“Education = Storytelling” Conference in Orlando was an adventure of the imagination

Former Walt Disney Imagineer Brian Collins, Dr. Carissa Baker, University of Central Florida, and other instructors lead an exploration of education as storytelling at the Education = Storytelling conference held in Orlando, November 15-16, 2019. Participants learned from experts in storytelling and creating interactive, spatial narratives, to transform education, schooling and learning for the 21st century. They were challenged to imagine a future in which schools are the happiest places on Earth.

Participants spent the first day with former Walt Disney Imagineer, Brian Collins, and other instructors at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including the spectacular new land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, to learn how to “think like Walt” and transform education, schooling and learning by combining storytelling, design thinking and media literacy in an XBL (Experience Based Learning) approach within a STEMD curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math + Media and Design). They learned to enhance learning experiences by designing natural, built, simulated, augmented, virtual, and imagined environments. Participants learned how to enrich learning by designing 1D communicataion (lines of text and strings of numbers); 2D pages and screens; 3D objects and products; 4D spaces and places; and 5D interactions and experience design.

On the second day, Dr. Carissa Baker, Brian Collins and other instructors lead the group in thinking about ways to revise educational approaches based on the principles of themed education design. Dr. Baker’s workshop focussed on what makes theme parks compelling and potentially transformative spaces. She highlighted ways to use theme parks as a subject in the classroom and the potential of the theme park as a learning space. The session concluded with a charrette focused on creating a model classroom, school or learning environment that applies the principles for developing transformative education, schooling and learning.

Other presenters included Dr. Brett Taylor from the University of the Pacific in California; Cory Rayala from the California Department of Education; and award winning teachers Amy Migliore and Andrew Benscko. Dr. Taylor walked us through implementing a design thinking framework into professional learning communities. Cory Rayala connected the storytelling theme of the conference to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.

Presentations by middle school teacher and theme park expert Joshua Baker and former stuntman Ray Eddy highlighted ways to use theme parks as a subject in the classroom and the potential of the theme park as a learning space. The day concluded with a charrette focused on creating a model classroom, school, or learning environment that applied the principles for developing transformative education, schooling, and learning.

The Ensō Education Institute has been invited by the Journal of Media Literacy to guest edit an issue focused on education as storytelling. This issue, which will include articles written by attendees of the Gamechangers Institute and the Education = Storytelling Conference, will not only further the literature on innovation and narrative design in education, but also serve as the conference proceedings for the two gatherings. In this way, the journal issue will provide a record of the innovative work done at the genesis the Ensō Education Institute.

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