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'Unconference' Promotes Unconventional Approaches to Learning

The Ellis School in Shadyside focuses on unconventional approaches to learning, not only in the classroom, but also for its upcoming “Unconference” where techniques already implemented in their classrooms will be used to address education challenges.

The school will host the “unconference”  Saturday to attempt to solve problems such as how to decrease the fear of failure, and how to show, not tell students.

“This provides an opportunity for teachers to come. It’s safe. It’s low pressure. It is collaborative with their peers, and it promotes this idea of deign thinking as a way to create student centered learning experiences,” said Lisa Abel-Palmieri Director of the Learning Innovation Institute at The Ellis School.

The event is called an “unconference” because attendees will be able to pick the topics they would like to focus on and then break into groups to address problems related to those topics.

The Ellis School embraces design thinking using this teaching style in all of its classrooms.

“In design thinking students are meant to define the problem to build empathy for each other, because we know that building a context about what they are working on is really important to engage them and address real life problems that affect people’s lives,” said Abel-Palmieri.

Students in an AP biology class at Ellis recently learned about ecology by job shadowing, conducting surveys, and holding focus groups. They took the information they learned to create ideas on how to make the school more environmentally friendly.

Abel-Palmieri says anyone involved in any form of education, be it through museums, schools, parks, universities, preschools, administrative or hands on, is encouraged to attend.