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UKEduCamp 2024: breaking the mould with an unconference experience


On the 9th of January 2024, I found myself amidst the vibrant atmosphere of UKEduCamp, an unconventional conference hosted at the University of Edinburgh. Unlike traditional conferences where speakers dominate the stage and audiences absorb information, UKEduCamp stands out as an unconference – a unique and participatory gathering that flips the script on conventional event structures.

Participation, sharing, interaction: the ethos of UKEduCamp

UKEduCamp is all about participating, sharing, and interacting. In this unconference, there’s no set schedule from the start. Instead, attendees, including the uninitiated like me, get the opportunity to suggest what topics should be discussed during the day. This way, everyone’s voice matters, and everyone plays a part in deciding what the conference talks about.

After attendees submit session ideas, they are sorted and grouped based on similar themes to create the conference schedule. This helps attendees choose discussions that match their interests and provides a broad variety of topics to pick from, covering challenges, successes, and burning issues affecting the education sector.

What makes UKEduCamp special is that those suggesting session ideas get to initially start the session by presenting to an interested audience. This personal touch not only makes the conference unique but also sparks lively discussions among those attending the session. The interaction between the presenter and the audience creates a dynamic and engaging atmosphere, where everyone shares and learns from each other.

Enabling a culture of creative play in our services, tools and teams.

Enabling a culture of creative play in our services, tools and teams.

Fuelling creativity: insights from the ‘creative play’ session

After a brief feeling of hesitancy, and with a little encouragement from one of the organising staff, I embraced the Educamp experience, stepping up to share my idea on incorporating creative play into our tools and teams. This topic stemmed from me witnessing how creative play can enhance team exploration and ideation during co-design sessions. I was not the only person to suggest this topic, and so I collaborated with another attendee in kicking off the discussion. Sharing the responsibility of opening the session certainly helped to put me at ease.

During our talk, everyone actively contributed, creating a shared sense of ownership in the knowledge exchange and collaborative dialogue. Resources and ideas for integrating creative play in teams and projects were explored. In one case, a participant highlighted using Design Sprints for rapid idea exploration, fostering innovation and experimentation while minimising risk. This approach involves the entire team in the design process, avoiding limitations to a specific group.

Another point of discussion was using gamification to understand our users better. An attendee shared how they used the game of snakes and ladders to explore problems with students within a difficult subject area when conducting research online during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all agreed that while creative techniques are valuable, they shouldn’t compromise the rigor needed for accurate research outputs.

In addition to the valuable knowledge shared, I left the session with excellent resources for fostering creative thinking within teams as well as some excellent contacts. Contributing in the session and experiencing the discussion was a rewarding experience, one that I would be keen to participate again in.

Key takeaways

  1. UKEduCamp unites education professionals: providing a dynamic platform to collectively address challenges and celebrate industry successes.
  2. The unconference format: offers a refreshing departure from traditional conferences, fostering active participation and shaping educational discourse.
  3. Valuable networking: UKEduCamp provided more connections than a typical conference, connecting me with peers who share similar experiences.
  4. Recognising shared challenges: the event highlighted common issues among institutions, emphasising the opportunity for mutual support and collaboration.
  5. Cathartic discussions: open and honest discussions with sessions like ‘a rant,’ held at the start of the day provided a platform to express frustration and deep rooted problems within a safe environment.

Resources on creative play tools

New metaphors card deck to encourage the generation of ideas and reframing of problems.

Using simple Haiku or Nonet to tap into creativity.
It was noted in the session that simple Haiku may be difficult for some cultures and backgrounds to understand which could exclude participants in a creative play session therefore this needed consideration before use.

Design fiction when working with clients to explore what their futures states may look like.

Research outputs as a game through the tool crank and file could be used to get long term engagement.

Game storming is a set of co-creation tools used to help innovate.

More blogs about UKEduCamp

From our colleagues in the UX team

UX Team reflections on the UKEduCamp unconference in Edinburgh

From our colleagues in the Prospective Student Web Content team

Team reflections on the UKEduCamp unconference in Edinburgh

Attending my first unconference – UKEduCamp comes to Edinburgh

From the University of St Andrews Digital Communications team

The unconference experience at UKEduCamp

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