Issue 39

July 28, 2017

Charles Bowden

Summertime is always the best of what might be.

Dear Pioneers,

I just returned from Big Picture’s Big Bang Conference (#thebang2017) in St. Louis where 500 incredible learners, educators, and school leaders were meeting to rejuvenate and advance their own practice.

The Big Picture principles of learning design are learning through interests, through practice, and through relationships—which, when woven together like a braided rope, demonstrate all five elements of learner-centered education. Their innovative conference was designed to model these principles.

Their “advisories,” for example, modeled personalized, relevant, and contextualized and socially embedded learning. Advisory groups were set up around a common interest, so relationship was naturally seeded. This structure created communities inside the larger conference community that helped us all feel more connected. Another example was the “Leaving to Learn” day, which explored creating open-walled experiences. Depending on interest, people went into St. Louis to discover learning avenues that existed beyond the “conference walls.”

For me, the highlight of the whole conference was being part of an Education Reimagined presentation that was led by young learners, rather than by me (as it usually goes). Called “The Most Underutilized Resource in Education…the Learner,” the session was led by learners Halima and Tenaj from Camden Big Picture Learning Academy, along with their principal, Tim Jenkins, and me. Halima, Tenaj, and Tim acted out two skits to contrast school-centered from learner-centered education. In 6-minutes, they were able to provide the audience with the grist for a great conversation on what learning looks like when you start with the learner’s interests, build relationships in and out of school, and do learning through real and authentic projects. It was a blast!

Thank you to Big Picture Learning for hosting such an incredible event. It was such a pleasure to hear Elliot Washor, Dennis Littky, Andrew Frishman, and Carlos Moreno talk in different ways about the “new-form” of education, rather than the re-form of education; the long and compelling history of learner-centered education; and the incredible impact Big Picture Learning is having on learners and their communities across the country. We are grateful for all of the pioneering work Big Picture has been leading for the past 40+ years.

Warm wishes,

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