The third annual EPALE UK conference was held in Birmingham, England on 15th November 2018. These are my reflections as a participant at the event.
I was fortunate to attend EPALE UK’s Conference “Celebrating Adult Learning”
held in Birmingham recently. It was a full and varied programme of activities held in the Millennium Point, a very modern building which is part of Birmingham City University, and it brought together almost one hundred delegates working in adult learning from across the UK.
The keynote address was given by Sir Alan Tuckett who gave us an interesting perspective on adult community learning, its role in society, its history and the contribution it makes to policies across government departments. One of the final remarks was about the nature of adult educators. Sir Alan said that adult educators should have and use the skills of dreaming, stealing, dancing and showing off. I think that we had excellent examples of all four skills in practice during the conference.
At the start of the day delegates were asked to dream about what they wanted to get from the conference and record it using the Slido voting app. Networking, information and opportunities were amongst the favourites. There were also plenty of opportunities to “dream” about how new ideas could be put into practice as delegates were inspired by the workshop leaders with presentations on their research and practice.
However, frequent references were made to the fact that so much more could be achieved if the adult education sector received the funding it needs. There were concerns raised that participation in adult learning is at its lowest level for twenty years. Without an upturn in the situation there is a risk that the dreams could turn into nightmares.
One specific phrase that made me dream was stated by Margaret Keane, WEA, in her presentation on Family Learning for the 21st Century. A 2017 report by Dell Technologies stated that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. What are the implications of this for family learning, lifelong learning and the education system as a whole?
There were numerous opportunities to “steal” ideas and resources from workshops and from other delegates. These included family learning, work-based learning and e-learning. Kerensa Jennings
actively encouraged delegates to “steal” learning opportunities by enrolling and participating in the HRH Duke of York iDEA Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award. In fact it is a free resource open to everyone!
Throughout the day there were exhibition stands from by a variety of providers including ERASMUS+
, the Workers’ Educational Association, unionlearn, RAPAL (Research and Practice in Adult Literacies) and QA Higher Education. They provided valuable information and free resources including pens so stealing was not necessary!
Whilst I didn’t actually see anyone dancing, there were a few slick moves on the transparent elevators and numerous escalators as delegates moved from one workshop to another in the open plan building. Sir Alan used dancing as an example of having fun in adult education and there were plenty of examples of people enjoying themselves, chatting and laughing during the breaks and at lunchtime. At the end of her workshop Berta Heffernan from Leicester Adult Skills and Learning Service asked delegates to decorate some greetings cards with glitter glue, which was good fun. They had been made using lino cut printing by ex-offenders on a crafts course. They are selling them to raise money for the Macmillan Cancer charity.
In another workshop, Justin Coleman
(Alliance of Sport) and Jamie Grundy
(Prison Learning Wales) were using a plank of wood as a teaching aid - I've heard you can follow the plank on Twitter at @life_plank
. I didn’t go to the workshop so I don’t have any details about the context but clearly those who attended had fun.
Many of the workshop and exhibition presenters were justified in “showing off” in a spirit of sharing good practice. I think the adult education sector has a well-earned reputation for sharing good practice with colleagues. Corrina Hickman
, EPALE UK team leader, proudly told us that EPALE now has over 45,000 users which is a great achievement in just over three years.
from CRAICNI and an EPALE UK Ambassador provided a case study about a transnational cultural arts, music and cuisine project that has received ERASMUS + funding. The project was initiated through contact between the members using EPALE. They had a community of practice and then used a collaborative space to discuss their funding application.
At the end of the day as delegates made walked towards New Street Station to get trains home, “showing off” their EPALE tote bags of resources there was a consensus of opinion that it had been a valuable, informative day. Many thanks to the EPALE UK team for arranging it all.
Cath Harcula has been involved in adult learning for over 30 years. She is currently the chair for the National Family Learning Forum in England and is also an Ambassador for EPALE UK. Read more about Cath here.
You may also be interested in:
Never more needed, never harder to find: Adult education on the cusp of the fourth industrial revolution (blog)
Widening Horizons through EPALE (blog)
Inter-generational impact of adult learning on families in the UK (blog)
The Duke of York iDEA Programme: Digital literacy for free (blog)
Become an EPALE UK Ambassador! (blog)