Friday, August 5, 2011

Building Learning Communities

Some quick reflections.

I loved my pre-session.  It was in depth time to work with one of the Ewan McIntosh (one of the keynotes).  It wasn't just a 60 minutes session but a full morning.  McIntosh and his scottish accent is worth my time and money.  More presenters should have an accent.  It adds credibility because they must come from a distance (which makes them experts right?).

This year had good keynotes.  One exception is that Stephen Wolfram is not Conrad Wolfram.  Confusing - I know.  Stephen is probably the smarter brother but Conrad presents better.  (You really should watch Conrad's math TED talk.) This was the keynote that I was most looking forward to but any disappointment is really my fault for not reading close enough.  However - I still got something out of his keynote.  Stephen's creations Mathematica and Wolfram/Alpha are awesome.  They had better change the way I teach

Dr. Eric Mazur started things off well with a talk about how the lecture is dead.  (Yes a lecture about how the lecture is dead).  His response system and smart grouping program would be great for my classroom.  I liked his techniques and how his system automatically paired up people with differing answers.  Without knowing which answer was right the students are to discuss and are given a chance to change their answers.  Students are learning from each other with guidance from the teacher.  I loved his quote "technology should be at the service of pedagogy."

Marco Torres ended up pinch hitting for another presenter that had to cancel at the last minute.  I could not for the life of me tell that he put it together on very short notice.  I wrote about him last time I went to BLC in 2009.  He was no less awesome.  Marco talked about the analog restrictions to students in this digital world.  I laughed, I cried (well not really), and I LEARNED.  Good job Marco.

Ewan McIntosh's keynote made me think.  He looks at education from a different perspective.  I like it.  His message is that we don't need problem solvers - we need people who go out and find their own problems to solve.  We need to build students who are motivated by the problems the they find.

Our final keynote was Rob Evans.  He is a clinical and organizational psychologist.  He talked about the psychology of change.  There is grief involved in change because you are letting go of something that you believed in.  If there is no resistance to change then people really did not care about what they were doing before.  It was a very entertaining (and enlightening) talk that came without any visual aids.  He pulled it off well.

When I went to BLC in 2009 the keynotes were from different professions and specialties.  There was more talk about creativity in their talks.  This time the presenters were all educators.  It was a more focused group of keynotes.  Not better or worse - just different.

The Building Learning Communities conference was a great opportunity for me.  Lets see how much I can improve my teaching with what I learned.

More to come as I find time.