Two inspirational talks
Blog post by Les Albiston
Each June I attend the UCAS (University and College Admission Service) conference and workshops for overseas advisers who prepare students for application to UK universities. It’s always a great occasion to meet colleagues from around the world and representatives of UCAS and UK universities as well as keeping up to date with developments in the application process. During the two days the workshops are punctuated by key speeches on educational topics during the plenary sessions, and these are always entertaining and thought provoking. This year I heard two speeches which were inspirational. On Thursday morning Dr Hannah Dawson of The New College of the Humanities, London gave a presentation on why study of the humanities is so important. Speaking without notes or any technical support, she gave a passionate defence of the study of History and English Literature at a time where STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) seem to dominate people’s thoughts. Her breathtaking sweep through the history of ideas, from Aristotle to the present via one of my favourite philosophers, Thomas Hobbes, was a tour de force. Google her name and you’ll see the quality of her work.
In the evening I had the pleasure and honour of having dinner with Dr Sugata Mitra before his keynote speech on learning using the new technologies. If you don’t know of his work then just Google his name and learn about his award winning “Hole in the Wall” and “School in the Cloud” projects. His radical and challenging analysis of the way we learn and his daring vision of the future of what we know as school made him TED winner in 2013. Speaking for over a hour, he delivered his presentation with disarming humour and modesty and his fascinated audience were eager to comment and question in a session which finished just before midnight.
Two completely different speakers, with radically different styles, both had their audience enraptured, and both reminded me why I love teaching and learning so much.