Guest Speakers

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Learn with Extraordinary Experts

Constructing Modern Knowledge 2018 is committed to making connections between child-centered learning theories and the creative construction of knowledge with computers. In addition to providing a rich sandbox where educators enjoy the luxury of time to work on personally rewarding projects, there are occasional opportunities to interact with some of the greatest educational minds of our time.

We want CMK participants to return home able to say, “I spent time with one of my heroes,” or “My favorite education author helped with my project,” rather than “I heard X speak.”

See the impressive list of past CMK guest speakers here.

CMK 2018 Guest Speakers

In a rare visit to the USA, Carla Rinaldi returns to CMK to share her remarkable teaching and learning expertise.

Carla Rinaldi

Carla Rinaldi – President of The Reggio Children Foundation (2nd year)

Professor Carla Rinaldi is one of the world’s most profound educators and leading authorities on what has been called the best schools in the world, the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Her lifetime of work with Reggio’s youngest citizens should inform all progressive school improvement efforts, as well as what has become known as the maker movement in schools.

Recipient of the 2015 LEGO Prize and Adelaide (Australia) Thinker in Residence 2012–2013, Professor Carla Rinaldi is a world leader in education for children in the early years. She has been the President of Reggio Children since 2007 and is the first President of the Reggio Children Foundation. Carla is also a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Professor Rinaldi worked side-by-side with Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach, from 1970 until his death in 1994 in the municipal infant toddler and preschool system of Reggio Emilia, where she was the first pedagogical coordinator.Carla has been working as pedagogical/scientific consultant for Reggio Children, since 1994, following the supervision of all Reggio Children initiatives. She was responsible for research projects in collaboration with Harvard University, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Milan – Bicocca.

Professor Rinaldi has been vice-president of the Gruppo Nazionale Nidi-Infanzia (National Early Childhood Association) and has enjoyed stints as visiting Professor at the Webster University (St. Louis, Missouri) and at the Colorado University (Boulder, Colorado).

From 2004-2007, Carla Rinaldi was a member of the Reggio Emilia City Council.

In 2007 and 2008, Carla Rinaldi was appointed as a consultant in several different Commissions of the Italian Ministry of Education.Carla Rinaldi has been a speaker at numerous seminars and conferences in Italy as well as in Europe, the United States, Australia and Asia. In 2011 she was invited to participate in the Presidential Conference on Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) “Excellence and Equity in Early Childhood Education and Care”Budapest. In 2010 she participated in the UNESCO World Conference on Early Childhood Education and Care “Building the Wealth of Nations,” Moscow.

Professor Rinaldi lectures frequently on the Reggio Emilia experience, and has published many articles, chapters, and books in Italian and English.

James Loewen

James Loewen – Historian, Best-selling Author, Educator (2nd year)

“"James Loewen’s gripping retelling of American history as it should and could be taught, Lies My Teacher Told Me, has sold more than 1.5 million copies and continues to inspire K-16 teachers to encourage students to challenge, rather than memorize, their textbooks.

Jim Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont and prior to that at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He now lives in Washington, D.C., continuing his research on how Americans remember their past. Professor Loewen is the author of provocative books that illuminate current events by honestly confronting our past, including:

Read Dr. Loewen’s complete biography

Paulie DiMeo

Paul DiMeo – Television’s Favorite Carpenter (1st year)

Paul DiMeo while best known as the carpenter with attitude on ABC Television’s two-time Emmy winning Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, is also an established actor, a man’s man and the first to cry on his hit show. He was also the host of Building Wild on the National Geographic Channel. “Paulie” has performed on television, off-broadway, built theatre sets, renovated Aaron Burr’s brownstone, and was the lead designer of Major League Baseball’s fan cave in New York City. Paul represents one of our favorite kinds of CMK guest speakers, wildly successful adults working in careers that their high school guidance counselors could never have imagined.

Read Paul DiMeo’s complete biography

Jie Qi

Jie Qi, Ph.D. (1st year)

Co-host for the reception at the MIT Media Lab
Jie Qi is the co-founder and creative director of Chibitronics, which produces hardware toolkits for educators, artists and designers that blend paper craft with electronics and programming.  (Circuit Stickers, Chibi Chip…) She is also a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School, where she researches open approaches to invention and entrepreneurship.
Jie has exhibited internationally including at Ars Electronica, SIGGRAPH, the Exploratorium museum and the MoMA design collection.  With her work, Jie aims to engage broader communities in designing and creating their own technologies and approaching hardware as a playful and expressive medium for creating art.

Eric Rosenbaum

Eric Rosenbaum, Ph.D. (4th year)
Co-host, MIT Media Lab reception

Eric Rosenbaum is currently a member of the Scratch 3.0 development team. He is also the co-inventor of the MakeyMakey and creator of exciting learning software, including Beetle Blocks.

Here is what Eric says about himself…

I design for creative play.

My tools are all about bringing your imagination to life by helping you make things you care about. I love to see how using my tools can transform people’s sense of what they can make and who they can become.

I am currently working with the Scratch Team at MIT Media Lab. I have also recently worked with Google Creative Lab and NYU Music Experience Design Lab. In 2015, I completed my PhD at MIT Media Lab in the Lifelong Kindergarten group with a dissertation entitled “Explorations in Musical Tinkering.” Before my time at the Media Lab, I worked at MIT Teacher Education Program, creating learning games; Concord Consortium, creating molecular dynamics simulations for kids; and Six Red Marbles, creating animations for music education. I hold a Master’s in Technology in Education from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology and Mind/Brain/Behavior from Harvard College.

I enjoy playing the trombone with the Opposite People.

Gary Stager

Gary S. Stager, Ph.D.
Founder & Host: Constructing Modern Knowledge 

Gary Stager is one of the world’s leading experts and advocates for computer programming, robotics and learning-by-doing in classrooms. In 1990, Dr. Stager led professional development in the world’s first laptop schools and played a major role in the early days of online education.

In addition to being a popular keynote speaker at some of the world’s most prestigious education conferences, Gary is a journalist, teacher educator, consultant, professor, software developer, publisher, and school STEM. Director. An elementary teacher by training, he has taught students from preschool through doctoral studies. Gary is the founder of the Constructing Modern Knowledge summer institute for educators.

Dr. Stager’s latest book, Invent To Learn – Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom was published in May 2013 by Constructing Modern Knowledge Press. The book brings the excitement and revolutionary game-changing technologies (3D printing/of the maker movement fabrication, computer science and physical computing) to K-12 classrooms. Dr. Stager recently served as the Special Assistant to the Head of School for Innovation at The Willows Community School in Culver City, California.

Gary is also on the advisory board of the NSF-funded project, BJC4NYC: Bringing a Rigorous Computer Science Principles Course to the Largest School System in the US. 

Previously at CMK….

CMK 2017 Guest Speakers

Ayah Bdeir

Ayah Bdeir – Engineer, Artist, Business Leader (1st year)

Ayah Bdeir is the founder and CEO of littleBits, an award-winning platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that is empowering everyone to create inventions, large and small. Bdeir is an engineer, interactive artist and one of the leaders of the open source hardware movement.

Bdeir’s career and education have centered on advancing open source hardware to make education and innovation more accessible to people around the world. She is a co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit, a TED Senior Fellow and an alumna of the MIT Media Lab.

Ms. Bdeir was named one Business Insider’s 26 Most Powerful Women Engineers, a New York Hall of Science Creative EntrepreneurTribeca Disruptive Innovation Honoree, one of one of Inc. Magazine’s 35 Under 35, one of NY Business Journal’s Women of Influence, one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, one of Popular Mechanics’ 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream, one of Entrepreneur’s 10 Leaders to Watch, one of the CNBC Next List, and one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35.

Her work has been exhibited at MoMA and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. She has also exhibited work at the Peacock Visual Arts gallery (Aberdeen), the New Museum (New York), Ars Electronica (Linz) and the Royal College of Art (London).

Originally from Lebanon, Ayah now lives in New York City.

Read Ayah’s complete biography.

Deborah Meier

Deborah Meier (4th year)
“What is Progressive Education?”
Deborah W. Meier is currently on the faculty of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education, as senior scholar and adjunct professor as well as Board member and director of New Ventures at Mission Hill, director and advisor to Forum for Democracy and Education, and on the Board of The Coalition of Essential Schools.

Meier has spent more than four decades working in public education as a teacher, writer and public advocate. She began her teaching career as a kindergarten and headstart teacher in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City schools.

Ms. Meir was the founder and teacher-director of a network of highly successful public elementary schools in East Harlem. In 1985 she founded Central Park East Secondary School, a New York City public high school in which more than 90% of the entering students went on to college, mostly to 4-year schools. During this period she founded a local Coalition center, which networked approximately fifty small Coalition-style K-12 schools in the city.

Between 1992-96 she also served as co-director of a project (Coalition Campus Project) that successfully redesigned the reform of two large failing city high schools, and created a dozen new small Coalition schools.

She was an advisor to New York City’s Annenberg Challenge and Senior Fellow at the Annenberg Institute at Brown University from 1995-1997.From 1997 to 2005 she was the founder and principal of the Mission Hill School a K-8 Boston Public Pilot school serving 180 children in the Roxbury community.

The schools she has helped create serve predominantly low-income African-American and Latino students, and include a typical range of students in terms of academic skills, special needs, etc. There are no entrance requirements. These schools are considered exemplars of reform nationally and affiliates of the national Coalition of Essential Schools founded by Dr. Ted Sizer and currently led by Lewis Cohen.

A learning theorist, she encourages new approaches that enhance democracy and equity in public education. Meier is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine, The Nation and the Harvard Education Letter. She is a Board member of the Educational Alliance, the Association of Union Democracy, Educators for Social Responsibility, the Panasonic Foundation, and a founding member of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the North Dakota Study Group on Evaluation and the Forum for Democracy and Education, among others.

Meier was born in New York City; she attended Antioch College (1949-51) and received an MA in History from the University of Chicago (1955). She has received honorary degrees from Bank Street College of Education, Brown, Bard, Clark, Teachers College of Columbia University, Dartmouth, Harvard, Hebrew Union College, Hofstra, The New School, Lesley College, SUNY Albany, UMASS Lowell, and Yale. She was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1987.

Her books, The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem(1995), Will Standards Save Public Education (2000), In Schools We Trust (2002), Keeping School, with Ted and Nancy Sizer (2004), Many Children Left Behind (2004), and Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground (2010).Ms. Meier’s weekly blog, Bridging Differences is a must-read for educators and those serious about the future of American democracy.

Neil Gershenfeld

Neil Gershenfeld (1st year)
Professor Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and may well just be the father of the modern maker movement.Gershenfeld’s unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from creating molecular quantum computers to virtuosic musical instruments. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds.

He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including FabWhen Things Start To ThinkThe Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The EconomistNPRCNN, and PBS.

Gershenfeld is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American’s 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic’s 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals.

Dr. Gershenfeld has a BA in Physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Strathclyde University and the University of Antwerp, was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the research staff at Bell Labs.

Read ProfGershenfeld’s complete bio

ackermann dingbat 1

Edith Ackermann (1946-2016)

Edith Ackermann, Ph.D. – In Memoriam R.I.P

Read our memorial tribute to an amazing educator and great friend of CMK.

Edith K. Ackermann is a Honorary Professor of Developmental Psychology, at the University of Aix-Marseille 1, France. Currently a Visiting Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Siena, Department of Communication, she teaches graduate students, conducts research, and consults for companies, institutions, and organizations interested in the intersections between learning, teaching, design, and digital technologies.

Previously, Ackermann was a Senior Research Scientist at MERL – Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratory, Cambridge, MA; an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media laboratory, in Cambridge, MA; and a Scientific Collaborator at the Centre International d’Epistémologie Génétique, under the direction of Jean Piaget, Geneva.

She started her career as a Junior Faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.Dr. Ackermann holds the distinction of having worked with three of history’s greatest learning theorists – Jean Piaget, Seymour Papert, Ernst von Glasserfeld.

Edith earned a Doctor of Developmental Psychology [Com Laude] (1981); two Master’s degrees in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Psychology (1970); and a Bachelor of Experimental Psychology degree (1969), all from the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

She completed her Post-Graduate/Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and Sciences of Education, University of Geneva, Switzerland (1996-70). Title of Doctoral Thesis: “Statut Fonctionnel de la Représentation dans les Conduites Finalisées chez l’Enfant” (Thesis in Psychology. N.107, 1981). Doctoral Thesis Jury: Barbel Inhelder (advisor), Seymour Papert. Pierre Greco, François Bresson.

Edith Ackermann is a strategic researcher and interaction designer at INVIVIA, Inc.; Content provider and concept designer at LEGO s/a [LEGO Learning Institute, CED, Educational, Concept lab]; User appropriation and trend / lifestyle analysis for various clients, including INVIVIA, LEGO s/a, and Design Continuum. Ackermann regularly serves as a guest teacher, expert advisor, and reviewer in interactive art and design projects at Harvard Graduate School of Design, MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and MIT School of Architecture.

She acts on the boards of directors of the Altran Foundation for Innovation, France, and Child research Net, Japan, and she participates in different research and educational initiatives, including: Ro-Ballet (MIT Media Lab); E-Wall (MIT); La Piazza / PUENTE (EU-funded projects on intergenerational learning); PIE Institute Workshops (Exploratorium). She recently became a member of Kaleidoscope, a Network of Excellence that brings together European teams in the field of technology-enhanced learning.

Most recent work engagements include an “ongoing” advisory role for the Exploratorium Learning Studio’s science, art, and technology program, and participation in PIE worskshops as well as BAI Institute on informal learning.

Dr. Ackermann is interested in the transactions between people, places, and things, and how these transactions evolve over time—as people grow, transit, or settle, and as technologies themselves are changing. Areas of research include: human uses of cultural artifacts as self-orienting devices; lived-in spaces as transitional zones; the “relational” qualities of man-made artifacts, i.e., their abilities to occasion enchanting, amusing, or challenging encounters. Of particular interest in this context are the evocative, transformative, and “holding” powers of artifacts, respectively their potential to bring about meaningful associations, to “let people in”, and to sustain engagement and capture human imagination over time.

Edith pursues these interests in the context of trans-disciplinary research efforts involving human learning in a broad sense: from children’s play to organizational change, from personal growth to group innovation. She explores how digital technologies can support human learning and studies how people themselves shape their world to better their lives.Her overall purpose is to help innovative teams of researchers and practitioners bring strategic research to design, and user-centered design to product development; Imagine and design activities, artifacts, and spaces that bring about delight and foster personal and societal growth. Simply put, Edith Ackermann is focused on inviting users back into the design process.