9 December 02010

Can we make a newspaper about self-organised learning?

Editorial meeting at the Royal Festival HallI'm still digesting the eight interviews I've done on these pages in recent months under the Agile Learning banner. (I know, I know: if I haven't digested them yet, how must you feel?) A few kind souls say there's some valuable stuff in them, and a handful have even taken on the challenge of producing a newspaper that uses the interviews as a starting point.

This is an experiment — which means it may fail to achieve the goals we have in mind now, but equally it may lead to other outcomes we haven't anticipated. The immediate goal we have in mind is to have the newspaper ready by the second week in January, for distribution to attendees at the Learning without Frontiers and Be Bettr conferences. (I'm also speaking at the latter, but don't let that put you off registering — only £10 with the discount code "b3b3ttr" on the registration page.)

We will be editing the interviews to be much shorter and aiming to present them in a more fun, irreverent style, a little more lively than their dry presentation here.

We had an initial meeting to kick this off yesterday (pictured). Fancy joining in? This is an open project with no money changing hands, aside from the physical production costs of the newspaper which I'm underwriting from DJ Alchemi. We may have one or two face-to-face meetings in London, but most activities will be coordinated via a wiki along with email, twitter and suchlike. Help with creative layout design would be especially welcome, so if you know anyone…

6 December 02010

Tony Hall on teaching by not teaching

Tony Hall at the Royal Festival Hall

Tony Hall takes photographs and makes photomovies. At the same time he describes his interests as "thinking about sustainable learning communities, shared learning in public spaces, using social media". Like me, he's a regular at our weekly meetings on self-organised learning, so I've absorbed his views about learning through conversations by osmosis and, indeed, many conversations.

But that doesn't mean that I always agree with him. I've done only a light edit on the transcript of this discussion with Tony — which took place in our regular spot in London's Royal Festival Hall and also involved Patrick Hadfield, Fred Garnett and David Pinto. Hopefully this captures some of the spirit of the conversation, as it circles around rather than progressing linearly, veering as it does so between the serious, the subtle and the throwaway. You may also detect a hint of amused frustration from me (though the most flippant and testy exchange has been edited out, at Tony's request).

As well as conversations, key words in Tony's vocabulary are gentleness and conviviality. Some of my frustration stems from my attempts to square this emphasis with the idea that learning frequently involves elements of challenge and risk. While Tony wriggles away from my attempt at confrontation, it's clear by the end of the discussion that he's no stranger to risk and conflict in his practice. So his way of dealing with my questioning is perhaps an instance of gentleness in action.

I'm not convinced yet, but I am intrigued, and I hope you will be if you cast your eye over the discussion.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure if this will be the last of this series of interviews, at least in this form. The format is obviously text-heavy — which I defend in comparison to audio or video since it's much easier to skim and select from — but the transcription and editing process is not that agile (it's taken me over three months to get from recording this discussion to publishing the blog post). Advice or suggestions for alternative approaches very welcome.

David Jennings: How did you get into teaching, and how did you learn your craft?

Tony Hall: I got into teaching through not wanting to teach, basically. I got into teaching because a few people in a youth centre were interested in something I was interested in: photography. They felt that I could probably help them. "Help" is the wrong word. Not help, just get involved in photography in some way. And being outside of school was important and interesting.

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