Continuing on from the Sunday Service I was ready for some more exciting and innovative thinking at Learning Without Frontiers – Day 2. The day kicked off with a Welcome & Introduction by Graham Brown-Martin, where he introduced a variety of speakers. There was an interesting talk from Iris Lapinski, who runs Apps for Good, a programme where young people learn to create apps. The talk was mainly focusing around themes of problem solving and making people’s lives easier. Iris called upon a student to come and talk about an Oyster Card App where users can check the amount of money left on their card. The app also gave people the option of depositing more money if they were low. The app was made because they identified a problem many people were experiencing, to back this up many people in the room agreed that they too had come across this problem and had caused them to me late for work/meetings/appointments.
Then we had a talk from Theodore Gray, Co-founder and Wolfram Alpha and author of The Elements iPad App. I really enjoyed this talk, he was quite unconventional but his quirky sense of humour was similar to mine. Basically he talked about his learning of the Periodic Table as a younger man, and how when reading about it he thought it was a physical table. So to his amazement when he found it was a different kind of table he was still fixated on what the periodic table might look like if it were actually indeed and physical table. So he made one and started to collect the different elements, and it actually started to look like a piece of scientific artwork. He even registered the web domain periodictabletable.com. He then discussed how this started to become his life’s obsession and had turned all of his work into a book and eventually a traditional eBook (if they exist). At this point the talk changed focus as he touched upon how Steve Jobs had brought the iPad to market. And how this was the ticket he was waiting for, a platform thats intuitive and engaging where he could turn his book into something more than just facts and still images, but portray the information in a much more interactive way so people can engage with the science. He was referring to his app as an eBook, and in a sense it was, but not in the way I had been thinking about eBooks. You know… the usual .mobi or .epub, these filetypes have there limitations but transferring the knowledge into a new format with more functionality but more or less keeping the format the same.
While discovering the video above, I also found the Periodic Table song in Japanese which is something Theodore showed at the conclusion of his talk. I think this is to go with this Japanese release of his app. Check it out, I think its awesome. Also see the English version if you are unfamiliar with the Periodic Table Song.
Then we had Saul Nassé, Controller for BBC Learning. He was great too. It was good to see him talk about the popular BBC bitesize and also discussing the direction BBC were taking by using the Eastenders E20 series as an example. Getting the young cast to contribute to the storyline so people their age could learn from on screen experiences. Also in the Q&A session he discussed the need for linear broadcasting in an on demand world which was predicable as he works for British Broadcasting Corporation but I do agree with him.
Final talk of the morning was delivered by Evan Roth, an artist & researcher and working for Graffiti Research Lab. He was a very interesting speaker. Firstly I was sceptical, he was an artist, so he opened up with some very conceptual pieces of work with censorship and Google, but as the talk was continuing I could see he was warming the audience with humour and thinking laterally. This then lead him to his later work, which I was amazed with. Basically they had built a machine and projection kit called ‘Eye Writer‘ where a guy who was completely paralysed could write graffiti purely by the motion of his eyes. This meant he could write words to communicate and draw pictures without the use of his limbs. Amazing stuff and fantastic for those in a more unfortunate situation. This was a great end to the morning just before lunch.
After lunch it gave me the chance to break out and dip into the Game Based Learning academic research strand, where there promised to be a host of speakers delivering their stuff. As it turned out there were less speakers, but there was one guy (which I didn’t catch the name of) using Nintendo Wii’s in education and DS’. They pointed out plenty of advantages for using the technology identifying pupils who had particularly excelled. One interesting thing that came out of this for me though was witnessing the divide between those in the room who think commercial games should be used for learning and those who thought educational games could be developed using principles from the commercial games. Before this I was a believer that educational games could be developed using principles from the commercial games, but thats only because the former hadn’t even occurred to me. I thought surely playing commercial games didn’t have much educational value for things such as knowledge transfer, but I suppose they are in certain circumstances.
This was an interesting closing point for the day, but it did leave me thinking (which is a good thing coming out of a conference). There are three parties, those who have a desire for the use of commercial games in education, those who can use gaming principles in educational games and those who think there is no place for games in an education setting.