CoSN Conference: Day 2

This year’s theme for the CoSN Conference was “Reimagine Learning.” It was only appropriate that the closing Plenary session ignited new visions for learning.  CoSN invited four very different experts to share their thoughts and vision for what learning can be today.

John Seely Brown

After an initial technical difficulty with the audio connection for this web-based visit, John shared his vision for the “entrepreneurial learner.” John explained that this new learner has three key qualities – curiosity, questing, and connecting. These are dispositions that cannot be taught, but can be nurtured or cultivated. Curiosity is about pulling information as needed; Questing is about seeking, probing or uncovering information; Connecting is about listening and engaging others. To make his point John told the story of the Grommets, a surfing group in Maui who became world-class surfers. Their story demonstrated what learning can be:

  • Passion to achieve extreme performance with a willingness to take risks and fail in order to succeed;
  • Using skills of analysis to discern the best moves and to evaluate their own performances;
  • Pulling ideas from “adjacenies” – other sports like wind-surfing or motor cross;
  • Leveraging other networks and resources;
  • Collaborating and competing with each other.

In John’s view key to dealing with a world of constant change is to maintain a sense of play. This proved to be a perfect transition to the next speaker, Nichole Pinkard, head of the Digital Youth Network in Chicago.

Nichole focused on the role of the library as a node on a continuum of involvement. Schools are another node. She shared the success story for the creation of a new learning space in the main Chicago library. Technology, alone, is not a solution. Technology serves a tool, an enhancer for a variety of learning opportunities, such as social networking. The design purposefully created three spaces – a large group area (Hanging Out), a small group area (Messing Around), and a place to research and find information (Geeking Out). In addition to the library, Nichole shared a story about a turnaround project for performing poetry, the Lyracist Loft. Key to the success of this project was the ability to create an environment of sharing, competing, and performing.

Arana Shapiro

Arana worked on the development of the Quest to Learn school in New York City. The school currently includes grades 6, 7, and 8. Each year another grade will be added until the program covers 6-12. The school came out of a vision to make learning irresistible for young learners and use game principles to create a game-like learning environment. The process has a three step process:

  1. Start with a complex problem – the Mission
  2. Undergo a series of challenges – the Quest
  3. Solve the initial problem or mission

Underlying the school environment are a number of gaming elements:

  • An immersive environment for role-playing;
  • An interconnected environment that generates system thinking;
  • Challenges that are not too easy or too difficult based on the learner’s skill level;
  • Immediate and ongoing feedback.

Within each challenge there is ongoing embedded assessment. The program focuses on not just playing, but creating.

Travis Allen added the possibilities for mobile learning. Travis, a young man still in college, outlined his personal path to creating the iSchool Initiative. Beginning as a teenager Travis saw opportunities to make his ideas profitable. In 2009 he received a Smartphone and realized that mobile learning was the future. He created a student-led non-profit that primarily uses YouTube videos to share its vision. The organization delivers workshops focusing on “Find, Filter, and Apply.” The organization will host a conference for educators with students leading the way. Travis worked with Kearns High School to create a mobile project that changed student engagement, increased reading outside of class, and improved the graduation rate. Today Travis and his team are reaching out to people around the globe. He recently returned from Spain and earlier in the year went to Tanzania. According to Travis there are three things necessary to shape the future:

  • Work hard and fail as much as necessary to learn;
  • A Love of Learning leads to a life of significance;
  • LEAD the way.

Bailey Mitchell, the Chairman of the CoSN Board and the CTO for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia wrapped up the conference. Bailey emphasized the need to reinvent learning. He proposed that the participants from the conference should take the ideas they heard or discovered with them. Bailey highlighted the importance of making connections, learning from consumer models to personalize learning, and to scale ideas around collaboration and student choice. He recommended that Chief Technology Officers (CTO) should take on five critical roles

  • Advocate
  • Relationshop Architect
  • Venture Capitalist
  • Information Steward
  • Lobbyist
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