Staff Reaching Across The Globe
Staff member Melissa Marshall, Head of Digital Learning and Technology & Commerce, presented at the Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston earlier this year. We asked her about the conference.
Tell us about the conference you presented at?
I presented at a conference called Building Learning Communities, which is held in Boston, USA every year. BLC is in its 19th year and is chaired by Alan November, an eminent thinker in the areas of planning across curriculum, staff development, new school design, community building and leadership development. He wrote a book called Empowering Students with Technology and its contents inspired me early on. BLC draws presenters of big-picture ideas from leading universities and think tanks alongside classroom practitioners so that we can discuss and share together. This is a wonderful way to get amazing things happening in education.
What did you present on and why did you choose this topic?
The topics I presented on are very dear to me: Gamification, and Enhanced Learning Programs that teach design thinking.
Both of these threads have been evident throughout my career. Gamification is the process of bringing the same motivational aspects of playing games into the classroom – it is not necessarily playing more games. I often watched my students persevere hard in the face of setbacks when gaming, only to baulk at obstacles to their learning in the classroom. This led to wondering: what elements of games translate to a learning experience, and can they increase engagement? I commenced a Masters in ICT in Education to find out, and gamification was my final project.
Design thinking is a process developed by Stanford University to guide thinkers through a process to make their world a better place. When students design something that matters to them and to others, this allows them many future-focused skills: empathy, collaboration, agency, technical knowledge and purpose. At Santa Maria College, we have Enhanced Learning Programs that build this capacity in our girls, and Explore8 in Year 8 is built around innovation and design thinking. I was honoured to present this workshop on behalf of my colleagues here at school. It was certainly received very well by the attendees and I was able to introduce them to how we tackle design thinking in our corner of the world.
What key things did you take away from the conference?
A conference like this reminds us that we are part of a global community of learners, and we are all learning, all of the time. Many teachers and educational stakeholders around the world can see what schools can be – not the factory model of years gone by. While the future is uncertain, we have wonderful ideas and the ability to carry them out. The purpose of a school must be to develop human potential, not to rank it. In the end, we need to do what is right and good for our students.
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