DARE TO SAY IT
ARTICLE / EVENT
TEXT JULIA UOTILA
It’s been a couple of weeks since Dare to Learn 2018 took place and the time for us to look back to the festivities. The festival was arranged now for the second time around, and this year it hosted 19 speakers, numerous talks, discussions and workshops and attracted around 4000 guests. I had the pleasure to attend the event this year and will now take you back on a tour of the festival venue on the first festival day.
In the morning, I am making my way towards the main entrance of Kaapelitehdas, when I run into a friend. She seems thrilled and disappointed all at once – she was forced to run to office so she could only attend the very beginning of a workshop she had been looking forward to. “The atmosphere there is wonderful!” she praised while walking swiftly towards her next destination, against the flow of people arriving to the festival venue.
As I step in, I am greeted by red lights and carpets. How appropriate, I think to myself, red is a daring colour, they say. The incoming people are not, however, only greeted by the red décor of the venue: there’s buzzing and bubbling, people everywhere waving to one another, hugging, shaking hands. This definitely seems like a meeting place, for old and new friends and contacts alike.
People are gathered around different stands that have everything from Moomins and berry products to simulations and robots on display. Many different languages can be heard and spotted (some of them in code too). I pass by the smaller stage, called the vision stage, where ASTA RAAMI, intuition researcher, is encouraging the audience to start to see themselves as part of the problem, instead of looking at it from outside, when attempting to solve extremely difficult problems.
Mariam Shodeinde, one of the stage hosts of Dare to Learn 2018. PHOTO: Santeri Palikko
The tables at the event are both round and square – and at lunch hour they are all equally full. Some people are using the break for work and are scattered around the venue with their laptops, smartphones and tablets. I ask MARIAM SHODEINDE, one of the hosts of the vision stage, what is the most daring idea or speech she has heard this far. “I can’t name just one speech or idea in specific, but the talks on intuitive intelligence and emotion have been daring in my opinion. I find these topics fresh in the context of learning.”
On my coffee run, I cross paths with AKSELI HUHTANEN, the CEO of Dare to Learn, who is already excited to hear about people’s experiences and to reflect on what has been learned since last year. “I would like to know if people got more out of the event this year than last year. I’m really looking forward to hearing the feedback and learning what could be done better.” The first day has only just begun and he’s already thinking of what could be learned – seems like he’s doing a pretty good job epitomizing the spirit of Dare to Learn.
Akseli Huhtanen, the CEO of Dare to Learn, opening the festival. PHOTO: Petri Anttila
After lunch, I head to the main stage to catch the speech of SAHRA-JOSEPHINE HJORTH – a researcher and the CEO and co-founder of CanopyLAB, an eLearning software for creating adaptive learning experiences. She has, for instance, worked with refugees, researching how emerging technologies can be used for empowerment. Her keynote focuses on one of the themes of this year’s festival: ‘What should we learn next?’ According to Hjorth, we should focus on the word “we” in the preceding question. ‘Who is the we’ and ‘how we should be learning’, she argues, are at least as important questions as the original one posed. Hjorth speaks for inclusivity and emphasizes the importance of asking the learners themselves questions on what they think they should be learning – a step especially important in the process of planning curriculums for new learner populations, such as people living in refugee camps.
Sahra-Josephine Hjorth taking the stage. PHOTO: Petri Anttila
The main stage, also referred to as “the red carpet of learning". PHOTO: Petri Anttila
People sitting next to me admire the modern, red carpet or catwalk like mainstage. It seems that especially the guests that have visited traditional education fares before are not prepared for the visuality and the festive atmosphere of the event. Some seem blown away: “This is more like the Slush of the world of education!”
Luckily, the streets of Helsinki don’t look slushy just yet. I’ve climbed up to the sunny rooftop of Kaapelitehdas to catch a glimpse of the view over Helsinki and a word with some of the speakers. They are taking a break, chatting to one another and having a cup of coffee next to the rooftop sauna. “A sauna, here? Why not? When in Finland!” laugh some of the speakers.
Jamie Brooker sharing his ideas on transforming the learning experience. PHOTO: Petri Anttila
JAMIE BROOKER, the co-founder of Kahoot, a game-based learning platform, how has your day been? “Amazing! It is really exciting to go to an event that is actually focused on learning, rather than solely education. When we were creating Kahoot, I talked about this all the time – we were focused on the human behaviours of learning, rather than trying to fit into the established system of education. I think trying to fit into the pre-existing, big system is actually one of the reasons why we don’t innovate or push things forward all the time. If you design for human behaviours of learning, you actually got more chance of creating real impact.”
Yet, when it comes to education, he has some ideas for the future, too: “Well, again I realise I’m saying this in Finland, where you are more progressive, but in the UK for example, it can be quite hard to try and transform the way we do learning. Politicians change every four years and the department for education is being led by a different person all the time. For a start, I’d like to see a long term strategy, which is something Finland had and has been able to execute upon. Second, it would be important to try and make education much more student-led or learner-led, so that we can learn the skills around taking initiative beyond just consuming knowledge and consuming content. Learning is about far more than that! Additionally, I’m a designer by background, so I really want to see creativity on the agenda in education. Particularly, as we move into a world where technology is automating a lot and there is plenty of uncertainty around the role of human beings. Even though I think creativity is something that can be perhaps automated at some point, it’s still our best chance of creating a future and a role for ourselves [as human beings].”
An oasis of fresh coffee and snacks for the festival-goers in need of refreshment. PHOTO: Petri Anttila
Next, BEN HUGHES, the director of content of Blinkist, arrives to the roof after having just given his speech on the main stage. Blinkist is an app that offers the key insights of bestselling nonfiction books in a form in which they can be swiped through in 15 minutes or less. In fact, Hughes claims that the app “makes swiping left feel like a reward”, as it means you’ve picked up another insight, which is a certain redefinition of the ‘left swipe’ for all of those who have ever tried Tinder. Ben Hughes, how do you see the division between formal and informal education? “My perception is that formal learning kind of ends when you graduate from university. That’s how it has gone in my own experience and, after graduation, I’ve mostly relied on informal learning. I would say that actually the most impactful things I have learned through informal learning, such as by reading non-fiction books, taking courses online and so forth.” (He proceeds to give a list of three non-fiction books that have been the most impactful in his life and that he warmly recommends to others: Search Inside Yourself by CHADE-MENG TAN, Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by DAVID ALLEN and Nonviolent Communication by MARSHALL B. ROSENBERG.)
Mosaic of emotions on the emotion board. PHOTO: Santeri Palikko
Down at the festival area, the last daring speakers are about to leave the stage accompanied by the music of Alma. After countless raw berry shots, numerous heated discussions and a myriad of emotions written on sticky notes and collected on the emotion board, the first festival day has come to an end. On my way outside I overhear people re-arranging their schedules for the following day so they can maximize the time they get to spend at the festival. “Should I ask my boss if we could reschedule tomorrow so I could come back here to hear the pitches of the EdTech startups tomorrow?"
"Do I dare?”