Chang School launches TED talk-style conference

(Video produced by Ashani Jodha) 

The Chang School wants to talk about the next step in education.

The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education has launched ChangSchoolTalks 2015, their own version of TED Talks. Their first event was held on Feb. 19, titled Digital Learning Reimagined. Six speakers took to the stage to discuss trends in educational technology and how school systems should adapt to today’s tech-savvy learners. The inaugural conference brought in over 280 guests from various industries across the province.

Stephen Downes, co-creator of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), spoke about today’s education models and how MOOC lets students choose and design their studies based on individual needs and desires.

“I’m thinking the right model is to stop attempting to design learning and education and technology for people, and to create mechanisms that enable them to do it for themselves,” he said.

According to Downes, students today are looking for education that is more meaningful and practical — education that reflects the world we live in today.

Jeremy Friedberg, founder of the online-learning platform Spongelab, explored the benefits of educational games and how they stimulate the user in ways conventional teaching can not. The games incorporate strategy, logic, critical thinking and creativity to educate on a variety of topics.

Philipp Schmidt, co-founder of P2P University, an online-learning community, supported Friedberg’s ideas by showing data on the lack of stimulation in classrooms. He said students have the lowest brain activity when in class.

“I would love for more people who care about learning and education to experiment. Build new tools, build new platforms, use existing tools,” Schmidt said. He said he hopes people who care about the future of education experiment in the tech space, so that the field isn’t dominated by for-profit companies.

Ryerson geography professor Jeanne Maurer said the event is particularly interesting for her because half of her students prefer online courses, while the other half prefer classroom discussion and interaction. Maurer was interested in hearing where the e-learning environment is going.

Elizabeth Campbell Brown is an instructional designer for the Centre for e-Learning at the University of Ottawa. She and her colleague both agreed the event gave them a good starting point to explore the ideas mentioned by the speakers. “We were intrigued by the title and the opportunity to come and just reimagine the kind of work that we do on a daily basis,” she said.

Naza Djafarova, Chang School director of digital education strategies, led the event planning team. She said the event raised over $8,000, and all the proceeds were donated to the Spanning the Gaps bursary fund, which provides underprivileged youth with the opportunity to experience post-secondary education.

Dean Marie Bountrogianni said tickets for events like Digital Learning Reimagined are normally priced between $400-$500 but she wanted to make sure the event was accessible for everyone at $35 a ticket.

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