Europe Tour 2015, First city: Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is a charming city in the South of Sweden, and to me it’s famous because it has the University of Gothenburg. I was last here to give an invited lecture in Fall 2009. Now I’m back for one of the big annual learning sciences conferences: Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL).

I’m giving a three-hour workshop, tomorrow morning, titled “The learning sciences and CSCL: Past, present, and future.” In the workshop, I’ll be building on what I learned while editing The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (2nd Edition), to lead the group in a discussion about what the learning sciences is, how it came to be, how it relates to CSCL research, and challenges and opportunities we might face in the future. I’ll also draw on a second book that I’ve co-edited (with Michael Evans and Martin Packer) called Reflections on the learning sciences. That book should be published within the year; the chapters are all finished, and that gives me a chance to give a bit of a sneak preview about what the leaders in the field are thinking.

It took me 24 hours and three flights to get here, with multiple travel problems at each step of the way…for example I still don’t have my checked bag from my New York to London flight, although it’s been located and is promised to appear at my hotel here within 24 hours–long after my workshop ends. So I had to re-print all of my workshop materials for tomorrow, besides running to the store for razors and toothpaste (I learned my lesson: Never assume you’ll get your checked bag and keep critical items with you on board).

I’ll keep posting about my next stops, beginning with a really cool music improvisation conference in Stord, Norway, that I’ll fly to on Tuesday.

Bringing Schools Into the Future

More and more people are realizing that schools will have to change to meet the new demands of the 21st century. In my own research and writings, I’ve emphasized the importance of creativity and innovation, and the need for schools to do a better job educating for creativity, rather than simple mastery of facts and skills.

I’m delighted to report that there is a global community of scholars and policy makers who are working on this issue. It’s not just an issue for the USA; schools in every advanced country face the same situation: an older style of classroom focused on the instructional delivery of information, which seems mismatched to creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving abilities.

Monday and Tuesday of this past week, I was invited to join an impressive group of global leaders at the University of Hong Kong, titled the Global Policy Forum on Learning. Organized by Professors Nancy Law and Kai Ming Cheng, the guiding questions were:

1. What do contemporary findings in research on learning tell us about how to improve student learning?

2. How many decisions and reforms are actually based on the results of sound research?

This meeting is just the first step toward creating a global network that brings together learning scientists and policy makers. I hope the work continues.

Here is the list of participants:

Professor Diana Laurillard, Chair Professor at London Knowledge Lab

Mmantsetsa Marope, Director, UNESCO, Paris

Gwang-Jo Kim, Director, UNESCO, Bangkok

Yves Punie, Project Leader, European Commission (Seville)

David Istance, CERI, OECD

Soo-Siang Lim, Director, US National Science Foundation

Marcela Gajardo, Director of PREAL, Chile

Keith Sawyer, Washington University

Naomi Miyake, Professor, University of Tokyo

Marcia Linn, Professor, UC Berkeley

Kenneth Chen, Under Secretary of Education, Hong Kong

Cherry Tse, Permanent Secretary of Education, Hong Kong

Nirmala Rao, Professor, University of Hong Kong

Nancy Law, Professor, University of Hong Kong

Kai-ming Cheng, Chair Professor, University of Hong Kong

First Asia Trip

I’ve recently returned from my first trip to Asia. I was invited to give a keynote address at an annual conference, the International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE), about my research on creativity and learning. The conference was held outside Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur, in the completely new and modern suburb of Putrajaya, a planned community created by the national government to relocate their administrative offices out of downtown Kuala Lumpur. Almost 300 international scholars presented their research at the Marriott hotel.

I was impressed with the caliber of the scholarship. Many of the presenters were computer scientists, developing new educational software. Important research is being done to develop a new generation of learning software on portable handheld devices, like smartphones and PDAs. A second line of active research was in “computer supported collaborative learning” (CSCL), which basically means, bringing students together over the Internet as they work toward important learning goals.

At a brief stop at the University of Hong Kong, I met one of the Chinese scholars who worked to translate my book The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences into Chinese. He was one of a team working at South China Normal University, in Guangzhou. The Chinese translation was just published in May and he was happy to report that sales have passed 3,000 after only 7 months, indicating a strong interest in the learning sciences in mainland China. I’ve been invited to return to Hong Kong and to Shanghai next July, and I look forward to spending more time with my Asian colleagues.