Jun 26 2018

ISTE 2018: Keynote Speaker Urges Educators to Adopt Learner-Based Experiences

Katie Martin reminds attendees to focus on students' voices when designing a class curriculum.

Katie Martin became a teacher to show students that their voices mattered, not to prepare them for tests.

“This has been the driver in everything I do,” Martin said during her Tuesday keynote at ISTE’s 2018 Conference & Expo in Chicago. “It’s so important.”

The former director of district leadership for the Buck Institute for Education stressed that educators need to redefine their teaching goals by considering what they want learners to accomplish. They can start by asking “what if” questions, she said. 

  • What if we empowered learners to discover their passions and share their ideas with the world?
  • What if we can create the conditions that empower learners to find the right questions rather than simply provide the answers?
  • What if I can create new and better experiences for the learners I serve?

“When we empower learners to explore and learn how to make an impact on the world, we inspire problem-solvers and innovators,” Martin said.

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When You Empower Students Everyone Wins

When the education system is transformed into a learner-based one, students and teachers benefit, she added. 

“Our system was designed for an industrial model. There was a time when it worked. There was a time when it met our needs,” Martin said. “But I worry about my kids and their level of learning if we don’t change the system to meet the needs of our modern, postindustrial world. We need to go to a more personalized, flexible learning experience to prepare learners for our modern world.” 

Martin shared her 10 characteristics of a learner-centered experience:

  • Personal
  • Agency
  • Inquiry
  • Collaboration
  • Authentic
  • Critique and Revision
  • Productive Struggle
  • Goals and Accountability
  • Models
  • Reflection 

“When we focus on learners, connect to their interests, needs and goals, we can create experiences that ignite curiosity, develop passion and unleash genius,” Martin said.

Make Learner-Based Experiences a Reality

Technology is beneficial in classrooms, but only in the right hands, Martin said. It won’t work if school districts add new resources to an outdated paradigm.

“There’s no substitute for a teacher who designs authentic experiences for students,” she said. “It’s people and not programs that are going to make this happen.”

Ultimately, everyone needs to be on board.

“This is about teachers; this is about administrators; this is about families and our communities,” Martin said. “We have to involve them in the process. We can’t change who we serve, but we can change how we serve them.”

For more of the latest stories out of ISTE 2018, check out our conference page here.

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