2013 Summer Conference Paths

Photo by Andy Rush

Our member universities and colleges are some of the most amazing and highly regarded learning institutions in the world, and we want to frame the program in a way that is very much focused on making the future happen. We want to use the setting of the NMC Summer Conference to continue to build the kind of program that is action-oriented and informed by research and practice, while also being inventive and visionary at its very core. We want to expose the energy and creativity NMCers bring to the event, and not only break new ground, but also stretch our own thinking and have fun doing it! 

As we think together, in breakouts and in plenary, we want to look outside the boundaries of our usual environments to consider learning in its full span, from the kinds of learning we do informally, or in settings such as museums, to the formal education that happens in schools, and of course, the settings we know best: college and university campuses. From the speakers in the plenary sessions to those that lead the 30+ breakouts, we want to push ourselves to imagine and then explore; to play and then create, to transform our ways of thinking about education broadly, and ultimately to reflect and learn from what we do in order to best move forward. 

To make that happen, we would like to frame the entire conference around the six verbs, below, and try to create a fresh, new experience that is also deep with insights. Below each pathway are some prompts related to the three areas of education we want to include, but they are not exclusive, nor are they complete. We see them as potential jumping off points for session presenters.


In these sessions, we want to visualize the possible, to think deeply about alternative futures, and new ways of doing things.  This is where passion starts, and we’re looking for ideas that are fresh and new, and presenters that bubble with excitement about them.

  • Higher Education: Bold new ideas, such as massive online courses, new visions for credentials, and other very different ways of thinking with the potential to radically change the ways colleges and universities operate.
  • K-12 Education: Beyond reform — ideas that empower teachers and excite kids, BYOD, new models for learning spaces.
    Museums and Informal Learning:  Rethinking the museum and the role of the building, empowering visitors, extending the gallery beyond the physical space, and generally ways to make jaws drop routinely.



To get to a hoped-for future, we need to know what we have to work with, what tools exist, what new ideas might be adapted — and ultimately, where we look for ideas that work.  These sessions are ideal for showcasing research, practitioner-focused studies, and discussions aimed at better understanding what we do on campuses.  This is where we create new knowledge, and these sessions are where we’ll share it, reflect on it, and learn from it.

  • Higher Education: Building on efforts in digital humanities, sharing research, new questions, new insights.  What can we use from decades of innovation at the edges to spur the core of institutions?  What do we know about learning spaces and libraries that should be changing pedagogy?  Where is the cutting edge right now?
  • K-12 Education: We know there are all kinds of experimentation and new models being tried, from the Khan Academy to charter schools, to 21st Century Skills.  What should every school be doing that we know works? What can Higher Ed learn from these efforts?
  • Museums and Informal Learning: Learning design in many leading museums is highly creative, and the experience is often as remarkable as the objects it relates to.  What is the secret sauce of successful learning? Where are the innovators we all should be learning from? What is the art to making informal learning as engaging and fun as it often is?



This is the path where experimentation is celebrated, and what can be learned from the serendipity of discovery, the value of risk-free failure, and games for learning. Hands-on sessions are especially encouraged here, and learning by doing. This is where we try new things, combine ideas in new ways, and allow ourselves room for surprises.

  • Higher Education: Where are higher education’s playgrounds and what kinds of things are happening in them? How can the serendipity and fun of discovery that is common to many labs be exposed in other kinds of learning? What is the role of play in other forms of learning, like staff development? What examples of integrating free exploration into formal learning can be highlighted? What is the role of leader and leadership in making informed play a part of serious work?
  • K-12 Education: Almost every school has a playground — how is the notion of unstructured time used in top schools and by top teachers?  What are the lessons for education at all levels?
  • Museums and Informal Learning: Science museums are masters at making science playful — what lessons do they have for schools and universities — and museums with other kinds of collections? Is playful experimentation something that forms compelling experiences for adults as well as kids?



These sessions are ideal outlets for creatives of all types, for stories of how the new is brought to life, for production and implementation, and the ways ideas take form. Magic lives here, and hands-on creative experiences are definitely encouraged.

  • Higher Education: From video and web production to solutions in support of teaching and learning of all kinds, to new certificates and degrees, to the integration of art and learning, to pure creative expression, this path is the place for things that have moved from idea to reality.
  • K-12 Education: This is the place for sessions that show how schools can be places where creativity flourishes — the place to learn about new models and new strategies.
  • Museums and Informal Learning: Sessions that highlight new ways of reaching audiences, dramatic new ways of using the gallery, maker faires, and more.  Museums of all kinds highlight human creativity, and this is the path for sessions that provide insights into the creative process.



In every journey, there is a time when it makes sense to stop, to reflect, to look for overarching and deeper insight. These sessions are where we will do that, and they can be sessions in which it happens in real time, as the conference unfolds — but also sessions that share larger ideas that may have been in development for some time. This is the chance to reflect on why we do what we do, what is important, and the values that underlie our work. This is where our values will come to light, and where we can learn more about ourselves as teachers, as learners, as designers and builders, and most importantly as creators of the worlds in which we will live, work, and play.

  • Higher Education:  What has our nearly thirty-year journey with ICTs on campuses taught us?  What are the insights we can share?  We’ve now seen waves of technologies come and go.  What stays?  What is important that we keep?
  • K12 Education:  If you talk very long to any K12 educator, it is clear that the goal is for kids to be at the center of everything — where is that happening best?  What have we learned from thirty years of reform?
  • Museums and Informal Learning:  Museums, especially art museums, are places intended to allow deep reflection, and where we touch the best of the human experience.  What can we learn from those who create such experiences?



This is where ideas that work are shared, where change is happening now, and where the futures we imagine are already being created. This is where a special excitement lives, because it is here that the future exists today. In these sessions, we move from ideas to action, from experimentation to implementation.

  • Higher Education: A look across any modern campus today reveals myriad ways in which higher education has transformed itself in recent years, from the reinvention of libraries, to new concepts for learning spaces, to entire new programs such as those emerging in the digital humanities.
  • K-12 Education: Challenge based learning is finding traction across the countries in the developed west. Other sorts of new models are emerging in places with different challenges like India, Latin America, and Africa. New schools are being built in inner cities expressly aimed at meeting the needs of the underprivileged. What is working?  What ideas are literally transforming schools right now?
  • Museums and Informal Learning: Museums must balance a mission of conservation with one of access, and the process is one that consistently keeps museums thinking about how to keep their exhibitions and collections fresh. What are some of the most notable examples of transformation, especially around learning?


Photo by Andy Rush

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