Unfold Learning

exploring the best innovations in learning and teaching


Thanks, SSAT Leadership Legacy Project!

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I recently had the great privilege to participate in the SSAT‘s Leadership Legacy Project, a program designed to grow future leaders for UK schools. What was most encouraging about this event — echoed in the week that I spent with SSAT member teachers and staff at events around England — was the emphasis on developing thoughtful leaders by first developing thoughtful teachers. Too often, we can see school leadership and teaching as disconnected or even oppositional. But for powerful learning environments to be created, every member of a school — from the cleaners to the highest level of leadership — has to be engaged in helping learners. In effect, everyone has to be on the teaching team.

This was the primary message of the amazing Baroness Sue Campbell, chair of the Youth Sport Trust and key figure on the UK’s 2012 Olympic Committee. Sue reminded us that teamwork and mutual support are a far more important foundation for success than focusing on skills and performance. Her generosity and encouragement were a great fit for SSAT’s mission and message.

The best thing about SSAT is its role as connector, bringing people together in a powerful, country-wide network to think, collaborate, imagine, and work. I’m glad to have become  part of that network, and I’m looking forward to staying connected!


Danmarks Læringsfestival 2017

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One of my favorite aspects of the Danish National Learning Festival was not the amazing speakers and presenters — though there were many — nor was it the sheer quantity of innovative teaching tools and materials displayed in engaging booths staffed by energetic, earnest demonstrators — though an entire hall was filled with them. What was best was that everyone I met really wanted to make a difference in the lives of learners and was willing to make whatever choices they needed to make that happen. And what this appeared to mean most often for those in Denmark (like the other Nordics) was relinquishing the centering of the teacher and the teacher’s authority in favor of building around the learners’ identities, needs, and interests.

Those of us in the rest of the world hear much about what’s happening around learning in the Nordics, and in my visits, I’ve found much to admire. Municipalities, schools, and educational organizations are recognizing the need to try new approaches and engage learners in ways that take advantage not only of emerging technologies, but also emerging neurological and social understandings. Play, challenge-based and service learning, civic engagement, and the integration of new social and creation tools offer learners a path for discovery while also making a difference in their lives and communities. Sometimes those differences are grand and laudable; sometimes, they’re small — like creating a learning environment where kids can have fun. But what is most admirable and what I think the rest of the world needs to learn from these teachers and school leaders is that they are designed: intentionally built and intentionally executed to use particular approaches to deliver particular ends. Design is absolutely not something the Danes take lightly, and it showed in every conversation I had during my recent visit: how can we design a learning environment to produce capable, flexible, thoughtful, civically engaged citizens? Sadly, many schools and governments are far more concerned about other things: test scores, funding, compliance, bureaucratic service, preservation of established structures and patterns.

One of the best aspects of the Danmarks Læaringsfestival this year was that every person had to walk past the area pictured above, typically occupied by playing children. It’s amazing to me how many educational conferences are filled with experts and teachers but no learners. If nothing else, this was a great way to remind everyone at the conference what their work should really be about. And it was a great way to observe how many critical skills people at play have to exercise: communication, collaboration, strategy, knowledge, skill, awareness, and teamwork.

Traveling around the world and learning from so many people and approaches is a rare gift, and I’m grateful for my time learning in Denmark. Their focus on making — and making a positive difference — is something I’ll carry with me for a long time.


Thanks, EdTechRVA 2017

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One of the best things about this week’s EdTechRVA conference, organized by GRAETC, was the number of sessions dedicated to practical approaches teachers and technology coaches could use to transform the experiences of learners. Sessions in movie-making, animation, and Scratch — among many others — offered accessible tools and recommendations supported by practical stories of incorporating these tools into classes. As “making” becomes increasingly recognized as a means for deeper learning, giving learners the opportunity to assess the materials and ideas they’re discovering, such practical approaches become increasingly important. It was great to share a day with a group of educators who valued making so much.


iLearn 2017

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I’m looking forward to sharing today with the iLearn 2017 conference in Belfast, Ireland. Associated with the iTeach community, the conference brings school leaders together to consider the future of teaching and learning, to connect with other teachers and schools, and to think practically and pragmatically about how to institute productive change in their schools. It should be a spectacular day!


MiTE 2017

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I’m excited once again to be keynoting the amazing MiTE conference: MiTE 2017 — one of the preeminent conferences for technology- and mobile-enhanced teacher education in the world. This year, it will be leaving its Irish birthplace for the first time and will take place in Los Angeles on January 12–14. If you’re interested in great research about how technology can impact both teaching and teacher education, if you’d like to rub shoulders with thoughtful practitioners from around the world, and if you’d like to invest some productive time thinking about ways to transform your own teaching praxis, this is the place to be. Plus, there will be a dance contest! I can’t wait to see everyone there soon…


ECIS 2016 in Copenhagen

screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-51-54-pmI’m so pleased to be back in Denmark for this year’s European Council of Independent Schools conference and look forward to meeting and sharing with lots of colleagues. This year’s theme is one particularly close to my heart. Today working with some local school principals, I presented my idea about “learning ecosystems,” and one of the principals astutely observed that no ecosystem can survive without the input of energy. When we look at the natural world around us, that energy comes from the sun — plants transform that solar energy into sugars and fibers, and herbivores, carnivores, and scavengers continue that transformation. “What,” he said, “is the energy that drives and transforms learning ecosystems?” His answer — and mine: curiosity. Everything else we do is driven by its energizing force. If you’re around Copenhagen tomorrow, I’d love to see you. You can find out more about the conference here.


Video from CADE por la Educación

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CADE por la Educación brought together some of the leading figures in education, government, and business from throughout Perú to talk about the future of learning. Although the video starts about 10 minutes into my presentation, you can see my talk here. Most of the audio is translated en español, which may be helpful. Or not. The video concludes with a Q&A from this year’s president of IPAE (from 41:00 to 56:30). By the way, if you’re wondering, my headset mic failed early on (the reason the video starts midway through) so I got to use a handheld. Being such a gesticulator, I decided to put it in my shirt pocket to free up my hands: both fashionable and functional!