Aims of the Festival

The Emporium of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible! It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Emporium of Dangerous Ideas

And so the finale to the 'festival' arrived with the Emporium of Dangerous Ideas. This event was about sharing the initial discoveries of the festival and an opportunity for merchants to persuade participants with their dangerous ideas.

David Cameron introduced the event and reminded participants that this was an opportunity to challenge ourselves, and our way of  regarding education. 

Karen Lawson gave an overview of the festival achievements so far 30 events, almost half delivered by partner orgnaisations. over 1000 people attending from Thurso to Ayr and 3 college regions deliver events as part of their merger strategy.  Karen also gave an overview of some of the major themes arising from festival events so far:

1. Without Walls: both metaphorical and physical walls that constrain how we provide learning opportunities.  This could be outdoor learning, gaming and also the walls we create that restrict our thinking and ability to be creative in practice.
2. The focus on employability and essential skills - should we now be focussing on the skills young people need to be employers, to be able to create, innovate and manage  their lives.
3. The need for youth work skills training for all teachers and lecturers - how to engage with young people and keep the passion for young people's potential alive.
4. What success and failure mean, and an assessment system and assessment criteria that limit learning.
5. Our own personal and professional power to take risks, try out new ideas - not waiting for permission, but also the type of leadership that builds on peoples capacity to innovate.

 Gillian Hunt from  City of Edinburgh Council and Diarmuid McAuliffe for UWS gave overviews of their events and why they had become involved in the festival.  Gillian talked openly about the taboo subject of touching children and the interest that the event had created, while Diarnuid discussed the intervention of walking, drawing and extending sites of learning as necessary to counteract learning in isolation and in silos.

We had two rounds of dynamic trading from a very mixed group of merchants (see Merchant's Guide) and photos who persuaded and exchanged ideas for dangerous dollars.

The winners from the Merchants were Sense over Sectarinism, Rownbank Environment Education
and Angus College.

One of the highlights of this year's festival was A Walk On the Wildside and Creative leaders for the walk, Paul Gorman gave a challenging account of what was dangerous about the walk and challenged us as participants to think differently and creatively., while Matthew Sowerby shared  his first attempts at making a film about the walk  - See Walk On the Wildside  blog for further Information.

The finale to the day at the Emporium came with the auction of dangerous ideas:

1.    I'm no doing nothin for nothin - student volunteers. 39/42 volunteered. If you perform so well doing something for nothing imagine how good you'll be when you're paid
2.    People can get stuck in their old ways - put into action in self-directed support
3.    Ideas go - platform for your ideas and place to ask for resources. Can put ideas in by categories, use a map.  Could be a collaborative process. Flexible tool.
4.    F... the Timetable Friday (FTTF)- children enter primary as the most excited and creative beings. By time they leave school/college we've kicked that out if them. We're still preparing children for the 18th century.  Trust lecturers, don't give schedule, give time and space.
5.    Inter generational change - we're headed for an inter generational conflict. Middle generation hold the power - it should be the young and old who make the decisions together, take the risks.
6.    College? - free app called strava (?)  Record a journey as you're on it. Physical and internal journey.
7.    Imagination gyms - a workout for the mind. Look for innovation and enterprise but we don't work our imagination to enable us to do it.  15 minute workouts built in to the curriculum.
8.    Pilot your own spaceship - you've got to believe in young people for them to believe in themselves. Imagine and pilot the spaceship. Imagine outside of the ordinary. A spaceship designed for what you are about. Creative skills, imagination.   
9.    Coursemaster - we currently have hugely difficult system to get people into college. Like ticketmaster
10. Gardening - invite retired people to work with children on allotments. Young and old.
11. The answer to good experiences - he has the answer but he needs the dollars to reveal it.

The winners were FTTF and using the Strava App. 

The Emporium was an excellent event for rounding off what had been a dynamic festival, where not only had there been plenty of ideas generated, but also a willingness and energy for putting ideas into practice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education: Walking, Drawing and Extending Sites for Learning

What do you think Prof Tim Ingold was describing here? He was our keynote at the Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education seminar at UWS on Tuesday 18th June 2013. Only those who could not attend this packed out event need respond.

'Without Walls' - An Outdoor Game in Kilmarnock

This morning, Kilmarnock College hosted an outdoor experience for staff from Kilmarnock, James Watt and Ayr colleges, as a way to bring staff together ahead of the upcoming merger into the new Ayrshire College.

We worked with Thom Scullion, a game designer from Glasgow, to create a playful experience to take place in the scenic Dean Country Park. We created 6 teams, each with a mix of staff from the three colleges. The teams were racing to creatively document the park using iPads, receiving instructions by text message from Thom.

We had a brilliant sunny day for our game, and it was great seeing everyone having fun and getting to know new people. The teams responded very creatively to their mission, and bravely experimented with what the iPads could do, creating images, sounds and videos, with some bolder players creating combinations of all three!

After the game was complete, we headed back to the college and used peer marking to determine our winners. In the spirit of the event, we even used our iPads for our evaluation, and are looking forward to going through the players' feedback, however they chose to record it.

Our main aim for today was to explore how we can work without walls, both physically and metaphorically. We are really happy with how the day went, and what was even better was to hear staff members' own ideas of how they could implement similar models for their colleagues and students.

So at the end of it, maybe our dangerous idea is that we can work and learn by allowing ourselves to be playful - and if it's a sunny day in Scotland, even better!

Lesley, Greg, Kenny and Thom

Celebrating Failure and Success in Fort William

As the finale to the Walk On the Wild Side the participants of the walk fed back on what they had learned from their 5 day experience on the West Highland Way. They shared stories about success and failure and what that meant to them within the context of educational assessment.  If success meant completing all of the walk, then several people failed, but, if it meant overcoming obstacles and challenges, supporting others, reflecting on their learning and developing ideas for education than there was an abundance of successes.  The walkers will produce their own reflections and learning from the walk, but all felt it had been an extremely worthwhile experience and one they wouldn't forget.  There was a sense that they had been invested in as individuals in way previously not experienced, and the photographs to follow will tell their own story.

Outward Bound gave a fantastic overview of  Carol Dweck's work on mindsets and demonstrated how they had used this extensively in their work.  It was great to link up  through Skype with UWS and their own event as part of the Festival - Thinking Dangerously in Teacher Education, and share some of the findings from the Walk.   Without a doubt the walkers will keep on walking, and we already thinking about what next's year's walk will look like - surely an indication of success.

June 18th- Mindfulness At College : How Can This Enhance Learning and Teaching ?

Lyndsay Lunan  from City of Glasgow  College facilitated a fabulous session on Mindfulness.  The session could have been filled twice over with college staff .They came from a range of teaching areas including Construction, Leisure and Recreation, Hospitality, Business and Administration and Social Sciences. Embedding mindfulness practices into the learning process could be seen as a dangerous idea and slightly subversive as value in our culture is attached to ‘doing’ and being busy . However the evidence  would suggest that it could be dangerous not to practice daily mindfulness based stress reduction  strategies and embed these into our daily lives !

This half day experiential workshop offered a basic introduction to mindfulness and its application in the learning environment. Lyndsay interspersed mindfulness exercises with information giving in a seamless way . She gave practical examples of how mindfulness tools can be applied to everyday college life to enhance the learning and teaching experience for both staff and students.The only criticism was that the session was too short and the morning flew in. I definitely shifted from being mindless to more mindful as the morning progressed  and I think everyone else did . Long may that last ! Everyone is keen to keep the mindfulness conversation going next session so watch this space !

Breakfast in the Botanics

An early morning breakfast of free and local foods was a great way for myself and sixty others to start their day at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I began my breakfast with a coffee and a sausage sandwich (thanks to Pepper Pig  previously of Gorgie City Farm) before being introduced to some of their chickens (not on the menu) who were making their debut the following day at the Highland Show .  I then moved onto the buckwheat blinis with creme fraiche, chrysanthemum petals and chive flowers and washed it down with nettle tea.

In between the munching, gardening and foraging experts were on hand to show us how to gather and grow food in the city .The focus was on organic and sustainable techniques from permaculture to living walls. In addition we were provided with a variety of recipes to try out for ourselves so be warned!

Sandy MacLean, College Development Network

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

17th June -Teaching Communication Units : Flashflood Meeting of Minds

Communication lecturers from across Scotland came together to share their 'dangerous' ideas ! The focus was specifically on the teaching of Communication Units at both Core Skills and HN levels. It was recognised that 'dangerous' was a subjective concept and a teaching approach might feel  'dangerous' or risky to one lecturer but not another or with one group of students and not another .

The event focused on the following themes :
  • Engaging and fun ways to teach reading, writing, listening and talking
  • Digital teaching - what's fun and accessible
  • What differentiates teaching approaches/methodology in Commuication Units at Core Skills and HN levels
  • Integrating Communication Units with ICT Units
  • Going paperless with assessment and feedback evidence
There were brief presentations by members of the network on each of these themes . This acted as a stimulus for small group discussions and the generation of ideas which were fed back into the larger group in very creative and innovative ways as evidenced by the photos.

Practitoners were energetic,enthusiastic and highly motivated . The College Development Network will collate all ideas and the resources generated and disseminate to both those who attended the event and the wider Network.


Edinburgh Dangerous Philosophy Cafe

It was great to sit round the table with a diverse group of people debating whether or not it was time to tear up the foundations of an outmoded education system and rebuild to a new design for modern times.

We were joined by the New School Action Group who are calling for alternatives within state education.

Interesting that 3 of our participants had been education in former communist regimes but still found our Scottish education system oppressive.

Some of the hotly debated issues were:
  • personalisation and choice
  • Poor leadership in schools
  • No career progression for teachers - young, creative teachers are not heard
  • Class sizes are too big, resources are limited
  • Need more diversity to give real choice - free schools
  • Stifled by exams
  • What are the outcomes of our education system?
  • Need an alternative to SQA
  • Teachers should have more autonomy
  • Academies in the state system
thanks to Ray Miller for facilitating the cafe. And to The Links Bar for providing an excellent venue.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Moving Image as a Vehicle for Knowledge Creation

We had a thought provoking cinematic experience on Friday.   The GTC Scotland HQ in Edinburgh was transformed into multi-screen cinema for the afternoon, complete with popcorn! 

The event was run by the GTC Scotland in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and Lansdowne Productions with the aim of exploring a new teaching resource called ‘Learning Through Film’.  The resource is based on 10 short documentary films that make up The New 10 Commandments, a feature length film that looks at the meaning of Human Rights in Scotland.    Created by artists and filmmakers such as Tilda Swinton, Irvine Welsh and Douglas Gordon, these films use powerful images to explore hard hitting Human Rights issues including:
  • Right not to be tortured
  • Right to liberty
  • Right to privacy
  • Right not to be enslaved
  • Right to freedom of thought
  • Right to life
  • Right to freedom of assembly
  • Right to asylum
  • Right to freedom of expression
  • Right to a fair trial.

We were split into four groups and given one of the short films to watch and then discuss, before coming together for a panel discussion with the facilitators and Human Rights organisations.  We were delighted that a group of 5th year pupils from the local high school were able to join us for the afternoon.

For more information about this new resource, visit

Hugh thank you to GTC Scotland for organising such a dangerous event!

Change the Way We Design Everything! Ellen McArthur Foundation

Thanks to Colin Webster and the Ellen McArthur Foundation for a great evening as part of the Festival of Dangerous Ideas on Thursday 13 June at the MAKLAB in The Lighthouse Glasgow. 

Colin led us through an exploration of the economy as it is and how we could work towards developing a more circular economy.  We looked at the influences affecting fundamental changes to how we design products and systems and as you can see from the photographs we had a chance to ‘teardown’ some objects and play with screwdrivers and related tools!  It was an excellent opportunity to really think about system change, considering how to approach design of products and services with rebuild rather than redundancy built in. 

Feedback from the session has been really positive with 100% of respondents choosing the most positive answer for most of the questions which included:
  • I have enjoyed the day
  • The ideas we have been dealing with today stimulated me

 Comments made included:
  • Always good to have a good forum for the discussion on change
  • Love the MAKLAB
  • The circular economy supports the concept of radical change being possible
  • We need this fundamental rethinking of manufacturing
  • So excited about using ideas in the classroom
  • Q: What would I change? A: Nothing, absolutely nothing.  Brilliant
  • I've been given a lot to think about, thanks
  • I'd like to have longer to explore further
  • Perfect venue - alive with innovation and creativity!
  • Really interesting event
See the website for more information on the Ellen McArthur Foundation

Lesley Whelan, College Development Network

Do we do the Wrong Things Righter?

Great session on Friday morning which challenged existing ideas and personal philosophy.  Great to reflect on the purpose of education and the implications for engagement with colleagues, students and pupils.  Great dialogue with colleagues from college and Community and Learning Development.  Really insightful to hear other values and principles in the world of education.  At one point we were asked to consider what kind of Scotland we wish to see in 2023.  Some ideas included:
  • No inspections of schools
  • An independent Scotland
  • A nation where everyone has opportunities.
The high jump analogy was great – Google the Fosbury Flop!

Garry Cameron, College Development Network

Touching Children and Young People Shouldn’t be Taboo – It should be an expectation!

Attended this excellent session of Friday 14 June 2013.  Several sectors represented – Education, Voluntary Sector, Community Learning and Development.  Huge amount of interest in this area and made me re-think some of my own thinking as someone who leads on safeguarding in the college sector.  Thought provoking input from a range of professionals across the sectors well facilitated by Gillian Hunt.  Great discussion and input.  Some interesting research around children and the concept of touch and how it is part of nurturing.  Presenters very much united in that it is okay to touch young people in appropriate settings although guidelines and procedures can make people wary and question actions.  As part of learning, teaching and assessment touching young people is not taboo!  This was the impression I left the session with.  Thanks to Edinburgh Children and Families (WiLD) Team for hosting this dangerous idea!

Garry Cameron, College Development Network

Night of Dangerous Theatre

An exciting night of dangerous theatre was held at The Arches, Glasgow. Through the support of Tom we designed our own on-line game, and considered the design principles, skills, knowledge and fun used in games development.  Our game 'The Flow Bar'  was an on-line bar, where the bar tender was a councillor, who could offer support, delegate your work to other patrons of the bar, or offer you a cocktail reflecting how stressed you were!  Fun indeed!

Martin and Martin explored the relationship between art and education in a fantastic piece based on their conversations about what they were going to do for the Night of Dangerous Theatre.  They explored Martin's passion for journalism and the sense of excitement and achievement he gained from that occupation into very similar feelings about being an educator.  It was a heartening reminder that there are still many people passionate about education and being creative in what they do.

More Nights of Dangerous Theatre are needed to explore the relationship between the arts and education, generating possibilities for creative learning for both staff and students.

Dangerous philosophy cafes

The Glasgow dangerous philosophy cafe was a treat. Some of the issues we discussed:

Inclusion of the philosophy of teaching as part of our teacher training courses
The decision-makers in our state education system send their own children to private schools
Russell vs Gove
People should not be allowed to leave school, go to college/university, then go straight back into the classroom
Too many changes in education and very little difference?
Who are the old guards of our education system?
Give teachers more time to think
Hierarchies are alienating in education, not engaging - condemn them to history
What is 'creative' learning and teaching - can we define it, measure it?
Are teachers given the autonomy to take risks in the classroom to do things differently?

The Edinburgh Philsophy cafe in tonight. Come and join us!


Dangerous Leadership for Dangerous Times

There were many dangerous ideas proposed at our day on dangerous leadership.  A common theme was around  self-awareness, values and behaviour. Jane Gray Chief Executive at Ark Housing talked very honestly and reflectively about her journey as a leader, from knowing what the theory said to a realisation that she didn't always really listen to staff , didn't always really help them unpick their ideas and that if she changed her own behaviours it would develop leadership across the organisation. Once she had worked with a coach to develop her listening skills, leadership and creativity have thrived and the organisation has been awarded a gold IIP award, with recognition that they are among a handful of the best performing organisations in Scotland.  

The central focus on changing your own behaviour, through the use of coaching,  to achieve desired results,  was prominent in all activity on the day, especially in the forum theatre led by Elinor Vettranino which emphasised that we can't change others' behaviour, only our own. 

Zara Kitson and Susan Pettie from' So Say Scotland' passionately about 'thinking together' and how to create a social movement where leadership is truly dispersed and everyone has a voice. Like all our speakers they challenged the notion that we have to wait to be led - if you want change what are you going to do about it?  Their values based approach could be used to great effect with both staff and students to determine what are the key values that underpin our practice and what behaviours do we want to see in our colleges and communities. 

Kish Srinivasan, Regional Lead for Dundee and Angus College gave a fantastic presentation that challenged the role of the charasmatic leader and the need for leadership throughout the college. Some of his key messages stemmed from his vision for future leadership:

*While regional boards, college principals and other traditional sources of authority will retain ultimate authority and accountability, autocratic leadership will be of limited effectiveness and unlikely to provide sustainable long-term benefits. 
*Leadership approaches which work best will ensure that decisions are reached based on shared values, because staff are more likely to buy in to what is planned subsequently.

*Leadership models must provide an environment which encourages initiative, enterprise and innovation

This was an exciting day, rounded off with cohort 1 of the Emerging Leaders course pitching their dangerous ideas for education to cohort 2 and leaders from the college sector. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Ed is on the move!

Ed and our walkers are heading for Crainlarich today - a whopping 20 mile trek - plenty of time to think up dangerous ideas along the way!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The (Not So) Silent launch

What a fantastic launch to this year's festival.   Lesley Riddoch was in feisty mode and did a fantastic job of chairing the ideas about how education could be.  What it would take to change it.  Lesley shared her experiences and insights, some cultivated from Nordic Horizons  and  Hofsted and talked about the importance of rethinking the education system we have and the role of  trust developing such a system.

Mel Young, our first key speaker was hugely challenging through his proposal about the dangerous class, and the role of delinquency in entrepreneurship.   Instead teaching people to be employees, why aren't we teaching the attributes of employers?  He also focussed on shaping the curriculum to what individuals are passionate about, and cited examples of schools in other countries where people learn through their passion.  He also raised the question about why we aren't engaging more with those who have wealth and asking them to invest in our education system? Do we have enough emphasis on enterprise and entrepreneurship in schools and colleges?  Can we build on the entrepreneurial skills of those successfully  engaged in the black economy?

The Real David Cameron was present throughout the museum when we played his pod-cast 'Tearing Down The Hierarchies'.  His thought-provoking, and passionate plea to change outcomes, not just structures was listened to by individuals finding their unique spot in the museum and listening through headphones.  He talked about the need to maintaining the enthusiasm  of  a highly qualified and skilled workforce by developing a culture based on trust, with leadership demonstrated at every level. The main message - too much change, too little difference.  Listen to David's wonderful pod-cast and be inspired.  David will be hosting the Emporium of dangerous Ideas on 21st June - join us then for more discussion on his ideas.

Stacey McCubbin spoke passionately about her experience of school and college and had 3 very clear dangerous ideas. Firstly she thought teachers should be passionate about inspiring young people, and if they no longer felt that way, they should consider alternative employment.  She felt the job was more than just teaching a subject, and there should be more emphasis on developing real life skills.  This lead Stacey to her second dangerous ideas, that there should be more informal and vocational learning in  school and colleges. Stacey felt she had learned most through informal learning that helped her make the transition form teenager to adult and more focus should be on this transition. To enable teachers and lecturers to respond more effectively to young people, Stacey, with her third idea suggested all teachers and lecturers should be trained in youth work.  This sparked off a lively debate which I'm sure will continue throughout the festival.

Our final speaker was Rt Hon Henry McLeish who engaged with a debate about the unequal society and th inequality of access to education.  He talked about the personalisation of learning and the need to invest in an education system that  developed human capital, and moved us away from the 80/20 divide. He also introduced the need for more discussion and debate around the philosophy of education - education for its own sake.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum was a wonderful venue for this silent launch, and we are very grateful to the museum staff for their adventurous spirit and attention to detail.  Technical support was fantastic, enabling us to wander around the museum while pondering on how we 'tear down the hiearchies'.  Open to all suggestions!

Some Photos from the Launch

A few last minute places on the Change the Way We Design Everything! Event

There are a few last minute places on the Change the Way We Design Everything! - Ellen McArthur Foundation Event (16.30-19.00) in Glasgow.

To book a place and for information please email Colin Webster.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Monday, 10 June 2013

Touching Children and Young People Shouldn't be Taboo - It Should be an Expectation!

Great to see the festival hit the front pages of the Scotland on Sunday:   Well done to City of Edinburgh WILD team coming up with a dangerous idea that has really sparked off a much needed debate.  This promises to be an exciting and thought provoking event, drawing participants from a range of work settings, experiences  and views on  physical contact with children and young people. This Friday 14th in Edinburgh.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Only one week until the launch

It's only one week until the launch and already events are full and others are getting there. If you need any help promoting an event please let us know. Hope all is going well with your events, and do keep in touch during the festival.  Lots of photos would be great.

Monday, 3 June 2013

View the List of Events

The Festival of Dangerous Ideas aims to re-establish the importance of dangerous ideas as agents of change in education – to shift the axis of what is possible!

It is for everyone who is passionate about education including college, university, school staff and students as well as those engaged in education throughout the creative communities.

There will be events happening throughout the week all over Scotland - co-created by people who are passionate about education.

View the Festival of Dangerous Ideas events.