Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference – Core Points and Conclusions (Part 2)

Part 2 of my Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference summary.

Last week I attended the Learning Without Frontiers 2012 Conference. My post yesterday introduced my initial 3 (of 5) core points gained from the conference. My final 2, and a short conclusion, are presented in this post. As mentioned yesterday, this only skims the surface and I would highly recommend viewing the video content from the conference when it is made available on the conference website. Some amazing content was presented!

Point 4: Conrad Wolfram (Wolfram Research Europe)

Conrad Wolfram, the founder of Wolfram Alpha , spoke about, with some passion, the subject of Math(s). He argued that there is currently 2 subjects relating to maths. Maths in society, that is more popular than event, and maths in education, which is more despised that ever.


Maths in education is currently mostly about calculation. In digital age where most people have access to powerful computers in their back pockets, this approach is out-dated and unappealing to most students.

Maths is important for a number of significant reasons. It is the foundation for most technical jobs and also encourages logical thinking. Furthermore, maths is ultimately about asking the right questions and knowing how to find the right answer.

Pure calculation and making students into 3rd rate computers is not going to develop students who can do and offer these things. Maths is bigger than that!

The current efforts to improve math education is not working. Conrad argued that better deployment of the wrong subject (pure calculation) is not the way forward for maths curriculum. Instead, maths, even at an early stage, needs to be made more relevant. Working out by how many friends you are separated on Facebook, for example, is going to engage more students than the current approach seen in maths education.

Conrad went on to say that computers are dumbing maths down and needs a radical overhaul to ensure its relevance and value moving forward.

Its hoped that initiatives such as the Wolfram UK Programming 2012 Challenge will help raise awareness of these requirement and help inspire the changes needed.

Point 5: Mark Surman and Michelle Levesque (Mozilla.org)

Mark and Michelle gave a very interesting talk on the topic of making as learning, or more specifically, web making as learning.

In an effort to inspire and build the next generation of web makers, Mozilla have been pairing film makers and other members of the creative industries with developers to create unique digital first versions of their movie content.


The web is like Lego, building blocks that are designed to be pulled about and used to create new things. Mozilla's project is all about embracing the concept of the web being like Lego and encouraging folks to remix!

I love the analogy of comparing the web with Lego and will be watching their efforts in this area closely.


All in all, and as mentioned in the opening to this post, Learning Without Frontiers 12 was an amazing conference. Great speakers, inspiring ideas and an opportunity to be exposed to new and often conflicting perspectives made LWF12 one of the best conferences I have attended for some time.

That being said, though, I am not sure that it took full advantage of the opportunity to address the future of education. There is no doubt that the conference had the opinions and ideas needed to start making a difference. I can't help but think, though, that delegates will have left Olympia wondering how they can take some of the ideas they heard and start making a difference in their schools, colleges or universities. The conference lacked the practical elements required to drive change and, with the odd exception, was very heavy on the theory. I appreciate that this is the aim of the conference, but its time to stop talking and actually start doing.

It seems like the will is there and there is pockets of great work being carried out, although I think the community needs to now come together to start mapping out the practical next steps needed to stimulate and drive a Napster like shift in the education sector.

All members of the community, from government to newly qualified teachers, now need to embrace the challenge that is presented to us and be bold enough to define what the future of education looks like.

I hope that Learning Without Frontiers, as custodians of this community they are building, considers what happens between now and the next conference to encourage the practical realisation of the ideas presented at the conference.

I am passionate about this topic and look forward to playing my part in the future of learning.

What do you think? What do we need to do next? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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