DeL 2015: Mind control, maker spaces, crypto-meditation (and not much ‘e-learning’)

DeL banner with logo insertDeL 2015: Technology Culture Practice took place at CSM this September, and was attended by 99 participants from 20 international institutions. The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with one delegate saying it was “The best elearning conference I’ve attended in 15 years”

Historically, DeL has been known as ‘Designs on e-Learning’, but we have tried to move away from emphasising the term ‘e-learning’, as it has become increasingly contested in Higher Education. As the digital is so firmly embedded in all aspects of our personal, professional and creative lives, it makes more sense just to use the word ‘learning’. This sentiment was reflected by UAL Govenor Ben Terrett, who tweeted prior to the event that we should ditch the term altogether. The conference reflected our aspirations back at us, as the focus of the presentations was on pedagogy rather than tools, and the discussion around learning and teaching with technology was sophisticated and nuanced. As David White (Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, UAL) put it, the maturity of the discourse at DeL 2015 gave the sense that ‘e-learning has grown up’.

There was a stellar lineup of keynote speakers, presenters and workshop facilitators. Digital Director Paula Le Dieu emphasised the new ethical demands that arise from cultural production in a networked society. Every act of creativity, she suggested, has consequences that we need to attend to as makers. The ‘geek who can speak’ Benjamin Southworth spoke about hacking education to ensure that it is enriching rather than instrumental.

Jon Clair presentation
Jon Clair, MA Fine Art Wimbledon

A series of student keynotes were a highlight of the conference, with 6 UAL students presenting their take on the post-digital. Each student teased out a set of knotty questions on a range of topics: the need for messy making spaces in art schools and a skepticism about Apple’s monopoly over university kit, how to engage in socio-political causes via social media, managing different audiences through Facebook, and how to build a techno-social community of practice across University boundaries.

Mind control
Conference delegate mind controlling a drone

Workshop sessions were diverse and engaging, with a range of practical activities and tools to explore and experiment with. Carl Smith from Ravensbourne demonstrated a mind-controlled drone in their workshop about Hybrid Ecologies, which explored the ethical use of emerging technologies to enhance human and cognitive capacities. CCW’s Chris Follows presented on Maker Spaces for Open Practice, discussing how maker spaces remain under the radar and outside mainstream pedagogic practice, thus widening the gap between institutional & grassroots practice. Darren Grey and Tim Williams (LCF) ran a session on Fashioning Spaces for Learning, which explored the systematic use of UAL’s e-portfolio software Workflow to support collaboration and co-creation in a variety of contexts, within courses, in cross-disciplinary projects and with external industry partners.

Artists Fiona Chambers and Aideen Doran ran a Crypto Meditation workshop which combined mindful meditation exercises and CryptoParty: a DIY movement of self-organised groups who meet to teach each other the basics of encryption in free public workshops.

The conference concluded with a Queer Tango lesson from Ray Batchelor, where participants were encouraged to challenged conventional gender roles whilst learning this fabulously seductive dance.

Recordings of Benjamin Southworth’s keynote and the Student keynotes are available on UAL Replay. (We are currently working on uploading Paula Le Dieu’s presentation).

For other reflections on DeL visit David White’s blog post and Nick Smerker’s blog post.

DeL 2016 will be held at the New School, New York, September 21 – 22 September 2016. Follow DeL on Twitter @designsonelearn or catch up with the conference hashtag #del2015

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