Learning, freedom and the web

Three days of passionate conversations with people who are excited to be exploring new sustainable models of education and learning-by-doing, forging the latest technologies with old and new ideas. That's the best I can do to summarize my experience of the Mozilla Drumbeat Learning, freedom and the web festival in one sentence. It was unreal.

The festival began with music, food and a science-fair of various new projects. I had a t-shirt printed (a graphic from the "Changing educational paradigms" RSA animation) which was great for starting conversations around the Learning Goals project. I felt my voice going towards the end of the evening, but it was exciting for me to be able to chat with so many people about the project and learning in general.

The next day began with a couple of keynotes, one by Mitchell Baker which helped me frame the Mozilla Foundation's motivation for the drumbeat project itself.  I then joined a small group workshop with Laurie (startl), Matt (Mozilla) and Karien (Shuttleworth foundation) and five other participants to discuss our projects and how we can best present them. We each wrote up a 2-min pitch for feedback and then presented them the following day getting more valuable feedback from other participants (in my case, leading to a total re-write and 1-minute Learning Goals intro video).

The rest of my conference time was spent mostly with the Peer-2-Peer University folk. It was exciting not only to learn about possible integration points for my own project, but also discussing the future of assessment and use of badges for assessment. P2PU got started just over 2 years ago with funding from the Shuttleworth foundation and it now has a very active community with lots of volunteers organizing a variety courses (with varying success). It shares some similarities with SchoolOfEverything, but is more 'course'-centric fusing online tools in addition to linking people up to learn something together. I reckon bringing together organizational projects like this with open educational resource projects (like the Khan Academy) will change education and learning (like this video-game interface to the Khan academy).

I followed the "Badges for assessment" track - exploring the idea that StackOverflow-style badges could be awarded for assessment instead of things like certificates for qualifications. There were lots of interesting discussions about issues (verification/authentication, who awards, what competencies underly a badge, etc.), and P2PU is going to work with Mozilla to flesh out the ideas using the P2PU School of Webcraft.

As always, the best conversations continued on after hours or into lunch breaks. Simply being in an environment where conversations with people who are just as excited about an open future of learning and education were possible was a dream in itself. I think nearly everyone came away from Drumbeat with lots of new ideas, new friends and collaborators, and a re-fuelled motivation to continue exploring better ways of learning in the future.

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