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Needham Education Foundation hosts talk on new learning trends

Posted by Laura Franzini  November 21, 2012 12:00 AM

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The Needham Education Foundation is hosting a dialogue on Nov. 28 for town educators, parents, and community members on the innovative teaching models emerging to make learning more inspiring, accessible, and meaningful.

The event is free and joins education experts from Needham Public Schools, Olin College, and MIT with local business entrepreneurs leading initiatives to bring more education resources to the web, according to the NEF.

Entitled Flipped Classrooms and Broken Silos: Education Trends in Needham and Beyond, the event features a panel discussion moderated by Needham Public Schools superintendent, Dr. David Gutekanst, the keynote speaker.

Panelists will weigh in on the different, creative ways educators are reshaping instruction for students of all ages and their benefits, including:

  • Online instruction and web-based resources that increase access to education beyond just the classroom
  • Breaking down traditional academic silos to help students make vital connections between disciplines and prepare for real-world problem solving and college coursework
  • Advice for parents on how to navigate students’ and their own online learning
  • The new, accelerated interdisciplinary studies course launching at Needham High School in September 2013

Following the panel discussion, members of the audience will have the opportunity to engage directly with speakers during a Q&A and dessert reception.

The panel will include Olin College professors Robert Martello and Mark Somerville, proponents of interdisciplinary teaching. Dr. Martello is also an advisor to the instructors creating the new integrated studies course at Needham High.

Needham resident Kirby Salemo, co-founder of Classroom Window, a web-based education resource provider, will also sit on the panel, as well as Mark Change, director of product at edX, a non-profit offering online academic coursework from institutions including Harvard and MIT.

Leah Alpert, a Needham High graduate and student at MIT, rounds out the panel with a discussion of her experience working at Khan Academy, a non-profit online education portal specializing in video instruction.

A highlight of the Nov. 28 event is a dialogue on the value of interdisciplinary studies. In Needham, teachers have been exploring cross discipline instruction informally for many years. Through a collaborative initiative with Needham Public Schools created in 2006, the NEF awarded the district a grant of $111,500 this month to pilot a course in September 2013. The NEF continues to work with the district to expand interdisciplinary learning in other courses and other grades.

The event will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Newman School auditorium. Space is limited. The community is encouraged to register in advance at

Laura Franzini can be reached at

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