I was privileged to be one of over 40 digital media, education and business innovators from around the world who were invited to get together and discuss how to kick-start the next generation of science communication practices. The event was called the ‘BrainSTEM unconference’ and was co-sponsored by The Perimeter Institute and Communitech. Organizers Karen Gallant and Greg Dick are quick to point out that the event couldn’t have happened without the generous support of Canada’s Federal Economic Development Agency.

All the action began Monday evening June 25, at the Perimeter Institute where we were asked to choose the 6 sessions we would like to attend from 24 topics that were available to us. A welcoming BBQ followed. Ok, enough about food.

Tuesday at 8:00 am we reconvened for… more food.

Serious unconferencing began at 8:30 am with a keynote address by Angela Maiers (check out She is famously dedicated to the pursuit of literacy and learning. The highlight for me was her activities using social media built around the ‘You Matter’ theme to reach children and youth and successfully engage them in activities that are making life better for others around the world.

Next, it was off to the first session each of us chose. Mine was ‘The Online Degree’ where six of us gathered to discuss the issues and opportunities that the Internet offers educators.

My second session was ‘Transforming Experiences into Digital Content’. Seems to me that much of what is needed here is a refresher on age-old principles of communication: compelling and authentic stories that are relevant for the audience.

No need to mention the delicious lunch.

I’m pretty sure that the most dynamic place in the entire Institute was our next stop: the Space Room. Here, 30+ students in small teams were pounding away, developing new gaming, videos and apps in a 72 hour marathon contest to win $$$ for their digital creativity. Huge Congrats to the winners of the Build-a-thon, listed at the bottom of this blog.

‘Free Content and Financial Returns’ was my third session. Big revelation for me was that selling gift and novelty items (tee-shirts, mugs, etc.) are key generators of cash for most of bloggers in the session.

Because of conflicts with session choices and not being able to attend the third day of the ‘Unconference’, my last sit-down was with a gang of participants who wanted to share ‘Social Media’ experiences. Here we learned how human-centered content will get you further towards the top of search engines’ lists without spending a fortune.

Our hosts treated us to an evening visit to the Hub at the Tannery. Good fun and oohs and aahs in Christie Digital’s ‘Hive’.

I’m really sorry that I couldn¹t attend the last day. I was most looking forward to ‘Looking into the Future’.

These descriptions don’t do the event justice; it was amazing and I suspect people will be clamouring for an invite to the next one… will that happen?

Can I come?? … Pleease???


Moderated Sessions

  • Demographics/Stastics
  • The Online Degree
  • Creation vs.Remix
  • Overturning Misconceptions
  • Transforming Experiences into Digital Content
  • How will E-Books Change Education
  • Special Effects Workshop
  • Free Content and Financial Returns
  • Media Inventing
  • Research-Powered Outreach
  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Funding Video Content
  • Social Media
  • Science and Policies and Politics
  • Active Versus Passive Learning
  • Beyond Conveying Facts
  • Sci-Girl Channel
  • Efficiency
  • Looking into the Future
  • High Speed Photography/Videography
  • Science Video Contests

Build-a-thon winners:

  • 1st Prize ($25,000) – Crouton Labs:
  • 2nd Prize ($15,000 – The Higgs Brosons!
  • 3rd Prize ($5,000) – Ultramarine Neutrinos

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