Festival of Learning: Unplugged and Inspired

The theme for this year’s Festival of Learning – was linking industry and education. The event took place at BT Adastral Park in Suffolk this week.

Adastral Park is home to BTs innovation labs and innovation Martlesham – which is a cluster of 150 high tech companies, just outside of England’s waterfront city of Ipswich.  The park is part of the UKs digital ecosystem.

The festival saw support from and collaboration between the Alpha Teaching School Hub, BT, Eastern Education Group and West Suffolk College, and was part funded by the European Social Fund.

Opening the festival was Rob Walden, Computing hub and Festival of Learning Strategic Lead at the Eastern Education Group. This was then followed by Lisa Perkins, Director of Adastral park, who explained that BT’s heritage was routed in purposeful innovation.  This has seen BT bringing to life all of the technology on site, helping people to understand the art of what is possible.  Additionally, BT are committed to supporting and encouraging children into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) subjects and a career in technology. This is achieved through initiatives such as their schools program designed to inspire and excite. Some of the excitement onsite includes, Robotics labs, Quantum labs, Cybersecurity labs, Immersive, virtual and mixed reality experiences. All of this was music to my ears.

Why am I reporting this event?

I was one of 3 headline keynote guest speakers.  I am a Tech Women100 Award winner, who has developed a portfolio career as an education consultant, coach, speaker and author.  My keynote was entitled “The Impact of Technology on Self, Community and Society”.  Designed to encourage attendees to consider the impact tech is having on them, their local community and society.  Alongside this, my ask to attendees was to consider how industry and education can better work together to ensure learners are leaving education, with the knowledge and skills they need to be effective digital citizens. One of the strands of my portfolio career is being the author of The Digital Adventures of Ava and Chip book series for children.  Book 1 – Smart City, sees Ava and Chip, learn about technology in a #smartcity

Showcase Suffolk

Following Lisa, we heard from Nikos Savvas, Chief Executive Officer at Suffolk Academies Trust and West Suffolk College Group and his route to Suffolk.  Including how he surprised people by saying he was moving to Suffolk, to be met with statements such as – “Suffolk is the graveyard of ambition”.  However, these statements aside Nikos has worked with the following phrase in mind – How can we change the narrative, showcase the best of Suffolk to the world. How can Suffolk be proud.

The messages from both opening speakers resonated with me on a personal and professional level, as I previously worked with a remit to “invigorate the South West region around Computing education”, which I did successfully across 2016 – 2019 in a previous role. 

Tech changing how we live

The scene was then set for further inspiration when we heard from professor Miles Berry from Roehampton and his thought provoking talk on “The Truth about AI”

After this the audience dispersed to various sessions.  I went on a quick tour of the BT showcase, as I also had a stand with my books bringing them to a new audience.  Some of the wow tech innovation I saw and heard about was:

  • How Proto Technology was changing auction houses such as the world renowned Christie’s auctioneers, who are able to broadcast their products around the world, leading to increased reach and the ability for customers to participate in global bidding
  • The development and advancement of Fibre technology
  • Wearable tech in action and using VR to manage emergency scenes
  • 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing
  • Possibilities through usage of drones, such as surveillance, delivery, inspecting
  • Innovation to reuse heat from Data Centres that can help with the climate crisis
  • How digital and tech is used at all stages in supply chains – from source to retail digital signage

My personal highlight of the tour was experiencing holoportation.  I won’t spoil that for you, but you can read more about it here, but below is an image of me using this tech.

Networking Opportunities

The event also allowed for excellent networking opportunities! I continued to meet people from the online world in real life, one such person was Nick Templeton, we spoke about the CoSpace app, for bringing mixed reality into the classroom.  Nick showed examples of “rain forest” work he has done with children in year 3 and 4,through a headset, I was transported to the wonder of a rainforest. He also shared with me work he had done with year 10 and linking science to food chains.


So good was the event, that I popped my head into one session for no more than five minutes and managed to learn, all about how using the thumbprint as a form of ID (such as used on devices) came about through a focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, when at a conference there was someone who couldn’t type digits in, but could press and use their thumbprint as ID instead. I need to do some more research into this, but just that small nugget piqued my interest


Be cautious with AI

I also enjoyed the keynote from Dr Deidre Hughes.  Two items which stayed with me and I that I would like you to ponder upon are, if we rush into reliance on generative AI – we will eventually see the limitations of tech like ChatGPT.  How will this be managed?  To use Deidre’s words, it will be the trough of disappointment.  Dr Deidre Hughes, also made the case for wellbeing – as we continue to see “the rise of the robo advisers”.  Powerful stuff, which I encourage you to reflect upon.

Suffolk leading the way

An additional highlight of the day was having a tour of the University of Suffolks Digitech Centre, and having my mind expanded through seeing a variety of amazing innovations. I also, had a tour around a purpose built #smarthome – this was yet another highlight of my day.

An excellent event from all involved. The title of this article I feel sums this up – Inspirational and Unplugged, as although it was a day of tech, it led on the inspiration and not getting distracted by usage of tech, but instead gave attendees rich, deep and meaningful insights.

Reach out to me today

If you would like to book be for your next event or to work in another capacity – please reach out today!


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