Web Summit 2015 in a Nutshell

So the past week has been one of the busiest, craziest weeks of my life. I had to opportunity to join the Belgian startup (and my soon-to-be-employer) sCool to the Web Summit in Dublin.

On Monday, we had a visit to the awesome Google HQ, giving us a bit of an insight into this giant. Also it was cool to run into someone from my secondary school there. What a coincidence, right?

From Tuesday to Thursday, it was time for the mayhem. Holy cow, Web Summit is big! A buttload of stages with talks, a gazillion startups and many more. I really felt overwhelmed and lost. Even for a tech nerd like me, there was just too much to see. But we had a good day at our sCool booth, talking to potential investors, partners and general interested visitors.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As an educational scientist, I felt a bit disappointed by the educational tech corner. Most of the startups there seemed too focus on a top down technology push. The biggest trend seemed to be faster, smarter, more efficient. Not the words I would like to see in the same sentence as education. I only spoke to a couple of founders that had an actual pedagogical vision, or even anything close to it. And don’t even get me started on user participation…

But lets not forget the positive stories. Because yes, I had some really great encounters, making me jump up and down in excitement.

Conor MacCormack’s talk on the potential of 3D printing in education was an inspiration. He saw the technology as a tool on the pedagogical shelf, helping our education becoming more differentiated and hands-on.

It was also nice to see the Coder Dojo Foundation there. While I am not a coach myself, I believe they do some cool stuff around the world. Especially now that they have written out an ethos document, called ECHO. The people at their booth were really nice, always up for a chat on our common passion.

Another cool encounter was with the Robo team. They are working on a modular educational robot kit, which was on kickstarter. And is super duper cute! I see a lot of potential here for young children, taking their first steps in robotics. Just click the cubes together and see what happens. This is excellent prototyping for kindergarten and the lower years of primary schools.

But the absolute high of the week was meeting Alex Klein, the founder of Kano. This DIY computer and coding kit for children stole my heart when it first came out. I have even used it to entice my colleagues in research. Even the packaging is fun and quirky and I love the corresponding manuals. They are visual, clear and plain beautiful.

Kano was one of the first making and coding kits for children I encountered and it really sparked my passion. Also it has a clear educational vision and an awesome online learning-through-sharing platform. Oh and did I mention they focus on making art through coding? What is there not to love?
So you can imagine I was extremely excited when Alex took some time to talk to me. I’m still screaming a bit on the inside when I think about it. This is one of my heroes in the DIY and coding for kids movement… And he took time to talk to little old me. Even better, he offered I could become involved in Kano. Excuse me while I go freak out a bit.

……

Ok. I’m calm again.

So, that was Web Summit 2015 in a (big) nutshell.

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