Last week I crossed the Atlantic to participate in the Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona, Spain. Educators, hackers, technology bloggers, wikipedians, and innovators of various kinds, converged in the Raval neighborhood (MACBA, FAD, and Plaça dels Angels) and brought to life a very unique event full of workshops, tents, labs, playgrounds, and discussions. Having the themes of “Learning, Freedom and the Web” such an event was certainly a bazaar-like collaboration (accordingly to the spirit of the open source movement) in where different agendas and approaches converged to inspire tinkering, brainstorming, new projects, and networking. The Drumbeat Festival was intense, energizing, moving. I was happy to see how the open-source practices are empowering so many creative people to develop learning projects that promote freedom, transparency, and peer-to-peer collaboration. I learned a lot. In this post I will briefly review some of those findings.
Although the keynotes were few compared to the the several workshops that were happening during the day across different 11 spaces, they synthesized many of the thoughts, questions, and visions that were in the festival’s atmosphere. Mitchel Baker, Chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation, pointed out the need to build and open web that promotes creation rather than consumption, learning by doing rather than passive education. She extended the concern of creating open web tools that empower people to other aspects of life, especially to education. Cathy Davidson, from Duke University and HASTAC, claimed that the educational system from the industrial age based on hierarchical structures and assembly lines needs to be changed. For her, the educational paradigm for the information society has to be based in peer-to-peer learning and open education. She made a playful call to action that became a sort of Festival´s motto: “create joyous insurgency.” Along with those lines, was Catherine M. Casserly, from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, who talked about the importance for education of entering the world of openness and embracing change. Massimo Banzi, one of the developers of Arduino (an open-source electronics prototyping platform), highlighted the importance of developing a hands-on teaching methodology that encourages playful exploration, tinkering, sharing of information, and peer-to-peer learning. All in all, these, as well other keynote speakers such as Joi Ito and Mark Surman, invited us to imagine the future of learning embracing the hacker culture (also part of the open-source movement) of breaking appart, tinkering, sharing, and learning by doing.
Since diverse activities were happening at the same time in the thematic spaces, it was a real challenge to decide which one to join. Even if sometimes I wanted to stay in one of the spaces and continue participating in several of their workshops, I usually decided to just stay for one of their sessions and kept exploring as many spaces as I could.
The only exception to such nomadic behavior was my participation in the Citizen Identities & Neighborhood Literacies workshops where I was involved as a facilitator, helping the people from the the Chicago and New Youth City Learning Network plan and run the activities. These workshops focused on digital storytelling, situated learning, and assessment (badge acquisition), and were organized in 4 sessions. In the first one, we discussed and presented what digital stories are and can be; in the second session, we explored the Raval neighborhood in search of pieces of information that helped to build a story; the third session consisted in the compilation of the stories; and the final fourth was a review of the produced stories in where we talked about the advantages of the different formats and the skills that might be related to local storytelling. Although not all the people that showed up for the first session stayed for the following ones, some of us were engaged in the fast production/prototyping of digital stories. As a result, there were several micro-video stories about the Raval neighborhood, from children playing on the streets to internet centers for immigrants to public bicycle transportation. There were also stories that used internet platforms such as tumblr and twitter in order to narrate a more intimate and biographic experience. And finally, there were also stories presented in smart phones, combining poetic captions with digital snap shots.
I had fun exploring the Raval and collaborating in the production of a short story with Jerzy Celichowski, from the Open Society Institute. We used digital video and photograpy to create a story about mobility in the neighborhood. We focused in the “bicing” system, a service that the city of Barcelona provides to its citizens so they can have access to bicycles that are distributed across the city in different locations. One of those places was the heart of the Drumbeat Festival, the Plaça dels Angels. We interviewed several of the users that arrived and departed from this location and decided to follow some of their paths inside the neighborhood. That is how we ended in the Ramblas del Raval, where other “bicing” spot was located. We tried to integrate some map visualizations in our video but due to the constrains of time we couldn´t do animations for some of the traces that the bikers were making on the streets. In two hours we ended up with this video, that we entitled “bicing in bcn” and you can watch here. (The video still needs to be subtitled and we are inviting you to sub it using the collaborative universal subtitles) :
I hung out in the Wikipedia lounge for a couple of workshops. As a wikipedian myself, I was curious to learn about the ways in which teachers and researchers are integrating the free encyclopedia into the classroom. Wikipedia has a lot of potential as a teaching tool and some exemplary cases were described during these sessions. For instance, there is the Public Policy Initiative in where nine professors from USA universities are collaborating and using Wikipedia for teaching classes related to digital media/culture/policy. I also found out about the Murder, Madness, and Mayhem Project from the University of British Columbia, who used Wikipedia as the main tool for developing a class in spanish literature and translation. The reflections from Jon Beasley-Murray, the professor who put together such an experimental project can be read here. Finally I also discovered the Wikipedia Campus Ambassador program which intends to recruit volunteers who want to work with professors and students in developing methods and activities for using wikipedia as a learning tool.
It was also inspiring to visit the HASTAC tent and to participate of two of the “Storming the academy” workshops lead by Cathy Davidson and Anne Balsamo. It was great to share with other students, scholars, and hackers our ideas of how to change the obsolete model of education that is embedded in so many higher education institutions. I loved the discussions on peer-to-peer learning techniques and tactics, 21st century literacies, tinkering, unlearning and joyous insurgency.
As I said at the beginning of this very long post, there was so much going on in the Drumbeat Festival that it is not possible for me to cover it all here. Actually, there is a project of making a book from what happened in the festival that is already going on and is being lead by Anya Kamenetz. I will end my review with a list of links from projects that I discovered in the festival and that I found worth looking at. If you are curious, I invite you to explore them and learn more about them:
- Wikiotics : a community effort at collaborative language instruction. If you are interested in learning a language, teaching one to someone else, or helping develop innovative tools for either task, just follow the links below.
- Seeks :a free and open P2P design and application for enabling social websearch. Its specific purpose is to regroup users whose queries are similar so they can share both the query results and their experience on these results.
- The prototype project : Research project about the future of manufacturing
- Crisis Commons : support shared knowledge, collaborative tools, open development, project management and data to crisis response organizations in civil incident management and global development as well as leverage capabilities and capacities of academia and private sector.
- Knowledge Atlas : construct semantic knowledge networks with a special focus on education.
- Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU) : online community of open study groups for short university-level courses. Think of it as online book clubs for open educational resources.
- Connexions: a place to view and share educational material made of small knowledge chunks called modules that can be organized as courses, books, reports, etc.
- Cohere: a management tool to annotate URLs with ideas, and weave meaningful connections between ideas for personal, team or social use.