Donna Comerford: Brighton Digital Festival’s focus on education

Donna Comerford
Donna Comerford

There has always been a strong educational strand within BDF, and this year is no exception.

By Donna Comerford, education coordinator at Brighton Digital Festival

There has always been a strong educational strand within the Brighton Digital Festival (BDF), and this year is no exception partnering with the Royal Institute and Brighton and Hove High School to host a series of Computer Science master-classes.

The festival also awarded five grants for independently-organised educational projects.

With such a strong educational offering, this year’s challenge is to share the event information effectively with the young people in the city. More than ever, we are able to share information about events directly with young people, using apps, social media, and web services.

BDF has a growing relationship with schools, colleges, and alternative education providers, but we need to connect with our younger participants and their parents in a more direct and time sensitive way.

Therefore, we are using a wider educational network to raise awareness of the events this year through enrichment schemes such as STEM Sussex, Our Future Cities, and on social media.

The accessibility of BDF event information ensures that opportunities are extended to all.

We have also printed festival guides that have been delivered to many schools, colleges, community venues as well as other outlets.

Teachers have been invited to nominate 30 talented Year 9 students to take part in the BDF Computer Science master-classes. Themes being explored this year include aeronautical engineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, data visualisation, and wearable technology.

Outside of these master-classes, young people will be taking the lead at BDF’s TeKno Kids, where people aged nine to 19 are invited to come and share their knowledge, skills, and great tech stuff they have created in front of their peers.

The young people will talk for up to 15 minutes about topics including games designs, animation, web applications, programming, web design, and drones.

This year’s education commissions reflect the depth and breadth of creativity, digital, and IT skills within the creative and digital education community. The commissioned events are Spark Conference, Toy Hack Digital Metropolis, Lets Create, Digital Mutations, and Redesigning Brighton Seafront - a fantastic mix of family friendly events spread across the entire month.

My involvement with BDF has brought new technological pace and creativity to my own classroom practices. Bringing elements of new creativity, technology, national competitions, and events like Young Rewired State Festival of Code, into my school and classroom has raised student excitement, participation and the quality of their work to new levels.

A teacher’s job is not to know it all, but to be open to being taught by our students – this year I was taught to use WeVideo - a collaborative video-editing platform - by a Year 7 student. That piece of learning supported my work on the first SprungDigi Digital Arts Festival held in Horsham.

I've met a few teachers who have heard about and attend BDF events, but I'm on a mission this year to increase that number, as this is one of the best (and most exciting) opportunities that a teacher will ever experience.