Ben Owens is a graduate of Georgia Tech who worked as a mechanical engineer for 20 years before becoming a STEM teacher at Tri-County Early College, a wall-to-wall PBL school in Cherokee County, NC. In his 11-year teaching career, he helped transform the school into one that has gained international recognition for its unique approach to learner-centered innovation, especially for students historically furthest from opportunity. Ben was the 2017 Bridging the Gap Distinguished Teacher in STEM Education; the 2016 Science Math & Technology Center’s Outstanding 9-16 Educator; a Hope Street Group National Teaching Fellow; and served on the Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. He is on the National Faculty for PBLWorks, an Open Organization Ambassador, and a routine “Community TA” for the MIT Teaching Systems Lab. He co-authored the book, “Open Up, Education!” and in 2018, founded the non-profit, Open Way Learning to help schools create the cultural conditions where authentic innovation will thrive.
Getting Past the Buzzwords to Close the Opportunity Gap
Imagine for a moment that your school has a culture of powerful teaching and learning, where every student is collaborating in an environment that routinely makes interdisciplinary connections to real problems that are engaging and relevant to the things they care about. A school where the work students do is facilitated by teachers, leaders, and coaches who are passionate about equipping young people with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a rapidly changing world, especially students who have historically been furthest from opportunity. A school where every stakeholder understands the unique purpose of its learning community has deep trust and mutual respect for others and is constantly sharing ideas to make the STEAM learning environment more relevant and inclusive for all. This is not some abstract ideal – it’s happening now in schools around the world. This session will allow participants to not only see the ingredients that enabled these schools to move away from chasing buzzword strategies that have fleeting success, but will also provide tools to allow similar cultures of authentic learner-centered innovation to be built and sustained in their own schools.