Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Building Learning Communities Conference     BOSTON

I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for the endorsement for Miranda and me to attend the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston.

The focus was on the use of technology to transform education. Currently technology is being used in classrooms to do simply more of the same. Teachers still teach the content of a subject, the students learn what the teachers see as important and then turn that content into assignments that the teachers approve or not. Computers are being used as $1000 pencils.

The speakers we heard

Alan November
Eric Mazur
Homa Sabad Tavanger
Mike Pennington
Dr. Ross Kasun
Robert Goodman
David Malan
Linda Luikos

Recommended books

Too Big to know  --- David Weinberger
The Age of the Smart Machine
Problem Solving  -- Mitch Resnick

Recommended sites

101 Questions (Check Dan Maier TED talk)
XQ America
Prism (self asessment tool)
Wolfram Alpha
El Sistema


!) Global empathy

2) Opportunity for teachers to learn more about their students.

3) Process change.

4) Whole class learning.

5) Developing use of questions.

6) Student motivation.

7) Students as a major resource in the classroom.

8) Authentic audience.


Student annotations are a window into the brain.

The least used resource in the classroom is the student

Whoever owns the assessment owns the learning.

We have to learn with and from the world as if our lives depend on it.

We increasingly need to navigate a complex world.

Be a friend to the whole human race.

That worksheet changed my life  - said no student ever.

Feedback is not feedback if it is not actionable.

My candle is not diminished by sharing my spark.

Alan November discussed the leverage that technology can have in building global empathy. He talked about global empathy as being the skill most desired by employers yet the most lacking in applicants for jobs.

Technology allows students to communicate with students all round the world and Alan could give us examples of when this happens now. Finding global perspectives in an authentic way is the best and possibly the only way to build that empathy - seeing things through someone else's eyes. He challenged us to take any assignment and make it global. HOMA SABET TAVENGER was even more emphatic. He used the expression - 'We need to learnwith and from the world as if our livesdepend on it (because they do ).He suggested there was a moral imperative to connect the dots between local and global.

He also talked about replacing the word technology with the words information and communication. Information, he says, is the bit the teachers should be doing very little of. He talked about the wasted effort of teachers answering questions in classrooms that students can easily find the answers to on their devices. Avoid that at all costs, he says. The role of the teacher is far more sophisticated than that. He recommended that teachers ask the students  "What do you do to learn? What are your favourite websites to learn from ? What is your favourite tool of expression ?"

He challenged us to look into classes and see who is working harder, the teachers or the students. If it is the teachers then some serious reflection needs to happen.

He talked about the most important thing a teacher can do is to teach the students how to ask questions - deep questions that require deep and thoughtful responses. He talked about students having an authentic audience for their work. He challenged us about the teacher being coach and judge - he said that teachers can easily hide behind a thin veil of objectivity.


The premise that Eric Mazur based his talk on was that all students can learn.


Ross Kasun spoke passionately about redefining homework. He prefers the word - home learning  - to homework. The reason for that is that homework should be set that will spark students interest, about priming the brain for the following lesson rather than checking that the previous lesson has gone in. If that happens then homework does not need to be marked, it needs to be shared which is a completely different thing.

He talked about the myth that homework teaches responsibililty. He says that rather it teaches compliance.