Monthly Archives: March 2018

Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences. Dave Winer. 2006.

The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.

I was introduced to this idea when reading a 2008* blog post by Ian Usher. *I didn’t read it in 2008, though I wish I had – i didn’t find it until 2015 when I started chasing up early information about TeachMeet.

Three times in the past fortnight this Winer’s Law has come to mind, to conversation, and into action, for me…

  • firstly in a conversation with a friend that I don’t see often enough, who was speaking of her ennui when sitting passively listening to stuff she already knew being explained to her from a stage. Her joy on hearing my profound pronouncement ex-cathedra that there was a Fundamental Law to explain her predicament made me feel very wise.
  • secondly at a recent conference, INTED (in Valencia Spain), where Winer’s Law was certainly true in terms of audience expertise, but the organisers of the conference were very thoughtful with the structure of the conference – of the over 700 attendees, almost all were presenting at some stage (literally the 15 mins of fame!), and the rules of engagement were very clearly drawn up with the Law Of Two Feet in mind – the audience in each of the many rooms was free to some and go as necessary. Coupled with the long siestas coffee and lunch breaks, it made for a conversational, relaxed-but-still-full-on-learning atmosphere. At no stage was an audience member in any ‘captive’, but there by choice and out of interest. It made for a very dynamic and lively two days. As giant strictly organised conventional conferences go, INTED was the first I’ve encountered which has, consciously or otherwise, taken Winer’s Law into account during the planning process.

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  • thirdly, on Twitter this morning, I read a conversation about TeachMeet between @johnjohnston and @MrM which conjured again for me Winer’s Law, and prompted me to reply via this blog post (Hello John, Hello Athole). John summarises neatly here, and others pipe in with comments. As it happens, I was speaking of TeachMeet at the INTED conference mentioned above – it is always interesting to watch the reactions of education academics when TeachMeet – a leaderless organisation, by teachers for teachers – is explained and outlined to them for the first time. There is keen interest and a plethora of questions; a little tension; and a LOT of delight. The image that works best I find is the ‘desire line’ metaphor here.

So thank you Dave for your law, and thank you Ian for pointing me towards it, and thank you Athole and John and commenters for reminding us of TeachMeet’s unconference birth, and thank you to my friend Carmel for the sheer joy of your reaction to it all.

Room 2, INTED 2018

Jano (Peru), Mags (Ireland), Marta (Espana), Pablo (UK), Sung (China), Maria (Espana).

Rainy Snowy days are meant to be used for catching up – and they don’t come much snowier in Ireland than today. So snowy that our annual CESI Conference – to which many of us had been looking forward eagerly – has been cancelled postponed. [Among other diversions, some simpleminded intrepid CESI folk have been honing their science inquiry skills with a new invention – details at Twitter hashtag #sneachtometer.]

There are two recent events for which I want to record thanks here – a Raspberry Jam in Belfast that was part of the Northern Ireland Science Festival, and a Turtlestitch lecture that was the opening event of a creative coded embroidery course in Trinity College Dublin.

Raspberry Jam – thanks to Andrew Mulholland and team
Me and my 10yo granddaughter spent a Saturday day in Queen’s University College Belfast during NI Science Week at the invitation of Andrew Mulholland, the mile-a-minute champion of all things Raspberry Pi in Northern Ireland. I loved the two giant computer labs full of Pi-controlled PCs, the family atmosphere, the light-touch-but-highly-supportive teaching and mentoring. We did an introductory lesson that outlined all things Pi, controlled some giant traffic lights with python, we used a micro:bit and a Sparkle neo-pixel to work out RGB colour codes, and we did some Sonic Pi composing. When I say “we”, I mean the 10yo; I was a passenger, an observer happily watching the learners and the mentors in action. We had a lovely lunchtime demonstration by teenage mentors Lucy and Sam, who wore the “formal” dress thay had hacked for their Prom the evening before. The kids and their families loved this. All in all, it was a terrific experience, and we will definitely be going back up the M1.


Turtlestitch lecture – thanks to Andrea Mayr-Stalder
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What a treat this was. IMG_20180223_171140.jpgAs an introduction to their forthcoming coded embroidery open course in Trinity, Richard Millwood and Glenn Strong invited Andrea to give the introductory lecture, outlining how she developed Turltestitch, a block-based interface based on SNAP!, in order to code designs for electronic embroidery machines. Andrea’s work  has inspired users across the world. Listening to her tell the story, with humility and quiet passion, was a lovely experience. I look forward to meeting Andrea again at the Scratch conference this summer – indeed it is at the past few Scratch conferences that the SNAP!-Turltestitch family has deepened growing connections.

Sorry To Be Missing these but delighted they are happening:
(i) next week’s visit by lead developer of SNAP!, Jens Monig, hosted by SAP. Thanks to Bernard Kirk (soon-to-ex-Director of Galway Education Centre) for arranging this, and best wishes to all who gather to talk SNAP!

(ii) next weekend’s aforementioned re-constituted #CESIcon; thanks are due from us all for the remarkable work has gone into this, TWICE, by the organising committee.


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