Learning and The Brain Conference – Professional Development Notes from Krissie Olson

I was fortunate to attend the Learning and the Brain Conference this year as we considered the topic “The Science of How We Learn”. Especially compelling to me as the Discovery Center teacher was the track of sessions exploring Making, Design Thinking and Hands-on Learning. With each new speaker and workshop, my reflection was framed in the context of how the new information and research I was hearing could impact the students and the program in the Disco.

Stanford Assistant Professor and FabLearn founder Paulo Blikstein spoke at the conference of three frontiers of Making in Education: integrating making into the classroom; finding real world solutions and applications; and conducting research using neuroscience methodologies to better understand the effects of making on learning. He also reminded us that “Children are not hackers and still need support to learn the tools and techniques involved in making.”

Susie Wise, Director of the k-12 Lab and Stanford’s d.school, spoke during her session about empathy as a crucial component of Design Thinking and Making. Whether it be appreciating the difficulty of moving water that 14th century Italians had or how the fictional book character Stuart Little could integrate into a modern day classroom, Wise underscored that understanding someone else’s worlds and hidden needs helps all inventors, designers and thinkers better achieve their goals. We also participated in a rapid prototyping activity to emphasize the idea that a Bias Towards Action, or action-oriented behavior, plays a crucial role in maker activities and challenges.

Reflecting back on all the lessons I’ve taken away from the conference, I’ve been able to look with a fresh perspective on curriculum that already seems “set” but still requires revision. I appreciate that Gateway offers an agile environment in which to pivot and grow in my instruction and will leave you with a sweet quote I heard at the conference: “Every child in our classroom is someone else’s whole world”.