KID Museum’s latest Community Conversation brought together parents, educators, industry professionals, and engaged community members to explore the future of learning with a panel of leaders on the frontline of tomorrow’s learning landscape.
– Ulrich Boser — founder of the Learning Agency and author of Learn Better
– William “Brit” Kirwan — chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland and Chair of the Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education
– Maria Navarro — Chief Academic Officer for Montgomery County Public Schools
– Paula Reed — former National Director of Partnerships for Discovery Education and founder and CEO of BizEducation Consulting, Inc.
– Craig Rice — Councilmember and Chair of Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee
– Glenn Whitman — Director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
– Josh Starr (moderator) — CEO of PDK International
Boser kicked off a lively discussion with his insights on the science of learning—stressing that “our brains are not like computers” and that doing things day in and day out, like driving a car, does not necessarily make us better at them. He emphasized the need to experience mistakes and failure to help cement learning.
Kirwan, providing perspective at the higher education level, described a rising generation of students less interested in knowing what particular subject they are going to major in, and more interested in knowing “what problem am I going to solve, and what do I need to know to solve it?”
A consistent theme throughout the evening was that learning happens in a multitude of places—not just in the classroom, and our school systems need to help facilitate that. With places like KID Museum, “the whole city becomes the classroom,” Whitman envisions. Rice emphasized the importance of exposure to a variety of subjects and careers, because, “kids only see and hear certain things in their neighborhoods.” He placed accountability on all of us to help ensure kids get exposure to our own experiences, and discover the possibilities for their futures. Navarro concurred, warning that exposure needs context to create meaning — we must help kids make connections.
Also discussed was the importance of collaboration. Kirwan called isolation “one of the most draconian forms of punishment for humans,” and Navarro discussed “pockets of success” in the MCPS system, where teachers and students understood that working together “equals success.”
Whitman emphasized the need for teachers to understand educational neuroscience, explaining that he’s a better teacher now based on what he knows about the brain and how we learn, and citing evidence that links it to student efficacy. For example, most teachers don’t realize that students can’t absorb new facts at the end of a class. That time is better spent reflecting on something they learned during the lesson.
And as always, a key piece to a discussion on the future of learning is the future of teaching — which even came as a request from the audience for KID Museum’s next Community Conversation. Navarro explained that schools are currently in a “culture war,” fighting to change a 100 year old system. Reed stated, “the bottom line is professional development,” as school systems move toward new learning approaches and technologies. And to broad audience agreement, Kirwan stated, “we need to re-conceptualize the profession of teaching,” making it the high-status profession it truly is.
Stay tuned for more to come!