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Festival to look, listen and learn

As each new generation arrives at the school gate, education must evolve to meet their needs, Douglas Blane writes

Change is the essence of education. So SETT 2005 will not just be bigger and better than its predecessors, say the organisers. It will also be a whole lot broader.

No longer limited to information and communications technology, the Scottish Learning Festival, as it is now known, is organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland with funding primarily from the Scottish Executive.

The wider remit allows presenters to illustrate, investigate and celebrate just about every aspect of education in a packed, two-day programme of seminars and workshops - on topics from headship to hardware, languages to libraries, inclusion and interaction to national initiatives.

A distinctly global flavour permeates this year's festival, with speakers from around the UK, Europe, New Zealand and the United States.

A native of New York, keynote speaker Marc Prensky is convinced that many educational ills spring from the conflicting attitudes, learning styles and brain structures of students ("digital natives") and their teachers. In his keynote speech, the expert on game-based learning will analyse the problems and present some of the startling but effective solutions he has devised.

Other keynote speakers in a distinguished line-up are Sir Ken Robinson, Professor Emeritus of the University of Warwick and an international expert on innovation and education, now based in Los Angeles; Chris Yapp, head of public sector innovation at Microsoft UK and one of the prime movers of the National Grid for Learning; and Guy Claxton, a leading thinker on creativity, learning and the brain in both business and education.

The Education Minister, Peter Peacock, will give an address on the first afternoon, and take questions from an expected audience of 1,000.

He will also sign the pound;37.5 million contract with RM for delivering the Scottish Schools Digital Network (SSDN), which all schools will be using in three years' time. The education software and systems company was awarded the contract in the summer.

"Their solution will be in place by September 2006, and we aim to have all Scottish schools using SSDN by the end of 2008," says SSDN director John Connell (see this week's TES Scotland front page).

Mr Connell will give a "spotlight session" on the new intranet. Other subjects coming under the spotlight will be:

* Assessment is for Learning, by Dylan Wiliam, formerly of King's College London, now senior research director of the Learning and Teaching Research Center at ETS (Educational Testing Service) in Princeton, New Jersey;

* Discipline, by Pamela Munn, dean of the Moray House School of Education in Edinburgh;

* Continuing professional development, by Margaret Alcorn, the national CPD coordinator;

* Confident schools, by Carol Craig, chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being in Glasgow;

* Inspirational leadership, by Nicholas Janni, the director of Olivier Mythodrama, who leads management and personal development programmes; and

* Innovations in teaching and learning, by Barbara Prashnig, founder of the Creative Learning Company.

With more than 100 seminars at this year's SETT show, there will be time and space for the ambitious (SSDN: Inventing Our Own ICT Future), the speculative (An e-Learning Vision 2010), the creative brain (Am Baile, A Digital Archive for the Highlands), and even the whole child (Health Promoting Schools in Scotland).

There will be new round table discussions and changes to the Education Village. But the emphasis, as always, will be on experienced and often award-winning practitioners sharing insights and good practice with enquiring colleagues.

No learning festival would be complete without mention of continuing professional development, and SETT 2005 seems to have all angles covered in the first session of the first day - CPD: Why, What, When, Who and How? Answers will emerge as the festival progresses.

For the first time, LT Scotland will issue a certificate this year to every delegate, detailing the sessions they attended which could count towards a teacher's annual CPD requirement.

One aspect of SETT has not altered - the price of admission. This year, yet again, it is free to all Scottish teachers, and more than 4,500 have already registered. A total of 5,000 is expected and any who have not yet booked are advised to do so and to carry a little loose change for a cappuccino.

SETT 2005 is organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland and Emap Education and sponsored by the Scottish Executive, Dell, the Educational Institute of Scotland, Ntl, RM and The TES Scotland. Bookings can be accepted until noon on Monday, September 19. After that teachers are advised to book seminars at the entrance deskSETT hotline, 0870 421

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