ARLINGTON, Texas -- More than 200 teachers from across Texas and from states as far away as Kentucky and Minnesota attended the 2018 Lausanne Learning Institute (LLI) Southwest conference Feb. 22-23 at The Oakridge School

This year’s theme was “Making Learning Visible” and educators along with other conference participants said the conference did just that — made learning visible with invaluable networking opportunities, presentations from 35 schools, two days of professional development, and 44 fishbowl sessions.

LLI Southwest is one of the first teacher conferences nationwide to provide fishbowl sessions, or live classroom observation of innovative learning at work. This year, the fishbowls covered learning for all age levels, and focused on content from math to science to Makerspaces.  

The conference kicked off with a Welcome Assembly in the John P. Flavin Fine Arts Center where The Oakridge School’s Jon Kellam, Head of School, greeted registrants. Choir students performed a relevant and sobering version of In Flanders Field— in tribute to fallen soldiers and victims of this month’s school shootings in Parkland, Florida. Teachers then attended one of the fishbowl classrooms, active learning sessions, or collaborative events that included:

Propaganda in Social Media
What Happens to Girls in STEM after K-12?
Create Designers and Thinkers with Heart
From Integrated Marketing: A Class Transformed
Maker-Based Instruction with the SMU Maker Truck
Makerspace Grows Up
Escape the Classroom  

The conference keynote speakers were Matt Scully and Ryan Welsh, both of the Providence Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Scully serves as director of digital innovation and integration. Welsh serves as the school’s design strategist. On the second day of LLI Southwest, the two led participants in an unorthodox exercise that included teachers playing with Legos, roaring like tigers, and completing a Mad Libs game. Conference attendees were encouraged to post photos to Twitter using #LLISouthwest. All of the activities were intended to get teachers to think differently about how they teach, how students learn, how better and more creatively to engage with them, and how to transform their schools.

“I feel deeply grateful to have gotten the chance to work with you,” Welsh said to conference attendees upon the end of what he and Scully called their very non-keynote type address. “This group of people will never be together in the same place. We believe in the power of small gestures, small objects, small steps... We don't think independent schools ever change without a bunch of those steps adding up. You tried all kinds of things in the last hour, you created so much. Use this small gesture, talisman, to remind yourself of what felt important today and to engender conversation to the really important people that you're going to back home.”

Jared Colley, chair of the Oakridge Department of English, and Ashley Read, Oakridge Learn21 Specialist, both served on the LLI Southwest Programming Committee. They called this year’s conference a tremendous success.

“LLI Southwest was everything we anticipated—teachers teaching teachers and students teaching teachers,” said Read. “There was an energy across campus like nothing else. Teachers felt invigorated, energized, and ready to take their new tools back to their own classrooms.”