richard Theo’s tips on being an entrepreneur, and how we deal with some of the darker side of digital; fake news, propaganda, online gambling addiction, cyberbullying, data and privacy. All of which will be appearing in my resources for YETI and MIA in the very near future!
Jen and I went along to the National Digital Learning Event and Awards in Cardiff earlier in June. We handed out Taccle books and went to some workshops. There were a few to choose from but I attended a technocamps session which explored some ways of teaching computer science using lego bricks, (build a simple lego structure, now explain to your partner how to build an identical structure without them seeing what you have built) using people, (direct your person around the room using simple commands) and using Cargo Bot. I like what technocamps do, kit like Lego Mindstorms is pretty expensive, so they take the kit around to secondary schools and colleges across Wales for one day workshops. For lots of ideas about how to teach computing, coding and programming for the rest of the year you could check out the Taccle2 blog and the Babitech page.
In the afternoon I had fun playing with Sonic Pi , which uses code for composing and performing music, you can see me in the video below (just after the 2 minute mark) getting flustered because there was a mistake in my loop. Don’t let that put you off, it was really good fun and a great way to get instant and useful results form your code.
The best thing about the day was seeing the great things being done across Wales with Ponty locals Big Click scooping the Commercial Digital Project Award
You can see all of the other inspirational kids and teachers getting their tech on at the Hwb website with projects like e-safety, coding with minecraft, creating an interactive local map and staging a robot wars competition.
Keep an eye out for next years entries, Welsh kids are good with technology, the competition should be tough!
I had a pretty exciting and busy couple of days in London during their annual technology week.
Straight off the train I met Vini from Quizalize which is hands down the best online quiz creator for educators I have used yet with the added bonus feature of live feedback. I don’t think they are embeddable but the option of creating your own quiz app is in the pipeline.
Next I took an hour out to explore the What is Luxury? exhibition at the V&A. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of art with science and technology; a diamond made from the compressed ashes of the script of Superman 3 and a vending machine dispensing DNA samples.
The following morning I headed to Olympia for the Learning Technologies Summer Forum. Amongst the myriad of sales pitches and off the peg e-learning solutions (as if learning were something to be solved) for managing learning were a few gems. e-learning studios presented their virtual reality training courses where fully immersed in a virtual environment you can deal with an office fire, experience a day in the life of a face cream or familiarise yourself with the basics of a passenger jet cockpit. At $350 for an OcculusRift it’s not exactly accessible technology but then there is always Google Cardboard and there are plenty of games and learning experiences for free.
Then I sat down for a cup of coffee and accidentally listened to Telefónica talking about their use of linda.com for workplace learning. I was pleasantly surprised. Basically they let their staff choose whatever it is they want to learn from the lynda.com instructional videos collection, and I mean anything. Success is measured in terms of hours of video watched and staff morale. They described it as an holistic approach to staff development.
In the afternoon I headed over to Holborn for Dragon Hall’s TechDay. Dragon Hall were involved in the RadioActive project and are still making great internet radio. It’s fair to say that they were inspired by the project to keep on introducing their young people to more new technologies.
The event was meant to inspire and it certainly delivered. There were kids running Minecraft on a RaspberryPi and coding in python to create their worlds rather than using the standard controls; programing enduino cubes with emoticons; Building kano computers from scratch – they were up and running playing games within minutes (click the link and scroll down, impressive stuff!); playing with software where you hand draw your own race track and then race a car around it; makeymakey; bee-bot; scratch; squishy circuits; stop motion animation using an iPhone; 3D printing; oculus rift, google cardboard and more.
The room was buzzing and there was a real sense of excitement for the future.
All of this leaves me thinking – makerspace in Ponty? Who’s in?