I had the great opportunity to attend the Learning 2.0 conference in Shanghai, China for the third time since its inception in 2006. As with the previous two times, this ranks as the best professional development conference for educators in my opinion. The organizers have created a series of experiences within the conference that move the participants and presenters alike beyond the typical sit-and-get most conferences bring. Between the cohorts, workshops, unconferences, and keynotes, there is never a dull moment, learning is always happening, and ideas are constantly being shared and exchanged. The conference does have an emphasis on educational technology, but the transforming of the learning process to be more relevant for life and work in the 21st century is at the heart of the experience.
At Learning 2.0, participants choose a cohort that relates to the work they do at their school or another area in which they are interested. The cohort I chose was Project-based Learning (PBL). This type of learning process has been one of the ways I have endeavored to transform my teaching practice for a many years now, especially in the IB courses I teach. Currently, I teach IB Psychology and Technology Skills for the 21st Century Learner at my school. In both of these courses, I use PBL often to have the students DO the subject and set the content in context of 21st century learning skills and subject area skills rather than just learn about the subject and regurgitate it back to me. This cohort experience proved how much more engaging PBL is than traditional teacher-centered learning processes and reaffirmed my desire to keep it at the core of my pedagogy.
In our cohort, we just didn’t sit around talking about PBL. In the spirit of PBL, we DID PBL in the short time we had together (about 5 hours total). As a group facilitated by Rodd Lucier, we brainstormed and agreed upon a means in which to do this in a way that accessed the strengths and passions of everyone in the group. What we came up with was to create a video on the theme of “A world with PBL vs. a world without PBL” (see the video below). Everyone took on roles to complete our project. It was a pretty big undertaking for such a big group in such a small amount of time. But since each of us got to chose our role and had buy-in to the idea, we were all quickly engaged and got down to business. Because of my life long passion for music and music production, the role I chose was to do the soundtrack. It was a lot of fun, and I found myself getting to the room early each time for the cohort session to continue working on my part with my partner. We finished the video before the end of the conference and we are pretty happy with it. I wish there would have been a little more time to debrief the experience and more deeply discuss the rational and importance for PBL, but I think the experience spoke for itself. I look forward to developing more PBL experiences for my students.
Beyond the cohort experience, there were workshops and unconference sessions that related to technology tools and pedagogical processes participants wanted to develop. I facilitated a workshop on Creative Commons, which went very well. I also attended a workshop on using iPads in the social studies/language arts classroom and did a session on Adobe Photoshop. My quick creation from the Photoshop session is to the right.
Beginning each day of the conference were a series of keynotes. The keynotes this year were fantastic. Most focused on the importance of connections in today’s world and how technology can effectively facilitate this connectivism. There were three student keynotes that really stole the show, however. Each one of the students told a personal story of either their own experience of learning with technology or demonstrating their understanding of the impact and importance of technology in education. I thought back to when I was in high school, and I never could have done what those students did. They were amazing. It’s great to get students involved in conferences like this, and I give the organizers huge kudos for including the students in this way. It shows that we are all together in this joyous ride of learning.
The conference also gave plenty of time to just have conversations with the people you meet, as well. I had many great conversations with both new and old friends in those times.
In all, these experiences combined to make for 2 days of non-stop learning. I’m still processing a lot of what I learned in the experiences over the last two days. At least I have a holiday on Monday to continue some of that processing before I start putting it into action on Tuesday!
You can see photos of the conference in this Flickr group.