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Minerva Week 8: Transformationelle

October 30, 2014

I was in Quebec City for a conference about nurturing passion and creativity in higher education. I will share some images now (perhaps they say it all!), and some commentary in a few days. It was transformational! Or, in French, transformationelle! 🙂


I presented about the phenomenon of student-run innovation spaces, which are places where people can come together to collaborate, ideate, prototype and learn. They are not home and they are not school – they are somewhere in between. I had chosen a great crowd to present to, as many of the educators/administrators were trying to build collaborative spaces of their own. I felt like my research was useful to them. That, I can tell you, is a wonderful feeling.

The conference was in brisk and beautiful Quebec City. I could hear the wind howling past my 9th floor window each night in the hotel. The Centre de Congres was beautiful, modern and stylish, as you can see from the little metal people rushing to attend something on the ceiling!



This was the first time I had scribed (done visual notes) for a large conference. I could feel myself improving as the talks went on, and felt appreciated by the attendees, who asked me many wonderful questions. I met someone who was a sign language interpreter, and we talked about the quality of listening required for any kind of translation of a speech. I spoke with an innovative professor of Spanish who is trying to get her students to use fully visual notes to hep them in their learing.

Through experiencing the different plenaries, I learned to question what it meant for education to be ‘transformative’. Our first speaker, Sue Jackson, defined it in a way that struck me. It was not about preparing people to enter the current system, but instead about preparing people to challenge the system. As a student in transition, I reflected on how easy it had been for me to start thinking of ways I could conform rather than challenge. I reflected on the immense pressures on young people to migrate seamlessly into careers, and the growing cracks in these pipelines. The calls for university as job training and university as transformation sound so different. Can they co-exist?




Beautifully-prepared and served food, and wonderful conversations with people from three different continents (Rob Ford vs. Margaret Thatcher, bartering in different cultures, and time poverty, if you’re wondering!).



Bernand Petiot talked to us about delicious uncertainty and the importance of a revolving cast of guests to support creativity. He advocated for complementary thinking (how can opposites energize each other), for pushing experts past the brink of their comfort and for creativity to be seen as a collaborative pursuit. I was reminded of how beautiful the Cirque productions were, and that there still was a place for beauty in the world. Why can’t education be staggeringly beautiful?



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I walked past the Citadel, construction workers banging around to make a soundtrack for me (quite dissonant), and went to the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Quebec. There, I fell in love with the work of Alfred Pellan. His art is surreal but detailed, while at the same time managing to be bold, delicate, and captivating. Did I mention that the art gallery is partly in a repurposed prison? The symbolism hits you in the face, doesn’t it?


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I scribed one final talk (EDIT:there was also a panel discussion, but I don’t have a great picture from that one!) that, fittingly, reminded me of Minerva. The speaker was a medical education researcher. He spoke about three verified learning principles (spaced practice, mixed practice and frequent feedback/testing) and as I was drawing his main ideas, I kept realizing “Oh, we do that at Minerva! Oh, we’re planning to do that at Minerva!” It was a fitting end to a trip that brings me back to San Francisco more committed than ever to contributing to a bold project on the edge of a future of higher education.



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