Handheld Learning 09

normanby_hhl_2handheld learning conference – barbican 5-7 oct 09

So, I’m back after two and a bit days at the ol’ handheld thing and have had some time to try to make sense of so much – in so little time. This’ll be a tad jumbled and ramblin’ I guess so.. cover me, I’m going in..

The original plan – arrive Mon evening around 6, find somewhere to eat then brace self/girder loins for two days of mind changing stuff..

Change of plan – rewind back to July – or even pre June. My day job (and their views aren’t represented here) is e learning monkey for Northern Grid where I work in schools, LAs, across the region and nationally speaking and (notionally) leading on tech and learning, learning platform stuff and e safety/security.

Our conference was in June and one of my roles was to coordinate the student keynote .. enter Normanby Primary School in Redcar and Cleveland LA. A school, put simply, facing many challenges and led by Carl Faulkner and a team of fantastic teachers. They’ve been persisting with handheld devices for over a year, despite technical issues and made amazing progress (with tireless help and enthusiasm from Andrew Stogdale, of the LA) – teachers, children and parents all working more effectively and in partnership to help learners achieve their potential.

So, the upshot of all that was Normanby was awarded the prestigious Northern Grid award Overall Excellence in ICT. When I was made aware of the Handheld Learning Awards it seemed the right thing to do to nominate the school for their work with handhelds and Carl as Practitioner of the Year.

Interestingly the online form required school website details from all nominations – Normanby doesn’t have a website. They use their learning platform to communicate and share with their learning community so there followed a rapid piece of work by Northern Grid to create the web pages needed for the nomination process – a great example of how Northern Grid, the RBC, works in partnership and supports its schools and local authorities..

Carls’ tireless efforts to gain recognition for his learners then results in arranging for the children to enter the Y Factor competition (‘an opportunity to showcase the innovation and ingenuity being demonstrated amongst young learners using mobile, gaming, social media or other popular technologies in their learning’) on the Monday afternoon – and they won!

So, with Carl and the school finalists for the two awards and one in the bag – my plans changed and I needed to rush over for the awards and represent Northern Grid and support in any way I could..

Let’s get the moan out the way first.. charged £200 for a table – only to hear that half the tables hadn’t been bought so the rest of the delegates could sit for free! It also turns out that in the excitement Carl and the LA colleagues had not eaten so it was only fitting that muggins forks out for snacks that I was assured would feed 10 people.. Enter stage right, little waitress lady with a bowl of olives, some crisps and 6 goats cheeses the size of polos. It would be an understatement to say I was a tiny bit miffed to have been charged 47 squid for the equivalent of one bun and a sardine in the miracle stakes..

So, Carl won Best Practitioner, and Normanby won the Innovation award.. words won’t describe the sense of pride all of us felt (let’s not worry how you solve the challenge of getting the kids back again for the Wednesday pm session where they were required to perform again for delegates)

500 wds later I am now turning my attention to the conference..

  • I enjoyed it
  • Fantastic positive atmosphere
  • Real pleasure to meet people who I’ve only known as avatars, 140 characters and a few shortened urls
  • Some really engaging speakers
  • Massively enjoyed Malcolm McLaren, Ollie Bray..

I wrote about The McLaren on @timbuckteeth’s blog

‘There were, what seemed to me, many who felt this was not an appropriate platform for his at times rambling and self indulgent monologue – but not me. McLaren’s session was engaging, stimulating and, perhaps it’s my age (‘I was a punk before you were a punk’), I felt I was in the presence of greatness.

There was a recurring theme among several speakers of ‘I got nothin’ from my education and I turned out alright’ yet McLaren’s message was I think, heartfelt and passionate. We must question and challenge authority and nurture creativity – if technology can assist this – then use it with anger. Cue the song ‘I was an edupunk..’

Oh, and how cool is the Twitter Back Channel? Listening to speakers and reading tweets is like having an informed pal nudging you and saying ‘that’s an important/interesting point, I’ve made a note of it for you)

So what about the rest?

Well here’s the thing – I’m by no means an international guru – but I do know some stuff.. I know mobile tech is here, I know it will get smaller, more powerful and cheaper. I know that we need to rethink teaching and learning models and environments (I know BSF is, in places – missing this opportunity and it’s no accident that it’s been referred to as ‘Painting Schools for the Future’ or even ‘Closing Schools for the Future’).

I also know things were different when we were at school (first computer I used was in its own room and we had to punch thousands of cards to feed into it) – I also know all that Prensky stuff and the Douglas Adams stuff too..so, really people.. I didn’t need to spend two days listening to speakers telling me about all this again and I rather suspect that many delegates were at the same awareness level as me.

So it was all rather nice – it was safe, and it served as a useful tool to help me reflect on where I am, where we are, and where we need to be heading..

What would I change? Where was the discussion? The interaction? I spoke a little in the workshops but mostly it was a case of time management, get the speaker finished on time, allow 2 questions, get the next one on.. again and again.

I wanted to ask Ollie how we can prepare teachers for the ridicule of eternity when a child uploads an unfortunate video of them? Please don’t tell me if you have respect/control then this will never happen. Bad things happen, in the best of learning environments and if you’ve never been happy slapped then you have been lucky.. it’s only luck that you aren’t up there in cyberspace, humiliated and defenseless.

So what would I change?

I’d have found Steve Wheeler and Terry Freedman and followed them around like an eejit for 2 days. This way I’d have met even more interesting people, had more useful conversations, made more contacts, enriched my PLN and learnt so much more about  the stuff I don’t know I don’t know.

17 Oct 09  a slightly more formal/objective/tame report by me can be found on the northern grid website


29 Responses to Handheld Learning 09

  1. abdul says:


    i love the blog sums up my feelings exactly. Your description of the awards night was really funny.

    I would echo the comments on the food, it was abysmal.


  2. Thanks for kind words 🙂 I should have liked to have met up with you as well.

    I enjoyed your article:

    1. I didn’t know Normanby had won the award, but was so impressed with their children’s presentation that I introduced myself to Carl afterwards to discuss an article about what they’ve done.

    Well done for your role in helping them along.

    2. I think it’s important for all of us visionaries to remember what it’s like in the real world, and to have strategies for dealing with the the kind of issue you mention.

    • simfin says:

      The Normanby story is worth sharing because it’s such a great example of leadership, vision, enthusiasm, determination and collaboration. Sounds a bit glib but if you go and see them – all will become clear 🙂

  3. Susie Arnott says:

    I wasn’t there, but followed various #hhl09 tweets. I ended up downloading lots of iPhone apps and having a good look at some online apps – on a netbook blog – all from your links (plus @timbuckteeth and @ terryfreedman). So, even if it wasn’t rocket science, thanks guys!
    Also, congratulations to Normanby School! I saw them at the N Grid conference – most impressive. 🙂

  4. Andrew Stogdale says:

    Terry’s comment was a telling one, he didn’t know about the awards. The “slot” for the Y factors winners was not even advertised in the conference brochure and was actually squeezed into a theme of “inclusion”. The next speakers were talking about learning english in Bangladesh I believe. Several people I spoke to were annoyed that they hadn’t known that the children were going to be on. Seems ironic that an example of learners talking about their own use of technology was treated like a tolerated footnote to the conference. Maybe the fact that there was no funding available to support the presenters getting there (was Malcolm Mclaren paid/compensated for his well researched and prepared focus on handheld learning?) presupposed the fact that they might not turn up. It is fortunate that Steljes, who supply the pdas to the children via Wildknowledge, were happy to pay for their return; and they didn’t ask to be named, or have logos everywhere.

    HHL 10 will no doubt have the same ethos and focus so any other events that I could attend that focus on learners and teachers showing us they are actually doing sommat rather than wondering about/reminiscing/guessing what might have, is or will be happening would be great. Steve Wheeler pushed a flyer into my hand for his event at Plymouth in April and that looks interesting. Anything else I’m missing, preeferably a bit further North?

    • I’m utterly shocked by Andrew Stogdale’s comments here.

      The suggestion that Normanby Primary Schools superb presentation was “squeezed into the programme like a tolerated footnote” is a disgraceful comment to make. Although I doubt Mr Stogdale will have the good grace to post a retraction.

      The reason that the presentation did not appear in the printed guide is that:

      a) We didn’t know who would win the Learners Y Factor.

      b) Where they would be traveling from, e.g. it wouldn’t have helped if we’d insisted on an opening slot at 09:30 on Wednesday morning for pupils coming from Redcar.

      c) The guides were printed 1 week before the conference

      The electronic guides as well as the @hhl #hhl09 twitter feed promoted the placement of Normanby’s presentation within the programme anybody with a mobile device would have been able to discover this. It was also announced over the public address system for those that talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

      As it happened Normanby were placed (not squeezed) into the main conference session themed “Transformation” and given the transformative work that Carl Faulkner and his team have been performing there this placement seemed perfectly fitting alongside the work of the Open University, IBM Learning and Ray Kurzweil.

      The fact that somebody with a media pass didn’t know who won the awards is a surprise but not one that the organisers can’t be held responsible for. The awards event was well promoted and free to attend.

      Carl Faulkner and Normanby got the hat trick and good for them.

      Again the twittersphere and the blogosphere was electric (it actually trended in the global top 10) with details of who won – so again I’ve no idea how this might have been missed by anyone reporting on the event. In fact HHL09 and the awards created an excellent platform for Carl Faulkner and Normanby Primary to get the international recognition they so rightly deserve.

      As organisers we were unable to meet travel expenses and made this clear in all correspondence and promotion of the Learners Y Factor – we just didn’t have the budget although we did ask Becta to assist.

      The children did, however, receive a Nintendo Wii each plus games for their achievement with a value of nearly £1,000.

      Well done to Steljes and Wild Knowledge who supported the travel expenses as suppliers to Mr Stogdale’s LA I’m sure this makes good business sense.


      Graham Brown-Martin

  5. Matthew Pearson says:

    Congratulations to Normanby on the award, thoroughly deserved for a school which is relentless in its pursuit of innovative practices and never frightened of trying new things out.

    On Andy’s post about Northern events, the BMoble event is always good. It is technically for Bradford schools doing mobile learning, but why not approach them now and ask for a presentation slot? I can guarantee that any input the school and the children make will be a lot more than a footnote. If you need contacts/introductions let me know…


  6. simfin says:

    Hi Graham, I’ll forward your comments to Andrew and hopefully you can both work together to ensure next year’s event is even more successful and meets the needs of the delegates and the organisations involved.

    • Thanks Simon

      On the subject of the awards evening I’m sorry that there were things you weren’t happy with. I would be keen to know who made the assurances regarding food so that we can take this up with the venue. We had gone to some length in all communications regarding the awards that that it was a party and not a dinner.

      In the meantime I have posted something on the HHL community site that may clarify some aspects of the evening:


      Best wishes


  7. Andrew Stogdale says:

    Hello Graham,

    Apologies for my slow response as I hadn’t spent too much time near a digital device over the weekend.

    Retract my statement? Er, no. That is an expression of how it felt, an opinion. I am surely allowed to express that. What I will retract is that the slot was not advertised at all. Checking my facts I realise that it was indeed shown on the electronic Conference Connect website. Unfortunately I had pretty much given up using that by the Wednesday as there was so little discussion on it and I had a lovely glossy brochure in my hand. Most delegates I talked to or discussed which session to go to used this as their basis for making a decision as to where to go. Hence, and I will repeat the point, several people I spoke to afterwards said that they didn’t know that the Y factor winners would be in that slot because they used the brochure they had been given. You can’t give out an agenda in a glossy brochure and expect people to doubt it and go looking for a different source of information can you? If it was announced on the PA I’m afraid many of us were oblivious to it. I am afraid that I am not a Twit (is that the right word, it means something else round here) so was not following the conference in that way. I don’t know (from asking various people this morning) anybody who was alerted to what was going on via Twitter. Was it a further channel of “what is happening now”? Maybe simplification of transmission or convergence of information would have solved this problem. Hence my comments, as they were intended to highlight where I felt the conference could be improved, not as a direct attack on you. I know you want the delegate experience to be continually improved and I would hope you would take my experience as an opportunity to do just that.

    My last point also relates to the three reasons you give for it not being in the brochure. Forgive my incredulity at your reasoning but Normanby winning is absolutely irrelevant isn’t it? Surely the pre-printed brochure would have read “2.30 Y Factor winner” as indeed (a) you would not know who would win, (b) what time they would arrive and (c) the agenda is pre-planned. It would then be up to the school as to whether they could meet that timescale. To not print the slot into the agenda would presuppose that the school would not turn up would it? That is how it looks. Can you see that?

    My other point about funding is fair I think. Yes the schools were told in advance that they would not be reimbursed if they had won the Y factor and paid for transport but I, again an opinion, felt that this is disgraceful treatment. Seriously. I have never been involved in a conference where someone who is speaking on stage has not even had their travel paid for. Rarely are they expected to do it for free, but in the case of the Y factor I could see how the experience of doing it and the prestige of winning would be reward enough in that instance. If we had not sourced funding privately the school would essentially have spent over £500 of public money to claim their prize, speak at HHL in the main conference. That would not be right would it? What do you think? The fact that they all won a Wii (as well as every other entrant, winner or not in the Y factor – which was nice to be honest as they all presented well and any could have graced the main conference) on the Monday (which cost £900 to travel I believe with parent supervision) is neither here nor there. Could I suggest that next year some budget IS allocated to the winners of the Y factor to allow them to present to the conference at large without the worry of if they could afford it or not.

    If someone with a press pass had missed who had won the awards then perhaps they weren’t alone and instead of saying “well we aren’t responsible” think about why they missed it. How well was it announced, written up and so on? That is not a criticism to annoy you. By doing such an exercise you may find that you did everything (and more) to publicise the fact but at least it is an opportunity for reflection as an organiser to ensure that within reason the same situation might be minimised next year.

    I also don’t understand your statement about walking the walk. Apologies for my ignorance.



  8. Denise Evans says:

    Just wanted to add that I and my colleague used the printed brochure to decide where we wanted to go and what to see. We would have loved to have seen the children but didn’t know it was on. We relied on this being up to date and accurate.

  9. Denise

    I’m sorry that you missed the presentation by the children from Normanby in the main conference but I think you may have misunderstood how this opportunity arose and therefore why it was impossible to include within the printed programme that was distributed to delegates on Monday.

    Normanby Primary School were selected as one of 6 finalists to take part in the Learners Y Factor (LYF) which was a feature of Monday’s free Handheld Learning Festival.

    Finalists come from all over the UK and in reality they are all winners. This is an opportunity for young learners to be centre stage and present their innovative approaches to learning. It is one of our most popular sessions.

    The Learners Y Factor was well promoted on our website and numerous mailings, in the guide and Normanby’s involvement as finalist was advertised on the conference website:


    Further, all delegates attending both the Festival & Conference were made aware of the LYF in the information email sent to all attendees prior to their arrival.

    As LYF was presented as a game, in addition to receiving Nintendo Wii’s, the team that in the opinion of the audience and judges demonstrated the most innovation was provided with the opportunity to present during the main conference on Wednesday.

    Without knowledge, before Monday evening, of where the winning team would be travelling from we had designed into the main conference programme sufficient time in the morning or afternoon for whoever won. A winning team could then take their pick of when they would present.

    Given the distance that the team from Normanby were travelling the 2:30 slot was the most appropriate.

    So you see it would not have been possible to include their details or any details of a slot that might or might not happen in a printed guide that was printed a week earlier and distributed on Monday until we knew who won and when they would be presenting.

    We used the electronic guides, electronic signage, Twitter, tannoy system and hoped that some word of mouth would encourage people to come along and see their presentation which indeed several hundred people did.

    We also filmed all of the finalists presentations in the Learners Y Factor as well as Normanby’s presentation in the main conference and these videos will be online later this week for all to see. So hopefully you will get your chance to see them present twice both in the LYF and as part of the main conference!

    To Mr Stogdale’s further comments:

    Andrew, this is probably an appropriate arena to continue this debate but in your original posting here your opinion misrepresented our endeavours in making what was a successful attempt to involve young learners within the Festival and Conference.

    Our entire event is open freely to accompanied under-16’s and there were more than 100 school children enjoying themselves at the event.

    You continued suggestion that the involvement of Normanby as a “tolerated footnote” is just plain wrong. They were welcomed guests that were always treated as an important part of the main programme. Sharing a stage with the Open University, IBM Learning and Ray Kurzweil isn’t bad company and Normanby Primary did themselves proud.

    I’m sorry that we didn’t have the budget to pay the traveling expenses of all of the participants of the LYF. As I have already stated we did request assistance from Becta but they also didn’t have the budget, so what should we have done? Cancelled the LYF altogether?

    I should point out that the majority of speakers for HHL also register as paying delegates as most see the benefit of participating in the overall event and value hearing the experiences and ideas of other speakers. Funding more than 100 speakers would add a significant premium to the price of your registration fee.

    Your point about the printed programme is covered in my explanation to Denise above – just to be crystal – it was done to ensure that we could accommodate any of the winners. You’ll find that most modern conferences run on a fluid basis which is why on the top of every page in the printed guide it refers you to the electronic versions for updates.

    Not everybody runs to a Victorian timetable and we have found that the majority of our attendees enjoy a certain randomness combined with continuous discussion via their mobile devices. It’s a shame you’re not a Twit, it’s a free application on the free iPod touch you received when you registered as a delegate. You might have enjoyed the event more had you used it.


    Graham Brown-Martin

  10. Andrew Stogdale says:

    Hi Graham,

    Thanks for making your point more clearly. We are merely delegates telling you that we didn’t know about the slot on the Wednesday because we used the glossy brochure, which I believe other delegates did too.

    I used my ipod that was free as part of the conference cost to engage in the excellent piece of software that Peter Hoffman set up. My comments on that are in the discussion areas for all to see. I think you are assuming I did not enjoy the conference because of a lack of information. I must say the brochure was very helpful in allowing me to see, at a glance which session to go to. The fact I then didn’t go to twitter was surely my choice. Didn’t Mr Mclaren say that technology was “just a tool” as his parting shot? I agree with him, i used the printed technology you provided.

    The conference was well organised with the best wireless I have ever come across in a venue. I am not going to suggest anything to the contrary as that would be completely at odds with my opinion. Please do not see this as an unprovoked random attack, i just don’t agree with how the Y factor winner slot was organised. It would seem that I misunderstood how the slot was identified for the winners of the Y factor. If it was me I would have planned that slot ahead, not waited to see who won then tried to fit round them. If the variables were so great i think i would have chosen 2.30 anyway as it would have fitted most eventualities. Having organised school trips and visits as a classroom practitioner for many, many years can i offer the advice that this would have been helpful to any school?
    I didn’t realise that conference timetables were so fluid in the way that you describe. Certainly the ones that i have been involved with for NCSL, National Strategy, Northern Grid, and so on have tended to stick to the agreed agenda, with the inevitable overrun at various points. I don’t really understand how this is Victorian? if it is then I would prefer a return to Victorian values from a delegate’s point of view as it is easier to ensure you don’t miss stuff. But maybe I am anachronistic.

    For the majority of delegates who wish to act randomly (is that really what they said – “we like to be random?”) then perhaps they could simply not read any of the signage, brochure, conference connect, listen to announcements etc. In fact if the majority don’t want any sort of structure to the conference you will save yourself a fortune in all that organisation. Pity as I felt that on the whole it was very well organised by your staff who worked tirelessly on it.

    I don’t think you are going to understand my point of view on this, that is not your failing, or mine, simply a difference of opinion. That is how I felt based on my experience, no more, no less. I don’t want people to judge that, or take sides, I wanted to make it clear that that is how it felt to me and that by doing so, it could be taken into consideration (and if you felt appropriately totally rejected) for future events. I think that paying for a speaker’s travel expenses is pretty normal for most conferences but if it is isn’t for yours, i did not know that. Hence can you see why my opinion may have been formed? Again, that is not a judgement of you, if that is the way that your conference works that is that, not a criticism, just a fact. It was simply outside of my experience. I like to come to HHL to see classroom practitioners talking about what they do (and that includes learners). Other delegates will no doubt focus on different aspects, policy moves, new technology, FE and so on. Fine, as a community we are a broad church. I think the Y factor winners (whoever it was)are an absolutely vital part of HHL. I’d personally like to see more children talking about what they do as it is so useful to my area of work. That would be my criticism of the conference content and hence my annoyance that when children given a slot they were not in the brochure. I am telling you this as a delegate’s experience, and I will add that I was not alone in missing the slot. We will continue to disagree on this, that is fine but please give some thought to my comments on conference content and focus. If you want to focus more on the adults, policy, big name speakers, fine, that will draw in the audience that you identify. It just doesn’t fit in with the child centred work in the classroom that i do day in day out. That is not a problem, surely, you will continue to have your conferences and I won’t be there, simple. At least that we both know where we stand.

    The fact that two people in this thread have added similar sentiments to me in terms of using the brochure must at least give you pause for thought.

    I still don’t understand what you meant by walking the walk?



  11. Carl Faulkner says:

    Hi simfin

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the conference; I agree with some, not with others…Malcom Mc I found to be less than inspirational and not very relevant, but I loved getting to talk to other teachers, schools, LAs about their work. John Davitt was amazing, my head was spinning at the end of his half hour!

    Peanuts and nibbles cost less in the North East, and it was a challenge getting my learners back for Wednesday but they loved the Conference, and their self esteem, and that of their friends has grown. Grahams staff were friendly and welcomming and the technical support good.

    Its the nature of these things that we will not win 3 awards again, but I will go back next year!

    Above all else it was a joy to see the children plan and prepare their own presentation. We were equally amazed with the technical backup we received from Northern Grid for our website- thanks Phillip!

    Catch up with you soon I hope


  12. simfin says:

    Hi Carl.. Above all else – my face was aching with pride and smiling seeing your learners ambling around on the stage prior to the presentation on Wed pm and then that awesome performance! There is something very special when kids excel outside of the usual ‘read the passage, answer the question’ which seems to be so much of youngsters’ school days. I’m very grateful to all at Normanby for the opportunity to share in your success..


  13. John davitt says:

    Go Andrew Stogdale I think you make some valid points – Graham just take it on the chin and sort it for next year! Badges with large first name would be lovely too Peace and Love Peace and Love
    John D

  14. simfin says:

    Thanks John – Peace and Love indeed. For me it was a real pleasure to hang out with people who care about doing their absolute best to give kids of all backgrounds and ages, the best possible learning experiences.


  15. Matt_Irv says:

    An interesting theme here….I attended and have to say found it much better this year (possibly because I had a better idea of which sessions to attend)..If I was to put forward my ideas..as a Headteacher a huge amount more could be gained if we looked at case studies and had an opportunity to discuss the pitfalls, the solutions and how to avoid them..don’t get me wrong I adore my Ipod (thanks Graham), but some actual practical curriculum development ideas in a file that I could share with staff to enthuse and excite them all could be far more valuable (?)…for example…like everyone I was amazed by Normanby..what would have been invaluable would have been some workshops where people mind-mapped some curriculum ideas with ICT as a tool embedded in the children’s work (preferably with the visionary teachers or even better the children facilitating)..I do worry that the people who need to be impacted by the conference’s key messages are in danger of being perhaps alienated (or not even there at the conference) if we don’t spend some time thinking about how to work/develop/engage ‘the critical mass’…if you tell someone they ‘have to’ or they’re ‘out of touch’ if they don’t access the amazing technology that exists, it seems to me that we’re creating a divide that certainly doesn’t help the children

  16. Susie Arnott says:

    I wonder how common it is for conferences not to meet prize winners expenses? When Backworth Park Primary, from North Tyneside were invited to the Houses of Parliament for the day as part of the Parliamentary IT Committee “Made IT Happen” competition, http://bit.ly/P9DA2 they could only attend due to the kind sponsorship of TWEBLO. As a small school, it would have been a great challenge to pay fares for staff and students to receive their well deserved prize.
    I think competition organisers should factor getting schoolchildren to award ceremonies into their budgets, it would make winning a prize so much less worrying!

  17. 🙂

    Thanks John for your candid input.

    For the sake of clarity my principle objection to Mr Stogdale’s comments was his suggestion that the young learners at this years conference were treated like a “tolerated footnote”.

    Opinion or not, nothing could be further from the truth.

    More than 100 under-16’s attended the Festival and some attended the conference where we make it clear that accompanied under-16’s enjoy free access for the entire event regardless of how much the venue charges us per delegate.

    For “tolerated footnotes” I suggest Mr Stogdale turn his to attention to a far larger organisation heavily funded by government agencies and industry with an interested in selling products:


    He’ll find that many of the young learners allowed through those doors are tolerated as inadvertent sales people.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Susie Arnott’s and other comments that it would be better to factor in & meet the costs of attendance of learners to the event to participate in the Learners Y Factor (surely this event itself is a step forward at least?). But if the auspices of the House’s of Parliament can’t do it then what hope did we have this year?

    Let me assure you that my small team and I (3 in total) worked tirelessly right up to the Friday before the conference to do this.

    For example, one of the world’s largest software companies (who launched their new mobile operating system the day of the conference) told us that they just didn’t have any marketing budget for mobile.

    Another government agency would rather entertain foreign ministers at a trade association love-in in January than spare a little support for getting more learners and teachers involved during our Festival.

    We also asked one of the companies that funded Normanby’s trip back prior to the event for support but that was not forthcoming coming until the winner was known.

    All organisations are confronting budget pressures – it’s a fact of life during a recession.

    We made it clear on the entry form and all correspondence for the Learners Y Factor our regret that travel expenses could not be met. It was the same last year and at least one team arranged sponsorship in a similar way to Normanby.

    John et al, it’s not a question of simply “taking it on the chin” we could not take it in the bank balance.

    As a small private company delivering a high value event we provided the first day and all of it’s events freely. We are not living “la dolce vita”, we neither live in Knightsbridge nor have plush offices or drive around in sports cars. Beyond limited & reducing agency support for our events we have never received a single government or other grant – all of our online work and provision of media is maintained through anything we make from the events, i.e. we pretty much operate as a social enterprise.

    As mentioned elsewhere (http://bit.ly/lzrMy) one agency cut support for this years conference by more than 70% (from what was original indicated – see last years videos http://bit.ly/2BrI48) and two major sponsors could not meet their commitments.

    I took that on the chin and decided to proceed with the Festival, Learners Y Factor and Awards event along with their associated costs anyway.

    As you say – Peace & Love, Merry Meet, Merry Part, Merry Meet Again


  18. Donald Clark says:

    Every conference has its glitches and although feedback is welcome, it’s perhaps demanding a lot for the meagre price of the event. I use the word ‘event’ rather than ‘conference’, as personally, I like the way Graham avoids all that traditional ‘black canvas bag, over-reliance on brochure, plastic name badge’ stuff. It’s never easy organising awards (I’ve been involved in this myself in the past) but Graham does a great job with limited resources. The fact that the Learners Y Factor went ahead at all is a testament to Graham’s tenacity, given the fact that his projected income was far lower from sponsors than expected.

    Anyway, hope you can make it next year, and well done on the award.

    I’ve given a short review myself:

  19. Carl Faulkner says:

    Hi all

    There is no need for this to be a bash HHL or Graham thread, we knew what we were entered for, and what attending would cost. Equally I acknowledge that using taxpayers money to attend/ present at a Conference is an issue which needs to be aired.

    Last year we took children to HHL and managed to find commercial sponsors (nothing to do with ICT) who would invest in our vision of involving the children in decision making.This year as Graham found and commented on above we could raise nothing towards the costs involved in conference attendance.

    As Head I an prepared to ‘find’ the money to make things happen IF I can see the benefits for my Learners. I am delighted Steljes found the money for our return on Wednesday. They asked for nothing in return, so I hope no one objects to the mention of their name here.

    Our school benefited from the conference, we are happy to show the small steps we have made in the last two years to schools who would like to come and visit, as our contribution towards educational change.

    I am sure simfin will pass on my contact details, if you can not find them on the net!


  20. Andrew Stogdale says:

    Well said Carl.

    I know from your earlier posts and the reaction from the children that you and they had a wonderful experience (the kids think Hezron is sooooo cool!). How many children from a primary school in the north east of england get to speak at a national conference?

    My comments were very much my own about the setup of the funding and the way it was advertised. I appreciate the efforts that you have made Graham to explain your reasons, particularly the financial, on this blog. My comments are hopefully intended to try and ensure that EVERY speaker is as valued (financially) next year. I can’t believe that Malcolm M was not given his expenses to attend. I thoroughly acknowledge though that sponsors are more likely to help fund a big name speaker than Joe Bloggs from a primary school. That is not your fault, that is life unfortunately. Even though many of the delegates would find more use in what the child was showing than Malcolm (again a personal point of view). I would just urge you to consider that next year you could strive to ensure the funding for that element of the conference. Maybe get rid of the brochure I so dearly used then i wouldn’t be able to moan!

    You are a victim of your own success Graham. The conference as a whole is very well organised and very professional. Your team are a credit to you. When the brochure omitted what, to me was one of the most infomative (that is for me, not speaking for other delegates) sessions i was naturally rather annoyed, as you could tell. I felt that they were being marginalised. Hence my comments. The fact that many people on here have concurred to some degree (i swear i didn’t put them up to it, i don’t even know half of them!) might mean I had a valid point.

    I wish HHL every success, i really do, it has been a wonderful starting point for several very useful collaborations for me but i am now more focussed on maybe teacher led or student led sessions. i am sure there are many delegates who would be happy if the focus remains the same and that is absolutely right for them.

    Thank you for taking the time to engage in this debate and make the situation clearer.

    By the way, I laugh (horribly) at that sign every year at BETT. i guess they must have their financial backing apeased and kids don’t fit into that coz kids have only got pocket money, not LA contratcs! Absolute joke though I entirely agree, how are we supposed to get decent feedback on stuff without taking a child with me? Might try smuggling one in next year, anyone with me?

    Let’s start/continue a revolution.


    • simfin says:

      Sorry Donald now I understand ‘moderated out’. I found your longer post in the spam folder. It’s now listed here. Unless someone makes offensive, personal remarks I don’t anticipate moderating any comments on this site.

  21. The National Education Network (NEN)community is hoping to work with schools in the regions to enable “live reporting” by pupils at BETT. You won’t have to smuggle them in by the back door Andrew!

    To find out more, contact your local Learning Grid. Each Grid’s contact details can be found on the NEN website at http://www.nen.gov.uk

    Hand held and portable devices will be a key element of this activity.

    We also expect to be able to fund travel for those pupils and their teachers involved in this activity.

  22. That’s really good news Mel!

    Hopefully this offer from the NEN will extend to supporting the national contestants for next years expanded Learners Y Factor (LYF) at the Handheld Learning Festival.

    The event has become so successful that we’re going to be using larger presentation space to accommodate the hundreds of people that want to cheer on the teams involved.

    Next years LYF will also be on a Sunday (10/10/10) so hopefully even more parents and children will be able to come along 🙂

    In the meantime the excellent presentation can now be viewed online as part of the Transformation discussion at:


    Well worth viewing and well done again to Normanby!

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