Sunday, February 20, 2011

Learning and the Brain Conference 2011 in San Francisco, CA

San Francisco as seen from Alcatraz
From February 17-19, 2011, I was given the wonderful opportunity to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference in San Francisco, CA, on behalf of my school division. As an avid reader, it was fantastic to be able to hear first-hand from many of the authors that I have learned so much from through their books. I hope that some of the speakers I was able to hear from at this conference will come to my province in the future as I believe that their thoughts and ideas are important messages all educators need to hear and consider.

I have posted something from all of the sessions that I was able to attend. They are written in the form of notes taken during the sessions, rather than reflections on what was said so that you can see some of the ideas discussed at the conference. I have tried to include book links, videos and websites as much as possible.
The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from Alcatraz

For those of you who are reading this blog and are are in my school division, I have ordered the sessions on MP3/synced Power Points so that we can watch and learn from all the wonderful presenters at the conference at a later point in time. Let me know if you are interested in viewing any of these presentations.

Before leaving San Francisco, I had half a day to visit the island of Alcatraz. During my tour of the island and former prison, I couldn't help but feel sorry for those who were sentenced to serve their time on the island. The city sparkled against the blue water. After spending three days walking to and from the conference in the rain, we finally had a beautiful, sunny day to enjoy.

As I enjoyed the view of the cityscape from the island, I couldn't help but wonder if students might be feeling trapped in schools where they are only learning by traditional means. They might also feel somewhat unengaged and isolated at school from the more advanced world that they are living outside of the school day. Increased efforts need to be made by all educators to improve our own skills and teach content and skills in new ways that are relevant to the students of today and prepare them for their futures.

Like the prisoners who spent time on Alcatraz, our students will eventually leave the island known to them as school. They will need to solve real-world problems and demonstrate that they possess the collaborative and communication skills necessary to gain employment in the future. The experts who presented at this conference left the participants with a lot of food for thought. It is now up to the participants to help lead the way to help make the changes necessary so that learning in the 21st century will be effective and engaging for all students. If not, we will become obsolete as a profession.

Here are my notes from the sessions I attended:

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Saturday, February 20, 2011

    1 comment:

    1. What a great experience it must have been to meet and greet authors that you have enjoyed. Educators can never stop learning just as their students should never stop learning. There is no opposition to students feeling trapped in traditional school being taught with traditional pedagogy to meet traditional curriculum and state standards. Of course good teachers want to have professional development to stay current in teaching and technology strategies. I agree that students can feel unengaged and isolated, but so can teachers. Technology is and will always be a part of our students’ lives, whether in reaching for a higher education or in the workplace, as an innovative tool. I have heard that ‘technology’ changes every three days. Our students deserve the very best from us, so we need to be able to change, also. It isn’t an easy process, and it definitely isn’t cheap. I read the notes on the Gray Small key note speech. He has some up-to-the-minute ideas about technology and brain activity. However, his description of digital natives has caused some controversy among higher education teachers. Labeling someone a digital tourist or digital immigrant is unfair and demeaning. Just because students have grown up with items such as wii, xbox, and Smartphones that doesn’t necessarily meant they are going to good at using technology in a positive way or that they will be good students in academic subjects. I hadn’t heard about the study referenced saying playing video games removes the ability to recognize facial expression. I disagree that very young children shouldn’t have access to technology, but just like junk food, it should be monitored by caring parents and used in moderation. That would be like removing a pencil or crayons when they were inventor. He didn’t use citations for his data on age discrimination on using current technologies. I agree that active brains learn faster and deeply. It is evident that the brain needs exercise just as the rest of the body does. I didn’t understand how the author knew that all of the brain was used while searching online. It was amazing to learn that surgeons who played video games make fewer errors than those who do not. But what was the source for this information? I have heard about brain interface technology, but there are many effects on society and body ownership issues that will need to be addressed. We live in an interesting and fast paced world where technology used for the space program is being equaled in innovative classroom activities.