Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Teach Meet Tech London 3: Networking People And Technology

360 image from the Teach Meet Tech afternoon unconference https://flic.kr/p/Q5XDFV

The aim of Teach Meet Tech is to embrace and pioneer a contemporary, complex, networked, interdependent and adaptive view of the world and of education and technology.

Teach Meet Tech seeks to pop the standard filter bubbles of education by networking as many of the different parts of education as possible - bringing together people from schools, community education, adult education, sixth form colleges, further education, higher education, non profits, enterprise - mixing students, teachers, IT people, education managers, the public and business people together in one informal and fun event.

Teach Meet Tech 3 was an inspireNshare education and technology  fusion event in association with CCS Libraries, and the LMN  - all of which are involved in various ways with connecting people and connecting people with technology. InspireNshare promote people centric, cultural, creative and holistic approaches with education, technology, business and life. CCS Libraries are re-thinking and re-inventing local public libraries for the future - exploring their role within society, the content and technologies they provide access to and the activities that take place within them. The LMN will be familiar to most network managers in the education sector - they ran the London wide high-speed data backbone and connections which connected us to the Internet between 1997 and 2011. Today the LMN are networking people - providing training, professional development peer exchange programmes and promoting excellence in IT services for students and staff.

Teach Meet Tech 3 was held in Thornton Heath children's library - significant, symbolic and deliberate as public libraries are true life-long, life-wide community education spaces for everyone. A children's library is a space for learning enjoyment and Thornton Heath children's library is stimulating, colourful, playful and flexible - a perfect venue for Teach Meet Tech.

At Teach Meet Tech we talk about innovative education and pedagogy but had been using a pretty standard "stand and deliver" conference format of presentations. For Teach Meet Tech 3 it was time to start "practicing what we preached" - "stand and deliver" formats can have great value so we kept a loose conference format for the morning and experimented with an unconference type format for the afternoon with lots more HOHO (Hands On Heads On) with things and conversations between people.

Conference: Hector Minto presenting  “Are we accessible yet?  Who’s responsibility is it?” 

Teach Meet Tech 3 began with a welcome from Martin King talked about Scale Free Schools and the role of libraries in 21st century education as venues for open, life-long, life wide and family learning. Martin explained "fusion" concept of the event and talked about the importance of diversity, inclusion, networking, connection and working across boundaries 

Nigel Dias talked about Croydon Tech City using a short presentation and an excellent question answer and discussion session. Nigel spoke about Future Tech City (FTC) and projects that connect young people with technology opportunities and technology startups. Nigel gave an update on the latest FTC developments - traineeships and apprenticeships and the start of FTC connected library tech zones such as the new one in Croydon Children's library. 

Miles Metcalf gave us a Festive Surprise with a review of the year - zooming out in a wide ranging talk about big issues in technology and society from Brexit, Trump, elitist education, the perils and potentials of virtual reality, the power of technology companies, technology dependence, privacy, truth and the importance of learning in the 21st century.

Martin King presented "Human In The loop" - a talk about the problems of systems thinking ... about how convergent, analytic, prescriptive and deterministic system centric thinking leads to not just poor design for humans but design which discriminates and can even be dangerous. He talked about the advantages of design thinking ... about how divergent, synthetic and human centric thinking that can make life not just easier but also enjoyable and fun and how this obliquely leads to better systems which are more effective and efficient. Martin talked about the need to strike a balance in education between quantitative "SMART" skills (which can be more easily automated by machines) and qualitative soft skills such as creativity, imagination and empathy.

Hector Minto presented deep and wide about accessibility and assistive technology in “Are we accessible yet?  Who’s responsibility is it?”. Rather than make "reasonable adjustments" Hector argued for inclusive design sensitive to individual differences and local culture. Hector spoke about human diversity and about neurodiversity in particular ... we are all different - variation is not a problem but normal and natural and technology can help us mediate and accommodate rather than simply assimilate our differences. Hector spoke about Microsoft's mission with accessibility "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more ... there are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it." Hector spoke about the potential of new technology interfaces such as voice input to Enable everyone and demonstrated the Microsoft language translator app"Like me" bias is a common problem for inclusive design so Hector demonstrated some recent and upcoming tools from Microsoft such as the Microsoft Accessibility checker that can help us check our designs and documents for accessibility.

Unconference: Hands On Heads On with tech and conversation
After the conference we took down the projector and screen, randomised the seats for a decentralised, unstructured and non-linear "unconference" of spontaneous simultaneous activities.

There is value in the standard lecture\presentation format but I have always noticed how social dynamics change with and without the central point of focus of a presenter with a projector and screen. It was a real joy to take down the projector and screen and watch peer to peer conversations emerge naturally. In a sense a projector can facilitate peer to peer discussion by being turned off. The buzz of conversation reminded me of playtime at school ... after the constraints in lessons children unleash their imagination and energy in the freedom of play. The Teach Meet Tech 3 unconference gave us freedom to play ... it was playtime :) 

Playing with Mixed reality
Hector Minto brought a Microsoft Hololens with him and we played mixed reality.  Hololens augments our reality by projecting virtual things into our field of view - we see the people and things around us but also see what the system shows us. Its generally only our heads that go into virtual reality ... what I liked about Hololens is that our hands are also mapped in - we can see our real fingers in the real world and at the same time "touch" things in the virtual world. The common gesture I saw with people using Google Glass augmented reality was the "salut" ... the swiping the side of the glasses to scroll menus and tap options. The common gesture I saw everyone doing with Hololens was "the finger" ... pressing virtual buttons in the mixed reality before your eyes. Another thing I liked about Hololens is that there is no "umbilical cord" to a PC and no need to use your phone for the screen and the computation ... Hololens is standalone .. its got a computer inside it ... this makes Hololens expensive but it is a real joy to use a self contained system and be able move around freely without getting tangled up in wires. Another thing about Mixed or blended reality systems is that because you can see your surrounding and they are mapped into the system ... there is tremendous potential for social use for systems like Hololens ... if you can afford more than one of them that is :)

Playing with virtual reality
Martin King brought Samsung's Gear VR and Gear 360 camera and we played taking virtual reality selfies and seeing ourselves our surroundings and people around us in virtual reality. People are familiar with seeing ourselves in two dimensions on flat media such as photos and videos but seeing themselves in virtual reality is something new. The VR selfie is the strangest selfie yet and In-situ virtual reality is strangely compelling and messes with people's senses as they move from the familiar two dimensional passive voyeurism of flat media perspectives to the active immersive first person perspective of virtual reality.  The best lie is close to the truth - In-situ VR is close to reality and gets the closest I've seen yet to confusing people that what they are seeing is real - people seem spell-bound looking around, many start reaching out to touch things and many can't resist moving around.

Playing with 3D printing
Carlos Izsak brought his Makercart and Printrbot 3D printer and we played with 3D printing. What fascinated me about the Printrbot is how small and portable it is and how it solves the mechanics of 3D printing. I'm used to 3D printers with the print head moving covering both the X and Y co-ordinates so it was fascinating to see the Printrbot having the print head cover the X axis (forward and backward) and the print bed move to cover the Y axis (left and right) as well as the Z axis (moving down for each layer in the 3rd dimension). Carlos 3D printed little bookmark samples for us .. a very relevant demonstration in a library.


For more photos of Teach Meet Tech London 3 visit https://flic.kr/s/aHskNDgF1E

For more information about Teach Meet Tech visit http://inspirenshare.com/tmt

For more information about InspireNshare visit http://inspirenshare.com

No comments:

Post a Comment