On March 17-20, Senior Associates Julie Ryan, Ralph Jahr, and his wife and assistant Ann joined approximately 420 attendees in Istanbul, Turkey for the 26th Annual Central and Eastern European Schools Association (CEESA) Conference. Ralph and Julie valued their conversations and interviews with a wide range of new acquaintances: prospective administrative candidates, vendors, international school architects, and State Department Diplomatic Security Officers. They also attended a lovely gala reception for an evening of good spirits and conversations.
Keynote Speaker Greg Curtis's offered much food for thought on the nature of personalized learning, why it's important, and how teachers can provide it. Our students are coming up in a world where some of the most successful business commodities are invisible. For example, the world's largest taxi service, Uber, owns no taxis, and the most popular media owner, Facebook, creates no content. The nature of the economy and jobs is and will continue to shift radically. The notion of "career" is changing, and the world needs better thinkers and better problem-solvers. Our youth will have to reinvent themselves multiple times over their lives. As life spans increase, people will be working until their 80's or 90's.
Certain skills and habits of mind can be fostered in our children and students so that they will be prepared intellectually and emotionally for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. First, facts without connection will not be retained. Since the brain is a social organ, seeking emotional connection to what it is learning, school work must be made relevant and engaging to the learner. Educators should be creating different experiences and tasks wherein students build empathy and collaborate, use their initiative, problem-solve, develop and strengthen resilience, build research skills, and create plans—in other words, take ideas to fruition.
Greg admitted that there is no off-the-shelf program. The answer lies in creating an environment, not implementing a program. We need to support kids in becoming the best version of themselves, and this goes beyond differentiation of instruction. Personalization is about adding student voice and choice. Choice means giving our youth a choice within parameters, and voice is offering students a choice in how they demonstrate their learning. In this way, students will take ownership of their learning.
It is not only a privilege for Search Associates to meet colleagues working in all areas of international education, it is also beneficial for them to attend professional development sessions and keynotes as they continue to stay informed about current educational directions and issues affecting international schools, administrators, faculty, and students.