Your Name and Title: Mr Leon Conrad, Oracy Consultant, Specialist in the Integrated approach to Liberal Arts education, 
School or Organization Name: The Traditional Tutor / The Academy of Oratory
Co-Presenter Name(s): David Pinto (Math Teacher, Social Innovator)
Area of the World from Which You Will Present: London, UK
Language in Which You Will Present: English (I speak other languages as well)
Target Audience(s): Teachers (primary, secondary, higher and adult education), homeschoolers, community workers
Short Session Description (one line): How to become sensitive to a good idea or insightful observation -- and then catalysing this to inspirational levels.
Full Session Description (as long as you would like): 

The Problem: little opportunity for Wisdom

Most education is teacher- knowledge- and delivery-focussed. Where, in the curriculum, is there space for wisdom, and where, we content is space for inspiration?

Where-ever learning environments thrive, the educators are sensitive to their learners. They are the learners. They are sensitive to present conditions, helping the students draw out their observations and because of the quality of their listening attention, touching them with insight.

In primary school it is easy to flatter children, whatever they produce can be lauded with plenty of praise. Hence the dictum of 5* to one criticism, or other variations. Many educators in secondary school attempt a similar positive ratio, but only the most positive survive. Why? Because adolescents are growing into adults, internalising the skeptical approach of critical thinking, and they are aware that primary school teachers are often blindly positive, like parents. As adolescents they are right to be skeptical of inaccurate praise.

So, what is the solution? Becoming more sensitive to the learning moment

Becoming sensitive. And this can be a tall order in a busy inner-city school -- I (David Pinto) know because I have done it. It can be done. How? How can we become more sensitive given the conditions of our classes can be quite harsh?

How Specifically? Creating a learners' Odyssey

We will be employing a technique we have developed called Odyssey. We present a grid of coloured shapes, each one corresponding to an activity. It is for the participants to choose which shape and which order. How they do this, as a group, is a learning experience in itself, and the educator may be as proactive about this as they wish; the structure implies that the educator take more of a facilitator role than a direct teacherly one.

The activities are designed to encourage thinking, some more logical reasoning, others more intuitive, artistic, linguistic, analytical, synthetic, there is a wide variety, categories by colour or by shape. (One of the meta-games that a participant may hook onto is guessing what the categorisation is. Again, in a facilitator role, the educator takes a position that allows them to observe and listen to the suggestions that the participants come up with.)

So, the learning journey is by the participants as a collective. It is a learning Odyssey in the experience of the participants. Not only in the personal experiences of each participant and the unique combination of offerings that they bring to bear, but also in the conjunction of activities -- which will be new to the facilitator too.

How will you benefit from participating?

Here is a way to create a learning environment that puts the centre of learning structurally within the participants. This is not a theory, this is a practice. One of us (Leon Conrad or David Pinto) will be demonstrating this facilitator role at any point of the activity while the other draws attention to it directly as a meta-observer. All participants after the event will be in a position to implement this method in their learning environments.

Our apologies for spelling it out in this text description: It is the structure of the journey which can create the conditions for us to become more sensitive. It is not approached directly. Hence the challenge of Wisdom to find itself in our classrooms and learning environments.

Imagine you’re in a room, looking at a colourful grid of different shapes on a wall. Triangles, circles, squares and stars are spread out randomly … what could the pattern be? There’s one shape of each colour, but they don’t seem to be arranged symmetrically. Each has something different on it. Behind each grid piece is a story. Each shape is a door or a window to another world.

Get ready to embark on your very own Odyssey journey, a journey with story at the heart of both content and structure.

Our immersive, interactive presentation will run as an exploratory session. Participants will learn how to

  • inspire and engage students naturally;
  • construct and use a simple Odyssey grid;
  • create content for their own Odyssey grid, rooted in their subject, leading their students deeper into a deeper engagement with learning.

Our work is informed by research on story structure and learning (Lahad, 1992; Lahad and Ayalon 1993; Haven 2007; Schank 2011, among others).[i]

[i] Lahad, M, Storymaking: An assessment method for coping with stress. In Jennings, S (Ed), Dramatherapy Theory and Practice II (pp 150-163). Routledge, London, UK, 1992.

Lahad, M and Ayalon, O, BASIC Ph: The Story of Coping Resources, Community Stress Prevention (Vol II), Kiryat Shmona, Community Stress Prevention Centre, Israel, 1997.

Haven, K, Story Proof; The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT, USA, 2004.

Schank, R, Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science can Save Our Schools, Teachers College Press, NY, USA, 2011.

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  • Co-Chair

    Thanks for your proposal! I have two concerns. First, are you representing a for profit company and promoting a specific product? Secondly, how does this relate to the mission of the conference?

    Please consider revising.

    Lucy Gray 

    Conference Co-Chair

    • Hi Lucy,
      The short answers are:
      1 - No, we are not promoting a paid-for service or product.
      We are offering a basic idea for free.
      2 - Our proposal is deliberately left open-ended as we want to engage participants in thinking how they might use Odyssey Grids to promote global competency in an inspiring and engaging way.
      We are keen to work collaboratively with interested participants to support work they develop with Odyssey Grids, and help them to disseminate their versions of the grid under a CC license perhaps to the worldwide community.
      Hope this clarifies things for you. Longer email to follow.
      Let me know if you have any further specific queries.
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