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NCMA Hosts Future of Learning Summit

Over the past year, we’ve been using this blog to document the process (Ask-Imagine-Plan-Create-Improve) behind our IMLS planning grant on the role of museums in next-generation learning. On Saturday, January 30 (after a week’s delay due to weather), we held a Thought Partner Summit and Future of Learning Panel discussion to reflect on the work we’ve done so far and prepare for the final stretch of our grant. Our thought partner group consists of national leaders in the fields of education, museums, and technology.

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In the morning, our collaborative planning team of P-16 educators from across the state met with the thought partners. Working in affinity groups, they shared ideas about teacher professional development, experiences for students that happen online and onsite, and participatory gallery spaces. Thought partners helped groups become aware of potential models for programs, recognize gaps in our planning, and find connections between prototype ideas.

We invited the public to join the discourse in a lively panel discussion that afternoon. Sylvea Hollis, program manager with the Center for the Future of Museums, moderated a panel featuring Corey Madden (executive director of the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts), Matthew Rascoff (vice president for technology-based learning and innovation for the UNC system), and Dr. Keith Sawyer (Morgan Professor of Educational Innovation in the School of Education at UNC–Chapel Hill). Hank Willis Thomas, Dr. Rebecca Klemm, and Rob Stein contributed reflections via video. Topics included the role of community in innovative ed practices, embracing needs-based change, and data and education technology. Audience members participated by responding to real-time poll questions on these topics and had the opportunity to ask questions of panelists. A link to the full panel discussion can be accessed below. In the coming days, we will post additional footage and extended thought partner responses to each topic.

Future of Learning panel discussion.





Looking Back at The Future of Learning

While we’ve been busy thinking about and asking our stakeholders about the museum’s role in next generation learning, we’ve also been eager to engage with how other organizations are examining education in the 21st century. When we heard about the Future of Learning Institute offered by Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, it seemed like a great opportunity to compare our experiences so far and place them within the context of a research organization. The Future of Learning Institute’s goal is for participants “to envision and create innovative classrooms, programs, materials, and in- and out-of-school learning environments that promote deep, relevant, and engaging learning for our times.”

In considering the educator and student needs, we’ve identified proof, real world skills, play/experimentation, and engagement. These needs were heavily explored in the Institute’s course content. We learned about research that is in process and had many opportunities to learn from our peers. The overall design of the program was a strong model for professional development. The course featured a mix of formats including large plenary sessions, mini-courses with active participation, and a daily learning group that we got to reflect and grow with over the week. In fact, Howard Gardner and some colleagues recently wrote a response to a Washington Post article about the quality of teacher professional development that stresses the importance of treating educators as professionals, allowing opportunities for collaboration, and relevance, among other features. These same qualities factor into the development of professional development at the NCMA.

It would be impossible to confine all of my program takeaways to a blog post, but I’ll focus on three.


It is important to allow time for reflection and for that reflection to include the exploration of “disturbing thoughts” —thoughts that might represent someone else’s point of view and seem too difficult or upsetting to really think about but shouldn’t be ignored. Many members of my learning group agreed that we needed to make a conscious effort to prioritize reflection during the school and work day and not just leave it as something to be done later in favor of moving on to the next project.

Comparing Notes

IMG_0408I attended a session on systems design facilitated by Agency by Design (link: research specialists Jessica Ross and Edward Clapp. Agency by Design is a research project that explores maker-centered learning. The session focused on identifying human-designed systems at play in an interconnected world. As the session unfolded we moved through many of the same steps that I’ve used with teachers in concept mapping:  defining concepts, identifying the concepts or systems at play in an image, and making connections between concepts. This experience provided reinforcement for our approach to concept-based learning and was a great opportunity to share ArtNC and the concept explorer with peers from all over the world.

What to Let Go and What to Keep

On the first afternoon of the program, David Perkins, the Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr., Research Professor of Teaching and Learning at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, posed the question, “What learning matters?” and prompted us to apply a “Mattermatics” equation  to our practice:

    • + 1 (one thing we might add to our practice that would be really different)
    • x 2 (one thing we would like to expand or enrich that we already do)
    • 3 (one thing we would shrink because it gets in the way)

IMG_20150729_222607We reflected on this formula several times over the course of the week. At our penultimate learning group meeting, we were given an assignment to bring in an artifact of our Future of Learning Experience. The night before I had encountered some books scattered on the sidewalk while walking back to my lodgings. Were they dropped? Were they left there on purpose with the knowledge that someone else would pick them up? I noticed a similar scene on a front porch the next morning, and when I passed by again both sets of books were gone. Luckily I had taken a picture that I could use as an artifact. To me the books represented knowledge or ideas that someone might be ready to let go in order to embrace the opportunities of the future of learning that matters. It reminded me of the challenges we face with this project. What projects should we keep, and what do we need to let go to meet the needs of next-generation learners and educators? The answers to these questions are still being written, but check back for more reflections as we move forward.


Scaling Up: Data and Education Technology (Part 2)

This blog post is part of a series: our thought partners who were not able to attend the Future of Learning summit were asked to create video responses to questions related to the panel discussion.

Robert Stein is a museum leader, technology expert, and strategist with more than 10 years of experience heading innovative projects and diverse teams. Stein has pioneered the adoption of open-source tools for the museum community and created the world’s first incentive-based loyalty program for visitor engagement. Stein is an author, speaker, and consultant, focusing on the impact museums can have in their community, how technology efforts can change the dynamic of museum innovation, and how metrics and measurement can drive continuous improvement for the practice of museums.

In his video below, Stein discusses advances in educational technology that influence the future of learning in museums.

Scaling Up: Data and Education Technology (Part1)

This blog post is part of a series: our thought partners who were not able to attend the Future of Learning summit were asked to create video responses to questions related to the panel discussion.

Kyle Jaebker is a tech specialist in Indianapolis, formerly director of the IMA Lab at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Jaebker’s work spans from web and on-site interactives to mobile. Jaebker has a passion for using open-source tools and the latest technologies to solve complex problems. In the video below, Jaebker responds to these questions:

  • How have recent innovations in education technology enhanced students’ and teachers’ ability (and capacity) to do their work?
  • What ed tech projects are you most proud to see taking place at your institution?
  • What trends do you anticipate shaping the next 20 years of education technology? Why?


Rebecca Klemm: Let students learn in their own way

This blogpost is part of a series where our thought partners who were not able to attend the Future of Learning Summit were asked to create video responses to a variety of questions related to the panel discussion.

In the video below, Rebecca Klemm, founder of NumbersAlive!, submitted the following video response when asked, “How has your work helped students navigate the sometimes difficult path between learning what they need to know and inspiring them to create and take ownership of their ideas?”


During the Q&A portion of the panel, a student in the audience who is also a member of our Teen Arts Council, shared her experience with a teacher who made learning AP Calculus engaging and relevant to her.

“I’m bad at math, that’s why I love art so much, but I’m in an AP Calculus BC course and I’m doing well in it because my teacher knows how to create an environment where I can learn the way that’s best for me. For example, I made a music video about calculus. Instead of Take me to Church by Hozier, [we created a video called] “Take me to Calc.”
This student exemplifies the idea that Rebecca talks about in her video that encourages educators to let students learn in the way that works best for them in order to create meaningful learning experiences.

Hank Willis Thomas: Artists and Educators

This blogpost is part of a series where our thought partners who were not able to attend the Future of Learning Summit were asked to create video responses to a variety of questions related to the panel discussion.

In the videos below, our thought partner Hank Willis Thomas, a contemporary artist based in New York, responded to these questions:

  • Reflect on the role that art (contemporary art in particular) can play in shaping student learning.
  • How might the exchange between contemporary artists/educators/students inspire visionary educational practices?

His videos were shown as an introduction to a conversation focused on the role of community in innovative ed practice.