I recently returned from my first researchED experience in Brooklyn; perhaps you saw the hashtag #rEDNY17 floating around twitter lately. Like a lot of education conferences, speakers presented information for which they are knowledgeable. Unlike a lot of education conferences, there was no expo or product to buy. No one wanted me to purchase the latest and greatest education doodad that is sure to revolutionize the education industry. ResearchED isn’t a conference for fads. I think it could be best summed up with the word ‘evidence’. ResearchED is all about linking education research and the teacher, making teachers more research literate, and highlighting educational myths hindering the classroom. In my opinion, this provides for a more genuine conference experience.
Unlike past professional conferences I’ve attended, researchED didn’t load me down with free swag or leave me with an almost fanatical motivation that rarely translates into real gains in the classroom. Information was presented by knowledgeable researchers and teachers, there was time for meaningful dialogue, and I left with many ideas to ponder about how to better my classroom for my students. I cannot think of a more appropriate reason to attend an education conference. Meaningful. Researched. Applicable.
I would like to take a few moments to shine light on a few of the many highlights I experienced. This is going to be a tough task; like attempting to cull down my 180 character tweet to the mandatory 140. I will be as brief as possible while still getting the point across. I promise.
- The first session I attended was led by Benjamin Riley (@benjaminjriley) with Deans for Impact. It centered around our biases in reading/interpreting research and the persistence of neuromyths. What I really enjoyed about this session is that it challenged my own perceptions. Unbelievably refreshing for a conference setting.
- I next joined others for a session on retrieval practice ‘from the learning-brain perspective’ led by Dr. Efrat Furst (@EfratFurst). Admittedly, this session was right up my alley of interest. I have an affinity for psychological works that intersect at cognition and neuroscience. I thought Dr. Furst’s message on neural connections and retrieval practices’ ability to create and strengthen these associations was amazing. All teachers should understand how this occurs and really think about how this knowledge affects how our learners learn. I highly recommend you visit Dr. Furst’s website for more information on this topic.
- During the lunch break, I ended up sitting with and indulging in a wonderful conversation with Callie Lowenstein (@calliepatton). She is a fellow educator and we’ve had a twitter friendship for a bit. We had what my wife calls ‘teacher talk’; spoke about the classroom, the importance of researchED in education, and writing/blogging (She very recently started blogging. Here’s her first one …it’s great). Although it was a casual conversation, it was still a highlight.
- Next, I attended a session led by Eric Kalenze (@erickalenze). This one was a real eye-opener for me. Basically, he discussed how education is upside down and some really smart people have incorrect beliefs on education. But how do we effectively interact with these people to amend their beliefs? Often times, shoving evidence down their throat causes them to more strongly advocate for their incorrect beliefs. Eric contends it is a framing problem…we need to reframe the debate to be more effective. Check out the link to his book above for a much more in depth explanation.
- A last session that really gave me information to ponder was led by Dr. Yana Weinstein (@doctorwhy and @acethattest) and Bryan Penfound (@BryanPenfound) on interleaved mathematical problems. Now, I am not a math teacher, but I found the discussion and information on interleaving to be fascinating. My biggest takeaway is that we don’t know too much about interleaving. That may sound a little weird for a conference focused on research and evidence, but I think it’s great. There are still a lot of questions around interleaving, and we will one day know those answers. Research is being conducted now evaluating the relationship between the classroom and interleaving’s effectiveness. In my opinion, that’s awesome. Add to that the fact that Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Penfound are so knowledgable and great at what they do…it was a great session.
Outside of the sessions, I was thrilled to meet so many wonderful people. After the conference was over, we moved to a local restaurant and just hung out…being around the likes of Tom Bennett, Lucy Crehan, Richard Phelps, Ken Sheck, Marcus Lithander, and so many more was just fantastic… and I just know I’m leaving out some amazing people. Sorry. I promise you it’s not on purpose. I immediately felt welcomed by the researchED ‘crew’. Although this was my first researchED conference, I left with the feeling that I belong. It was a fantastic experience that left me wanting more. I strongly urge you to attend a researchED conference whenever you can. I’m already making plans to attend the next conference in the United States.
You can find information on researchED here: https://researched.org.uk