There is something mildly depressing about walking up Beech Street from the Barbican Station the The Brewery, where the Handheld Learning Conference was held. Whether it's the lack of sunlight, the narrow pavement or the fact that the only thing of even mild interest is the entrance to a car park, I don't know.
But whatever it is, I've taken to using Moorgate Station instead. The distance is the same, possibly shorter, and the walk to The Brewery off Chiswell Street far more interesting. In fact, I was certain that I'd taken a photo of some of the architecture along the way, but it would appear not.
It's not just the architecture, of course, but the people. People walking along reading the free newspaper City AM. People darting into coffee shops to get their first fix of the day. Leisurely people hovering outside buildings enjoying a nicotine fix, and unleisurely people (like myself) rushing to make a deadline.
They say that it's not the destination but the journey that's important. Yes, to an extent. But whatever the weather or the state of the trains, the journey to the Brewery always ends in being greeted by a bloke wearing a bowler hat and a huge grin.
"Good morning, Sir! Are you here for the conference?"
"Just go straight through those doors, Sir. Have a wonderful day!"
The Brewery itself is a strange sort of building. You can go up the stairs at one end, but to get to the upper floor at the other end you have to go down and then up. If there's a session in progress in one of the lower rooms, you have to go down, out and then up. The first couple of times I went there I became slightly lost, and I'm convinced that if anyone looked hard enough they'd find Lord Lucan meandering around in the vaults, looking for a way out.
I quite like the place. It has character. Even more importantly, it has space, which is something you need for a conference with 1500 (I believe) delegates. It was easy to mingle and network, and that's pretty important. Some delegates complained about the price of coffee on the first day: £2.50. I agree it is pricey, but actually no more so than coffee anywhere else in London (and less than places like Starbucks). And, to put the whole thing in perspective, the first day of the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 was free!
The conference itself, which I am in the process of writing about on the ICT in Education website, was very good indeed. In fact, I always like to note down my immediate reaction to an event at its close, even though I like to mull it over before actually writing about it. My verdict this time was 'exhilarating'.
Admittedly, not the usual sort of evaluation of an educational conference, but that was my feeling. There was a great mix of intellectual stimulation from thought-provoking talks, and from what people are actually doing in their classrooms. I came away buzzing.
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