Thursday 15 May 2014

Kidcrafters – a day of talks by parents for parents

This weekend I went to a different kind of conference — not a technology one, but a parenting one (though with some technology involved!).

The conference was Kidcrafters — a day of talks by parents for parents, held at the Royal Institution in London (the same place as the Christmas Lectures).

The whole conference was videoed and is available on YouTube here, but here’s my notes and impressions in the hope that someone finds them useful.

The first speaker ran an exercise that reminded me of a quote from Francis Bacon:

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention

The conference felt like a day to weigh and consider — lots of different viewpoints, some contradictory, some provoking, mostly inspiring and all worthy of attention.

For the whole thing to have been organised from scratch in a couple of months is little short of astounding… Congratulations and many thanks to Nick Corston and his team of incredible hard-working volunteers.

Raising Braves: Education for a tricky world

Professor Guy Claxton, Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester

  • thinking on your feet - flounder intelligently
  • important both for university & google interviews…
  • how to prepare for this?
  • learn how to flourish when in difficulty
  • John Holt: love learning so well, that they will be able to learn whatever comes up
  • Jean Piaget: intelligence = knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do
  • one of the best ways to happiness: being engaged productively with something challenging and making progress with it
    • being in flow
  • - short presentations on how people found what was interesting for them
  • being venturesome: being willing to try something that you’ll be crap at for a while
  • when you talk to your 4 year old, do you encourage her skepticism? her inquisitiveness?
  • education is everything that we do to help our children to become happiness prone adults
  • school is a cultural norm that is a particular expression of that (and may have been twisted)
  • praise children for their talent, not for their results
  • don’t over-rescue children, especially girls
    • let them struggle and deal with frustration & confusion
  • allow them to be bored — boredom is the engine of imagination
  • have a wonder wall: peppered with their questions and your questions
  • rediscover the conversation about going back to the basics of education

Designing a school around questions and more questions

A question-led curriculum

Paul Phillips, Principal Designate Gladstone School

  • setting up a new school
  • how long is a lesson?
    • aiming to have one lesson a day - or maybe one lesson a week
  • “finishing-off homework” is never worth it
    • the children who’ll end up doing the work by themselves are those that most need help
  • each half term will take a big philosophical question and aim to get the children to ask it
  • aiming to use London as a base: get the children to go out into London and bring London into the school
  • “hinge questions” — getting to the point

Design thinking for new learning

Graham Brown-Martin, Ed Labs @GrahamBM

  • industrial revolution: took crafts and scaled them to mass-production
  • got rid of craftsmen and replaced with factory workers
  • industrialisation of education having same effect
  • if you designed a classroom, would it be a room?
  • lots of lenses through which to consider schools

Why I home educated my son for two years

Sarah Eaton @llamacroft

  • we treat children differently from adults
  • adults have options and support
  • took son out of school when he got seriously bullied
    • took about six months to get him to feel better
  • radical unschooling
    • total freedom in whatever he wanted to do
  • Alfie Cohn: Unconditional Parenting
  • he made a web site when he was 8
  • eventually he wanted to go back to school
  • children are more important than the system itself

A digital native’s view of games and gadgets

Dan Tomlinson @dantoml

  • aged 17
  • writes for the Observer
  • was bullied for about 9 years at school
  • found a great set of friends through the internet at aged 8 or 9
  • discovered programming properly about a year after the bullying started
  • we’re undergoing a fundamental shift in the way we interact with the world
  • minecraft gives children a level of freedom and creativity that they don’t get anywhere else

Minecraft – creative or crack?

Simon De Deny, Dad

  • has shameful memories of playing games all night when younger
    • Ed.: why shameful…?
  • so when had kids and said they wouldn’t have a console
  • then neighbours got a playstation with an EyeToy
  • they enjoyed the physical games, but other games came along with it
  • watched with horror as 6 yo got bored with physical games and really into the non-physical games (Sonic, etc)
  • tried one out himself and got a similar adrenaline hit as taking drugs
  • and this was for a six year old…
  • so got rid of the playstation…
  • much later, son now has an xbox
  • now playing minecraft
  • younger son, 10, also joining in
  • felt more relaxed
  • less of an adrenaline hit
  • engaging socially, creating, problem-solving
  • mods - going beyond the game
  • would like to ask the games industry for “other things” that are more like minecraft
  • creative & problem solving rather than just running around shooting things

Teach your kids to code not just consume games

Stef Lewandowski, Makeshift @stef

  • give them a laptop and let them break it…
  • have a hackable computer
  • use the recycling box as construction kit
  • Eden: low-scale of minecraft for younger kids
  • robots: e.g.
  • start with making web sites first, before coding…?
    • use as a creative & sharing exercise
  • in Scratch look at drawing with the pen while following the mouse

Should you manage your screen time?

I was looking forward to this part of the day, but the presentations didn’t really get into the issue at hand.

The first presenter, who didn’t set limits to screen time at all, seemed to have children who didn’t get zoned out by the screen — and he himself hated computer games…

The second presenter had children under 5 who weren’t getting any social pressure to play on the computer and were probably too young to do so anyway.

Matthew Karas — no limits

  • daughter likes bikes & guitar
  • son’s favourite activity is writing books with pencil
  • they will jump off the computer if given an offer to go and play in the park
  • personally hate computer games
  • information overload is everywhere: even in a forest
  • “taking children seriously foundation”

Kate Jangra — no screen time at all

  • home educate two boys, one four, one two
  • personally believe that children under five don’t need computing
  • need to learn about moving, mud, etc — the real world — before understanding the virtual world
  • played first ever game (sonic the hedgehog) when 17 and didn’t do anything until finished
  • instant gratification isn’t great for development
  • sets up unrealistic expectations
  • indoor vs outdoor debate
  • children need to fall in love with our world first
  • ration yourself too — children are mimics

My situation — where’s the edge?

I have two boys: a four year-old and an eleven year-old — both of whom are like me and can really focus on what they’re doing, but lose the sense of their body when do so. This could be on a movie, a game or even a book (for the older one — the younger one’s not reading yet…)

I work with computers for a living. I really enjoy the creativity and sense of possibilities computers provide, but I also know that I can get lost and lose whole evenings to trawling around on wikipedia…

Through experimenting with different amounts of time on the computer, we have found that our older boy finds it harder to stop and feels more anger when he plays for much longer than an hour at a time. The issue seems to be how separated he becomes from how he’s actually feeling — it doesn’t seem to matter if the game is a high adrenaline adventure or being creative in Minecraft.

What does make a difference is relating to another person or being physically active while he’s playing. We have a Xbox Kinect and he is much more able to talk about stopping and doing something else if he has been jumping around the room while playing. Similarly, if I have been playing the game with him — and actually talking to him while doing so, rather than us playing separately in the same game — then it’s much easier for him to relate to me about non-game activities.

Has anyone else had a similar experience? I know my son is quite frustrated that we limit his time on the computer so much compared to some of his friends, but we haven’t found an alternative that works better for us.

Screentime – a healthy diet?

Dr Omer Moghraby Child Psychiatrist @moghraby

  • very little research on causality
  • sleep is very important
  • different ages need specific amounts
  • more at younger ages
  • sleep latency is also really important — how quickly you get to sleep
  • increased amount of screen time has an effect on sleep latency
  • increased console use does not link to obesity
  • violence leading to action — mostly debunked, but needs to be contextualized
  • what about kids developmental level?
  • arguments and fights around screen time may cause more problems than the screen time itself…


  • video game writer:
    • not much research on active screen usage
    • active engagement is better than passive engagement
    • Kate has a list of articles will make available later
  • dominic — code club & code club pro trainer:
    • Tom: how did you stop bully following you online?
    • Answer: easier to filter out online
    • still hurts, but can skip past it
  • parent & doctor:
    • perhaps a gender difference in bullying getting into personal space
    • have to give girls extra support
    • skeletal development & bone health is important
    • already a vitamin D deficiency in the population — children need to get outside in the summer
    • Omer: supervision & balance
    • not much evidence that this generation are that much different
    • Matthew: children have never declined going to the park…
    • it will always get them off the computer
    • Simon: been using geocaching with 10yo as a fun outdoor activity
  • active & passive screen:
    • concerned about losing non-digital creativity
    • children always drawn to screens
    • digital as constrained… (really?)
    • vs constraints being good
    • vs digital not always screens

Understanding and inspiring creativity in kids

Steve Vranakis Google’s Creative Director for the UK @stevevran

  • grew up in Vancouver, Canada
  • spent most of his time outside
  • immigrant parents: wanted him to be a doctor or something else professional, but he was good at drawing
  • lives in Brighton
  • have a 6 yo & 3 yo + another on the way
  • “65% of today’s primary chidren will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet”
  • works for Google Creative Lab
  • Science Museum: Web Lab
    • sketchbots - takes a picture of you, then draws it, and shares the video of it drawing you on youtube
    • universal orchestra - playing instruments with people around the world
    • data tracer
    • teleporters - live 360 degree video & audio feed from somewhere, including inside a shark tank…
  • world’s biggest band over the internet
  • Jam with Chrome
    • choose an instrument
    • could invite up to three other people to join you
  • his group launches everything with a video
  • DevArt
    • coding as a new creative discipline
    • three artists curated
    • competition to have fourth person
    • devart young creators: schools invited to visit before public opening in morning
    • get talks & interaction from artists
  • google science fair
    • what you love
    • what you’re good at
    • what you want to change

Imagination is Priceless

Tom Morley, Eco Toy Box & Instant Teamwork

  • here to represent the godparents, mad uncles and artistic aunties
  • adolescence can fail
  • make sure you stay creative
  • the world’s most popular toy is a stick, the second most popular toy is a cardboard box
  • eco toy box has pictures to make cardboard boxes come alive
  • doors, windows, castles, speakers, masks, portholes
  • stick them on boxes to give your imagination a boost
  • black tie, white lie
    • meet on waterloo bridge and pretend we’ve been up all night
    • a way of getting permission and having fun with our children
  • be as creative, as mad, as flamboyant as you can
  • Tom runs drumming & singing sessions in schools
    • link up with a school in Africa to sing the same song

How a community can inspire kids with creativity

Nick Corston, STEAM Dad

  • little house of fairy tales at camp bestival
    • the science of music
  • watch caine’s arcade
  • offer lots of activities
  • children choose what they want to do
  • most popular prize in school auction:
    • 10 yo son offered to run a stop-motion animation workshop for a family
  • Ford contributed half a Goblin electric car kit
  • S.S. Great Britain in Bristol
    • Brunel should be on the curriculum!
  • community, collaboration, co-creation
  • announcing STEAM Co.
  • want other schools to get involved
  • one school thinking of converting the whole top floor of school into a STEAM attic

The value of drawing with your children

Tony De Saulles, Illustrator of Horrible Science

  • creativity at home is an investment in our children’s futures
  • was only boy in 6th form doing art
  • children all over the world laugh at the same things
    • especially poo and wee…
  • How to Draw Horrible Science
  • workshops: get the children to copy me
  • follow simple instructions
  • there’s no right or wrong
  • copying is a good thing
  • drawing with 150 children: they all drew the same thing but all were different

Getting kids making things and doing stuff

Amy Solder, funding creative things at NESTA

  • Mark Hatch: The Maker Movement Manifesto
  • Look out for Fab Lab / Hackspace / Maker Space
  • Make: magazine — mainly for adults, some kids projects too
  • Make Things Do Stuff: projects for kids
    • written by kids for kids
  • printcraft — minecraft server with 3D printing
  • little bits: magnetic electronic circuits

Get your kids animated through animation

Gavin Molloy, Get Smart


  • getting artists/authors into schools who are focussing on literacy:
    • Authors Aloud, Speaking of Books
  • revision mind maps
    • make a mess for revising
    • draw it and label it yourself
    • sticks in your mind

Working smart time not part time

Amelia Torode

I just caught the end of this talk…

Amelia is going to be writing a book — and is looking for input on part-time working

Getting inspired by ideas, innovation & ambitino

Nico Macdonald

  • London Transport Museum Depot — in Acton, where all the things that don’t fit in the museum are stored
    • opens once a month
  • Selfridges Festival of Imagination
  • Big Bang Fair at ExCel
  • Technopop London at QE Park
  • finding out:

Bringing stories to life as experiences

Valerie Coward

  • inspired by Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales for Young and Old
  • Grimm Tales for young and old at Shoreditch Town Hall basement
  • first 6 week season just finished in April
  • did storytelling as parents tell children
  • were originally concerned that younger children would find stories scary
  • but they didn’t mind — as long as the baddies got dealt with in the end, they were happy
  • actors played multiple parts
  • clearness about the story: the characters can be fluid
  • at the end of the guided session, they let the audience wander through the set
  • coming back in bigger venue in November with new stories

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am amazed at the quality and scope of Adam's notes on the conference. He must have done an awful lot of work to produce them.
They give a good flavour of the thought and intelligence that went into the contributions made to the event.
The results are well worth reading and detailed consideration.