Keep IT simple

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Douglas Blane previews SETT 2006 and looks at how it follows the advice of keynote speaker Edward de Bono

Dealing with complexity is unnecessary and inefficient, according to Edward de Bono, creativity guru and keynote speaker at SETT - The Scottish Learning Festival 2006. "There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple," says the author of 60 books and inventor of the term "lateral thinking".

It's a lesson the organisers of the largest learning festival in the Scottish educational calendar took to heart long ago. So little time (just two days in September), and so many seminars (130 this year, not to mention 150 exhibitors) create a formidable exercise in side-stepping complexity.

Consequently, a series of broad themes assist each of an expected 5,000 delegates to find a path that matches their interests and expectations.

Support for teachers and learners features prominently, as might be expected from an event that has always been strong at blending new technology and good practice from the classroom.

Highlights include: web-based school radio; mobile phones for learning; blogs, wikis and podcasts; games-based learning; making archives accessible; emotional health online; new research on the brain; and the latest developments in SSDN, the broadband virtual learning environment being rolled out to every Scottish school.

The progress made in the project to construct a curriculum that will develop well-rounded young people who can think for themselves is explored in seminars, presentations, debates and discussions. A series of talks examines school leadership and skills for life, where the impetus to innovate in remote rural communities is clearly evident.

International perspectives are provided by projects linking school pupils across the globe, while visitors from Finland, Denmark, Canada, America, France, Australia and New Zealand offer their thoughts on where education is going and how best to get there.

In the exhibition hall, a rolling programme of interactive demonstrations of novel resources, delivered by pupils and teachers, is hosted, as always, by Learning and Teaching Scotland in the Scottish Education Village, which may have to change its modest name if it keeps on growing.

New developments around the venue this year include poster sessions of school projects, a cultural gallery, an international lounge, roundtable discussions, a Gaelic learning festival, and an opportunity to engage with Assessment is for Learning, the national initiative that brings formative assessment into every classroom.

Fresh-faced student teachers can hear what it's really like from seasoned practitioners at the TES Scotland lecture, while new resources and educational briefings are provided by suppliers ranging from large multinationals to small firms run by a couple of enthusiastic teachers who spotted a need and filled it themselves.

School leaders come under the microscope in keynote speeches from Terry Dozier, Andy Hargreaves and Lady Marie Stubbs. They ask: What kind of leadership creates improvements that matter, spread and last? What can good teachers do to become great leaders? How can they ensure that every child matters?

The new nature of knowledge is explored by David Weinberger in the intriguingly titled Everything is Miscellaneous. "Instead of experts arranging information for us, users sort and order information as they use it. This changes not only the nature and shape of knowledge, but also its authority," he says.

So, too, does SETT.

SETT 2006: September 20-21 at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, Glasgow.

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