A Teacher’s Guide to the Catalyst Conference
By: Emily Hamlin
Global Online Academy’s Catalyst Conference, an online event featuring student projects from around the world, runs April 26-29, 2018. We invite teachers to bring their students to the conference to learn from and engage with peers who are committed to making change in their communities.
- The Catalyst Conference is FREE and open to the public, not just GOA students and teachers. The website is: goaconference.org
- The entire experience is online and happens asynchronously over the course of four days. There are no set times for events, no RSVPs needed, and there are no special accounts needed to join. If you are online at any time between April 26-29you or your students can participate.
- The 400+ student advocacy projects have been created by students in the following GOA courses:
- Abnormal Psychology, Advocacy, Architecture, Bioethics, Computer Science II: Analyzing Data with Python, Energy, Game Theory, Gender Studies, Graphic Design, iOS App Development, Medical Problem Solving II, Music Theory & Digital Composition, Positive Psychology and US History: Problem Solving Past & Present (a Head-Royce School campus-based course).
- GOA’s keynote speakers are Sarah Craven, Director of the United Nations Population Fund (DC) and Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, founder of Kakenya’s Dream. . For more information on our keynote speakers, see this announcement. Their pre-recorded keynote message will be featured on the conference website beginning on April 26.
- The conference will also feature special video messages from former Catalyst Conference participants and recipients of GOA’s 2017 Catalyst for Change Prize.
- Student presentation content is typically appropriate for late middle school, high school, and adult audiences.
- We invite you to read earlier blog posts on the conference which introduce the concept and why we believe creating global learning opportunities through local advocacy projects is a critical factor in student engagement and project-based learning.
Resources for Teachers
When we first designed the Catalyst Conference, we knew there were some typical conference elements that we wanted to preserve and others we wanted to reimagine. For example, in our online conference we wanted to retain the feeling of choice: you enter a room (or in our case a page), and realize the content doesn’t meet your needs or capture your attention, you are free to walk out (or click away).
On the other hand, being entirely online means freedom to reimagine what it means to attend and present at conference. From the start, we knew we wanted to leverage technology to expand conference attendance to a global audience, allow for engagement regardless of place or time zone, and put students and their interests at the center of everything.
Just as there’s no single way to use Facebook or buy a sweater online, there’s no single way to engage with the conference. Once on the conference site, you and your students are free to explore, connect, vote, and share.
For teachers who would like to offer their students a more structured approach, we suggest the following three steps, perfect for in-class or independent guided exploration of the conference.
- Have students visit the conference site and register: goaconference.org/register
- Download and share this Student Worksheet with your class. We anticipate this to be about 45 minutes worth of engagement, either in class or as homework. The worksheet covers the four key ways to engage: explore, connect, vote, and share. The worksheet covers the four key ways to engage: explore, connect, vote, and share.
- Have a class discussion about the conference experience: encourage students to reflect on what they saw but also brainstorm ways to bring this kind of project work to your own community.
Students are better positioned than ever to become changemakers. Encourage your colleagues to visit the conference. Sponsor a conversation among educators in your community (and involve students!). Some prompts:
- How might this work help students connect abstract, academic concepts to the real world?
- How might we ground our assessments in real-world actions?
- How might we encourage students to leverage people and resources in their communities to support their work?
- How might we leverage our students’ passions and expertise as learners and connectors to broaden the definition of “experiential learning” to include online spaces?
To learn more, see:
Global Online Academy (GOA) reimagines learning to empower students and teachers to thrive in a globally networked society. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators or email hello@GlobalOnlineAcademy.org with the subject title “Professional Learning.” Follow us on Twitter @GOALearning. To stay up to date on GOA learning opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.