Currently in Melbourne, attending a three-day conference: VAPS 2011 Conference ‘Dare to Think: Philosophy in Schools’.
So far a highlight has been an opportunity to chat to Alan Saunders of ABC Radio National’s Philosopher’s Zone and discover that my podcasting equipment is better than his. :p
The Friday night lecture by Dr Nurin Weise was excellent – she is the curator of several exhibitions at the Melbourne Museum, such as the Mind/Body exhibition and she had some fascinating insights as to what it is like to balance the need to communicate science while considering the ethical and societal implications of displays for the public. I’ll see about doing a write-up of some of the things she discussed later; one fascinating thing she said was that she thought that much of her work better suited ‘dinner-table conversation’ rather than the overview she gave, so her dinner parties must be quite sensational.
One thing that the Friday night exploration of the museum showed me – the benefits of incorporating Philosophy Guides with museums, art galleries and the like. Here’s an example of a seriously impressive sequence of guides to the exhibitions that go across the year groups:
Stimulate philosophical inquiry and encourage the development of higher-order thinking processes necessary for creative problem-solving, decision making and conceptualising, by taking your students on a philosophical tour of Melbourne Museum.
Then, it was the first day of presentations on Saturday! Although I personally found the keynote speech rather disorganised and poorly researched regarding some of the elements, the sessions I have attended today have been of good value and I always enjoy networking with other teachers and learning of their work and various backgrounds. Today I met a range of educators, from new teachers, teachers who are filling in as reliefs for Philosophy teachers, to teachers who do intensive programs or external modes of educating and even lecturers at the tertiary levels.
This may be something to look into further, since I know many of my acquaintance who want to contribute to learning opportunities are keen on philosophy lessons for young people. Delivery via distance / online may be a great way to facilitate this (especially when there’s limited opportunities due things like to few classes scheduled, teachers without training or a crowded curriculum when it comes to somehow fitting in critical thinking). They appear to be the only ones running such a course which is pretty intriguing considering how many distance education or online units could be out there for the secondary years? Philosophical adventures using public spaces like Museums that are downloadable online and the opportunity to sign up for distance education courses might be of interest to groups like the JREF, perhaps?
I also attended a discussion/philosophy community of inquiry using modern issues and applying the philosophical thinking of Simone Weil, which I hope to do more study on in order to incorporate her ideas with future teaching opportunities on ethics regarding life and death.
In addition to the work, I have had a lovely dinner and get-together with friends from the Young Australian Skeptics podcast / the Melbourne gang and even had some hot gossip about what the rest of the year and 2012 will have in store. But that’s all in the future and I have a presentation tomorrow on critical thinking and podcasting that I wish to review and do a last practice of. If there’s any feedback, I’ll let you know!