Creating Learner-Centered Experiences: An Interview with Katie Martin from ‘Altitude Learning’

The 2019 E-Learn conference is held from November 4-7 in New Orleans. Do you have your suitcase packed for NOLA? A highlight feature that most participants look forward to in the conference program are the keynotes. At AACE conferences, you not only have the opportunity to attend a keynote, you can also engage with experts afterwards in a ‘conversation session’. This is a great way to connect with experts in the field and learn about current trends. Dr. Katie Martin is giving a keynote on ‘Leaning, Teaching, and Leading in a Changing World’ on Tuesday, November 5. If you are in New Orleans, we look forward to seeing you in the audience, if you cannot make it, keep an eye on AACE’s youtube channel where you can find many past keynote talks as recordings:

In the meantime, you can learn more about the central themes of Dr. Martin’s keynote in her interview for AACE Review.

What do you see as some of the important characteristics of learner-centered experiences? What are some of the implications of these experiences for students and educators?

When we focus on learners, connect to their interests, needs, and goals, we can create experiences that ignite curiosity, develop passion, and unleash genius.  As I work with diverse educators and talk with students, there are common characteristics that always surface when people share powerful learning experiences. They often share experiences that are: personal, allow learners to exert agency, have goals and accountability, they are inquiry-based, collaborative, authentic, allow for productive struggle, provide and use models, ensure time for critique and revision as well as reflection. Here is a blog about the 10 characteristics of learner-centered experiences.

The power of learner-centered experiences is when educators provide choice for learners and opportunities for them to manage, construct, and drive their own learning to achieve the learning goals and make new meaning. I would argue, even more importantly, they learn to engage in authentic problem solving that will allow them to be active and contributing members of society now and in the future, not simply get through the curriculum or the latest initiative or program.

What do you enjoy most about your current job?

In my current role as VP of professional learning at Altitude Learning, I get to partner with diverse schools and districts to catalyze and accelerate the shift to learner-centered practices. I have the opportunity to visit over 500 classrooms and work with teachers and administrators to deeply understand the challenges and opportunities that exist in our classrooms and I get to work with them to create the conditions that empower learners (adults and students).

Have you attended AACE conferences in the past? What is your connection to this community? 

I have not attended this conference before and I am eager to connect with the community in New Orleans.

What key insights do you hope the attendees will take away from your keynote?

It seems daunting and there are so many systems that are barriers to the questions above but I also know that the education system was designed by people and the only way it will change is the people who believe in themselves and our collective future enough to make the changes that are necessary today. That means you are part of the solution.

It only takes one person to take small steps that can lead to big change and I for one am encouraged and hopeful that together, we can create that movement. If we want something better for the future, we have to create it. This doesn’t mean we ignore the past, but it also means that we don’t simply recreate the experiences we had as students for our own children. They live in a different time, with exponential opportunities. Opportunities that did not exist when we were children and we would be remiss to allow our apprehensions to hold back their aspirations.

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