Learning by Design: Re-imagining learning

The first Learning by Design (LbD) Conference was hosted at ISB on 16-19 March 2017. The conference marked a continuing conversation between ISB teachers, parents, students, as well as more than 100 educational colleagues from around the world to re-imagine the future of learning.

Much of the focus for the weekend was on disrupting and challenging conventional ideas of teaching and learning. Does homework support student learning? Does grade-giving kill a learning culture? Will we need to learn mathematics in the future? Why do we still teach handwriting? These are just some of the questions raised during the plenary conversations.

Participants also took part in practitioner workshops and learning labs. Workshops included:

The Power of Story in Modern Learning: This was a workshop where participants were encouraged to let loose and turn common and unknown stories into their own. Many said that this activity would help them make the subject they teach more enjoyable. The journalists enjoyed filming this session as it was interactive which made for visually interesting footage.

Learning Innovation and the Storytellers: The educators that chose this workshop learned about how student journalism works at ISB. They engaged and connected with the journalists and were encouraged to think about running similar projects in their own schools. The student journalists who interacted with the adults were surprised at the role reversal in this session - they were asked questions by the teachers and invited into the conversation by them, which made them feel valued and appreciated. A key idea throughout the conference was indeed how educators can learn from their students. Student voice was a key component of the weekend and all plenary sessions were moderated by ISB students.

A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Signing: This workshop was for participants who wanted to learn another way of communication other than speech - sign language. Attendees were put in groups and chose a subject taught in school, and then proceeded to learn simple signs and talk to each other in sign language about this subject.

In addition to the adult strand of the conference, more than 100 ISB students from grades 5-11 also participated. Student attendees were separated into 17 project groups, and each group came up with an innovative solution to a problem in their community or around the world.

Throughout the weekend they took part in sessions provided by the same visiting experts who attended the adult conference, with a focus on leadership, thinking outside the box, and developing ideas into feasible projects. Students who took part spoke about how their teamwork skills had improved over the weekend - they frequently had to make compromises, find out each other's strengths, and designate leaders. They utilised knowledge, experience and skills from every member of their group to create their perfect pitch. The last day of the conference featured a powerful session in which students and educators shared their learning with each other and students exhibited their project ideas. These projects included the following:

LGBTQ+ which was a video and a website to inform people about the issues surrounding LGBTQ+.

Saving PawPrints: this project is going to help dogs all around the world who are missing limbs to have an improved quality of life. This project was inspired by the prosthetic hands that are printed in school in collaboration with E-nable France (who also ran a workshop at LbD), for children without hands.

#NoNorm was a project that proved very popular. Its idea is simple: to illustrate that there is no 'normal' or ideal body image. The creators hope to produce a book of photographs and statements from students throughout ISB who are happy and comfortable with their body image, no matter what they look like.

The full list of student social innovation projects is listed here.

Everybody - adults, students and, we, the student journalist team - learned new skills and techniques throughout the Learning by Design conference. Attitudes and conventions were challenged and disrupted, questions were asked, minds expanded, and each person went away more empowered to connect with, engage with, innovate, and empower those around them.

Perhaps the event was best summed-up by one of the external guests, David Price, OBE, who also ran a workshop for ISB parents:

"What struck me so forcibly during that week-end was the emphasis upon two things: the UNESCO goals, and the benefits of internationalism. I was honoured to work with students from a range of countries who were creating socially purposeful global innovations that help bring us together, not drive us apart. And, throughout the whole event, there was a palpable, and visible, sense of love between delegates, teachers and students, who came from all over the planet to learn together and appreciate our differences."

Look out for Learning by Design 2019!

Written by the LbD student journalists