It’s All Gone South in Africa – SchoolNet South Africa Conference

We travelled to South Africa disoriented and exhausted from the intense weeks of work feeling relieved with the upcoming respite of the overnight flight. We had been invited to speak at a conference where over 600 teachers were learning how to use technology to improve the learners’ education. An invitation that we could not turn down.

Meeting Freddy, Ze Vunder German at Heathrow, we boarded the plane without a hiccup, an anomaly in the theme of the trip. Looking forward to getting some much needed sleep I sat next to the window but then my brain started working in overtime. ‘How can it be that hundreds of people are flying through the air in a metal box!?’ No sleep for me then.

We landed in Johannesburg with the array of winter clothes we had been advised to bring. Coats, scarves, hats, gloves only to find that their coldest winters are warmer than our hottest summers. Sweating profusely we found our BnB and got settled in. With severe jet lag and no sleep we thought that it would be a brilliant idea to shun sleep some more and get out to explore the sights/nightlife. South African University students were everywhere and we met a cool, friendly group who thought that people from Europe were somewhat exotic and interesting. Either that or they found it strange that an Englishman and German had come to teach South African teachers about technology and were randomly secretly speaking in Spanish. Probably the latter.

With 3 days until the conference we had nothing prepared. Nothing. The realisation of the amount of work we had to do came crashing down. (Crashes become a theme throughout this post). We had to prepare a 30-minute presentation on the Open Educational Resource Movement and three 2-hour workshops on how to create and use their own resources. Still with jet-lag and sleep deprivation we got to work…. (Working on the veranda with a lovely view wasn’t all bad)

BnB

After working day and night our endeavours paid off and we were finally ready. We packed up the car and were on our way to the conference in Bloemfontein. The South African roads are dangerous at the best of times and we constantly passed road accidents on our way. We counted our lucky stars that we hadn’t been involved in anything like that. Until it happened…

As Freddy was driving, I relaxed, shoes off, listening to Simon & Garfunkel. Coming up to a lorry, Freddy went to overtake, passing on the right side where cars would usually be coming towards us. We were halfway past the lorry, not another car in sight, just a hill that progressed upwards. However, the hill was deceptive, hiding a car in the little valley at the bottom of the hill. A car which was now racing towards us at 80 mph. With the lorry still blocking the left lane Freddy had no choice but to get off the road on the right side. It was such a great idea that the other car did the exact same thing, following us in the same direction. ‘Oh no’ I groaned as we hurtled into each other in a cacophonous crash, the bulk of it in the passenger door causing a wave of shattered glass and wind mirror to fly through the car.

Car Crash

After this disconcerting, seemingly slow-motion crash, I sat there shocked, shoe-less with the paradoxical sound of a happy, chilled-out song from Simon & Garfunkel still playing. Thankfully no-one was badly hurt and I was surprised to not even have a scratch. After waiting for a replacement car all that was left to do was to drive 3 hours in pitch-black darkness on these crazy, dangerous roads, through the ghetto and finally to the hotel.

South African Hotel

The following day was the opening ceremony of the conference and the next car crash, our first workshop. After fantastic, enlightening speeches from Baldev Singh from Imagine Education and Deputy Minister of Education, Enver Surty, we made our way to the workshop room, where we were going to show teachers how to create their own educational videos, only to find it locked. ‘Don’t panic’ we thought as we searched the deserted building for anyone who could help. However, all we found was enthusiastic teachers ready for the workshop. 10 people, 20 people, 30, 50, now 100 all waiting outside the same locked door. After forcing an ‘it’s all under control’ smile to the teachers for a few minutes, which seemed like hours, we finally got into the room to find over 100 computers but no projector, no microphone, no speakers, no hope. I had a horrific image of over 100 teachers crouched around my small monitor whilst I talked step-by-step through creating a video whilst cupping my earphones for everyone to hear the audio.

I don’t know how we got through those 2 hours but it must have been a culmination of Freddy shouting to the whole room, myself sharing a screen with everyone, copious amounts of bottled water and much needed help from the late technicians. It was deemed a success under the circumstances and we were happy to have got through two car crashes in two days, one literal and one metaphorical. All that was left was two more workshops and a 30-minute speech in front of over 600 people. Simple.

The whole of the following day was smooth, after finally having enough sleep we were relaxed yet alert. The audience was fantastic as we talked about a subject that we were both so passionate and enthusiastic about. Free, high quality education for everyone. We played to our strengths with design, animation and video whilst our naive talking style was well received as rudimentary enthusiasm. The other workshops also went much better and the buzzing atmosphere left teachers so excited about creating and using their own resources.

2013.07.02. FIRST DAY UFS 020

At night there was a celebration with drink, food and a live band. Everyone was happy and all the teachers were dancing in the traditional South African way. Then they made a circle for individual showcases of dancing talent. As the singer started calling people up we knew it was only a matter of time, we heard the ominous call from the singer reverberate around the hall. ‘Guys from the UK, show us what you can do’. We thought it would be rude not to. Whilst Freddy displayed the traditional dance of Germany, ‘The Metal Mosh’ I thought I’d perform a distinctly culturally dance, a rendition indigenous to the North West of England, ‘The Robot’. Popping and locking, bringing out the running man, the crowd went crazy and eventually joined in.

Our new friends invited us to a pub/club afterwards to continue with the celebrations. Returning to the ‘ghetto’ described earlier, we entered a club where Freddy and I were distinctly aesthetically different. With all eyes drawing towards us in a ‘you’re not from ’round here’ kind of way, we passed through the club with our new friends, eventually being accepted as two crazy, foreign guys just wanting to have a good time.

Celebration

The closing ceremony solidified the experience of meeting so many welcoming, friendly, passionate and kind people. We left exhausted but with a fervent spirit instilled in us by all we met along the way and we disembarked, re-entering the flying metal box to return to England.

Special thanks to Janet Thomson, Naomi Harm, Baldev Singh, all of SchoolNet, University of the Free State, Xola, Moses, Heath, Danyca, the sponsors, all of the teachers and everyone else we met on our trip.

And if you don’t want to read all of this, here is a quick update video on the conference and our trip -

The Big Smoke

After a year of nice distractions travelling to France and Spain it’s finally happened, I’ve moved to London! A place where dreams are made and the potential for anyone is palpable. A place where if you buy a camera you can be a filmmaker, if you build a website you can be an entrepreneur. You could argue that this could happen anywhere now in this digital age but everything needs a start and  the creative concentration in this big city means there are people, inspirations, music you won’t find anywhere else.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all creative inspiration and ambitious progress. After the climate of southern Spain this is definitely the time for hibernation, the daily commutes feel like a smile will warrant an arrest from the fun police and time seems to dissipate into constant work hours and fleeting attempts to socialise.

But it’s difficult not to be optimistic with Spring approaching and Summer threatening to be just as good as last year. After missing 2012, the best year in London I’m going to make this one count. This is just the start and it feels like the world is ours for the taking.

I’ll leave you with a New Look animation I created in London just recently.

The Animated Story of The Virtual School

Here is a video we produced as part of the Virtual School team in Sevilla. A team of designers, illustrators, animators and myself came together to produce something pretty special. I worked on the video editing and music.

Video

Second Generation Murillo Awards: December 2012

Murillos

After 3 months for the new Murillos and 6 months for me, the time has come to say goodbye to Sevilla for good and return to England. Blue horizons replaced by grey skies, small tapas sizes supplanted by huge roast dinners, a two-kiss greet changed to a casual ‘alright’. Sevilla’s a place I’ve grown to love like a local and take pride in like a patriot. To celebrate the last 3 months we had the most prestigious of nights celebrating embarrassing events and idiosyncratic traits that we’ve all come to love in the ‘Murillo Awards’.

Although I’m sad not to return, this was the perfect way to say ‘adios’.

Second Generation Murillo Awards

Kim – The ‘eye eye captain’ award for most flattering photographer

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Danny – The ‘Scottie too Hottie’ award for most likely to have a Celtic induced heart attack

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Liane – The ‘Don’t Blush until you Gush’ award for the most timid and retiring Murillo

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Darren – The ‘Dark Horse’ award for partying until the break of dawn

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Tom – The ‘Brit abroad’ award for most likely to get naked at a pool party

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Amy – The ‘fashion forward’ award for most stylish use of a snood

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Luke – The ‘Hips don’t lie’ award for teaching expert level dance to beginners

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Stecy – The ‘French fancy’ award for the most expensive taste

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Sarah – The ‘Tea lady’ award for unashamedly bringing tea to every event

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Howard – The ‘Hermit-athon’ award for the longest period spent indoors

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Josh – The ‘The snooze you lose’ award for the most likely to win the lottery and lose the ticket

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Stu - The ‘Peter’s protege’ award for outstanding level of improvement in lady love

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Peter – The ‘Smooth Operator’ award for most likely to smuggle a spanish girl home

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Emilie -  The ‘Bootilicious’ award for style, class and a juicy ass

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Malik - The ‘Bet You Think You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ Award for most likely to clear the dancefloor

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Camille – The ‘Secret Spanish senorita’ award for sly shenanigans

Camille
Freya – The ‘Quirky caffeine queen’ award for copious coffee consumption

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Carl – The ‘Pop prince 80s child’ award for being true to all things pop and buzzing your face off and loving life 2k12

Carl
Bex – The ‘I kissed a girl and I liked it’ award for finding love in Seville.

Bex

Imi - ‘Honorary Kardashian’ Award for Keeping Up with the Oztas’

Imi

 

New Murillos

Two months ago I was happy to receive the news that I would be managing the next group of digital media interns (Murillos) in Seville, Spain. This happiness quickly turned to trepidation when I heard that there would be 20 of them….most of them whom can’t speak Spanish…and I would be on my own with them for 3 months.

After giving them a 3 day crash course on everything ‘Virtual School’ in London we set off to Sunny Sevilla which was….actually raining. I knew enough of the local culture to show them the Sevillan gems off the beaten track including an amazing Bolivian restaurant down an alley, a riverside street full of bars with tequila shots for 50 cents and  an illegal local hangout with reggae, flamenco, swing and balcony bars. I felt a bit like Brendan from ‘Coach Trip’ at times. I’m sure places have been remarking ‘the British are coming’ as soon as they see 20 of us arrive. But it’s been an absolute blast and the trepidation has completely subsided now having got to know each of them in their own creative, quirky ways.

There has been a lot of work involved as well. One month in, I’ve seen how talented this group of people are in completely different ways. The diverse nature of collaboration has led to incredible work that’s just getting better and better. Including a Total Eclipse of the Heart parody music video (which I was able to help out on). Watch this space.

The Virtual School Taster

Here’s a taster of what’s to come from The Virtual School. Exciting stuff

Murillo Awards – End of an Era

The Sun has now set on our Sevillan dream and don’t we just know it. England has embraced us with torrential rain, doomsday clouds and severe floods…..in August! But it’s not all bad, my train ‘up north’ involved a friendly chat with 3 old women on England’s favourite conversation subject, the weather. What else? This would only happen in Sevilla if a cloud unsuspectingly popped up in the the sky. And if this happened it would be front page news with panicking riots.

Similar to the way in which our motley crew came together is the way in which we depart. Andrea ‘The Italian Stallion’ will be travelling through Paris, Sicily, Venice and India, no doubt tasting most, if not all, of the culinary delights and charming the pants off the local girls (what a lad!) only to settle in Australia. It’s a difficult life for some but as we all know now…’you create your own luck’. Joao ‘The Bull’ is to start his own business in Portugal entering film competitions with his dream of only earning enough to eat whilst producing beautiful art.

Anisha ‘The Green Eyed Girl’ starts her masters to bring science to the masses and finally change the world, Tom ‘The Northern Charmer’ is creating amazing ads only to explore South America in the New Year. Omar ‘The Mystery Man’ is still a mystery, Sammy ‘The Sweetie’ is following her media dream, Rose ‘The Flower Girl’ in on her way to eventually opening her own Science Museum, Roshni’s ready to turn her ‘Best Director’ Murillo Oscar into a real Oscar and David can do anything he wants, Rock Star/Comedian/Animator.

That leaves me, Malik ‘The Hoover’ Wilson. I’ll be heading back to Sevilla with the new Murillos for another 3 months! And I’ll be working with our very own Nisha ‘The Leader of the Pack’ Ligon (who will continue her Mother Teresa work for children’s education around the world), Freddie ‘Ze Vunder German’ Kastner (with his super spreadsheets) and Bronwen ‘The Bross’ McConkey (who will be running the show).

This 3 month internship is one that none of us will ever forget. I’ve never seen such a diverse group of people work, live and socialise together so intensely for so long and yet get on so well. And this experience culminated in a ‘cherry on top of the cake’ Awards Ceremony devised and presented by Rose and Anisha.

Murillo Awards 2012

Malik Adam Wilson – Bravery Award/Hungry Hippo/Moaning Champion

Nisha Ligon – The Mother Teresa Award

Andrea Bonnano – Good Sportsman Award

Anisha Tailor – Queen of Wacom

David Leakey – Inappropriate Comedy Award/Hansel and Gretel Breadcrumbs Award

Joao Fernandez – Loudest Voice Award

Omar Allouji – MOBO Upcoming Rapper

Rose Galsworthy – Lyrical Gangster Award

Roshni Amin – Best Director

Sammy Sewell – Sevilla’s Next Top Model

Tom Jackson – Prince Charming/Perma-Smile

Jade Whyne- Masterchef

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