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The main event for Digital Teaching and Learning Victoria is its annual conference DigiCon16. Two years ago the conference introduced a new stream call the Fringe Festival. This was to be like a ‘sideshow’ to the main conference where presenters, educators and students could create a space or present ideas that pushed the boundaries of thinking around digital technologies in education. At Digicon15 I had the pleasure of presenting and hanging out at the Fringe Festival Spark Talks. These were a series of short 12 minute mini keynote presentations aimed at challenging the listener’s thinking in education. Some presenters discussed digital technologies in education others didn’t, but what I loved about each and everyone of the spark talks was the passion.

The remit was for presenters to generate awareness, share big ideas and call people to action through short bursts of dynamic, powerful and motivating thinking. As a presenter trying to condense what I wanted to say into 12 minutes was quite a challenge. As listener it was just the right amount of time for the message to get through. It meant that there was no extended intro and no woffle. Presenters had to get straight to the point. Because the Spark Talks were positioned inside the Fringe Festival it gave presenters freedom to explore topics and ideas that perhaps they wouldn’t have in a more formal setting. This allowed for new and fresh ideas to come through and some wonderful storytelling too. One of the spin offs from the Spark talks was the conversations that occurred after each session. I think this was not just facilitated by the intriguing content but also by the informality and intimacy of the occasion.

I presented a Spark arguing that we should cut the number of Literacy and Maths hours outlined in the ACARA study guide and reallocate them to the Arts. My argument centred around the impact that music education has on the young brain and the evidence from neuroscience to support this fact. My aim was to position arts education on equal footing with other subject areas. This argument also fits in with the notion that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects should include the Arts to make STEAM. Considering that some schools approach to STEM is through building a ‘Maker/Design’ culture of learning, I believe the Arts has an important role to play in achieving this.

So if you want your thinking to be challenge by some big ideas and awesome storytelling, be sure to find some time to visit the Spark talks and #getsparked @ Digicon16

Andrew Williamson– DigiCon16 Committee

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