Lessons Learned from L.E.A.R.N

For the past few months, I’ve been involved with planning parts of the L.E.A.R.N Annual Conference, this year entitled, The Debate for America’s Future (#LEARN2013). Panel discussion topics included: restructuring school systems, teacher evaluation systems, district-charter collaboration, technology, & school intervention/turn around models. The overall goal of the conference was to assess ‘solutions’ currently being offered to address issues in each of those areas & determine what is/is not working in public education.

Per their website, “L.E.A.R.N., the Leaders in Education Advocacy & Reform Network, is an interdisciplinary organization that seeks to create a forum for graduate students interested in improving the quality of education in America’s schools.  We aim to foster dialogue about pressing issues, increase knowledge of and access to career opportunities, and engage students in service opportunities in the field of education law and policy. The organization is a joint effort between Penn Law, Wharton School, Graduate School of Education, and Fels Institute of Government. While I may not always agree 100% with the mission and/or approach of the organization, I am grateful to have had to opportunity to have had a hand in building this conference.

My role, specifically, was conference manager for the ‘Technology in the Classroom’ panel (#LEARN2013tech). I had the privilege of bringing together a fabulous group of panelists & moderator; some of who I had previously only known through Twitter. The panel was a very interesting discussion about different issues and terminology used within conversations about edtech. From the opening question of What is the most interesting use of technology inside the classroom and out? to those of how technology fits within our current assessment and teacher preparation structures, all of the panelists offered unique perspectives and resources that they are using in their work.

What will I take away from this experience?

  • Behind any and every event similar to this one, there are a bunch of people working to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I am indebted to the conference team, all of whom put in many hours to make this event a success.
  • Discussions like these, about the future of education, should not be limited to or privilege certain groups. It is imperative that all ‘stake-holders’ are included in the conversation & feel as though their voices and contributions are valued.
  • There needs to be an acknowledgement that (1) Students are people, & teachers teach students, not subjects (2) Learning environments exist within and beyond the typical classroom (3) Regardless of personal opinions/interests, the overall mission of education needs to be focused on what’s in the best interest of learning.

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LEARN Conference Team Photo Credit: Adam Dunn (conference photos available here)

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