For readers looking for innovative ideas in education, we may have discovered something for you to pay attention to: the Oppi Education Festival. Held in Helsinki last year, the festival will be landing a lot closer to home this year in New York. The festival is all about getting educational specialists from all around the world to congregate and share their ideas. Dubbed a festival, rather than a conference, the organizers aim for “a different type of event.” Naturally, such an event has piqued the interest of those of us at The Study Academy. We concur with Sir Ken Robinson in his assertion that our times call for revolutions in how we educate; there seems no better way to oil the wheels of that progress than by ensuring that experienced practitioners have the opportunity to share and receive ideas from their international colleagues.
Given our enduring aim to make learning personalized, we anticipate the theme of the festival this year – the role of gender in education – to inform and dialogue with issues of student-to-student differences in theoretically challenging and pedagogically useful ways. Notable speakers on gender and education who will be delivering talks include Chernor Bah and Jude Kelly. Jude Kelly, citing all kinds of female pioneers in the arts, has spoken at a plethora of events (including TEDx London) advocating for increased opportunities for women. She has extended the spirit of her vast theatre background into the founding of the Southbank Cultural Centre in London England.
While certain speakers appear to have been selected for the direct applicability of their research and work to the specific theme, there’s also an array of notable speakers covering a wider range of education-related topics. For instance, Bethany Koby, a member of the company called Technology Will Save Us, has made a strong case in past public appearances for increased integration of technology inside and outside the classroom as tools to enrich learning. In a past talk, entitled “Will Technology Save Us?,” she exhibited numerous inventions that have already been implemented and engendered productive results. She cites a framework called Maker Movement Constructivism, that she feels comprises endeavours and activities from “giant robots to knitting circles” that use making and technology to “solve problems and to explore”.
But she’s not the only one championing the benefits of experiential learning. Ben Schloger is sure to venture into that terrain as well. He has talks available online in which he’s marketed an educational technology called the Skoog, a cube-like instrument with a soft exterior that encourages tactile learning through an engagement with a three-dimensional object.
You’ll remember I mentioned that the festival is international in scope. Sometimes, challenging the status quo means looking at educational frameworks outside our national borders. For that reason, it’s fortunate that Finnish educational “guru” Pasi Sahlberg will be visiting Oppi as well. Sahlberg has professed a great deal of passion for how Finnish educators educate their students in his home country (here is a great example).
He has also warned against a trend the educational frameworks of many nations throughout the world, a trend he refers to as GERM (Global Education Reform Movement). While this trend is too complicated to fully summarize here, it’s clear that Sahlberg wants to see a lot less emphasis on competition and standardization in schools, as well as less accountability. That last one may register as a bit curious (isn’t accountability a good thing?). In Salberg’s view, it becomes problematic when the desire of educators to be accountable to governments eclipses the desire to be responsible in the first place, to care enough about students to ensure success. And among the most admirable points of focus in Sahlberg’s talk is that there is truly a statistical link between gender equality and general quality of education.
Questioning conventional modes of learning is something we love at The Study Academy. Whether you’re interested in attending the festival itself or simply engaging with a plethora of fantastic speakers, you can find out more from the Oppi website.