Meet the OEB2018 Speakers: Ulrich Boser

OEB Keynote speaker Ulrich Boser is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the founder of The Learning Agency and a bestselling author. At OEB he will address how we learn and how science, motivation and good practice can improve how learning is delivered. Read on to see what he reveals in our OEB questionnaire.


1. Who, or what, was your most important teacher?

Both my parents were teachers. Without question they had the most impact on my life as I thought about education, the role of education in society – and then for me personally. They, of course, taught me lots, and they also shared their much broader love of education with me.


2. What were your best/worst subjects in school?

I didn’t really have any best or worst subjects. Actually, and I guess it’s interesting in light of my answer to the first question, as a child I struggled with school in general: I repeated kindergarten, I spent some time in special education, and really just had a hard time learning. Eventually, I did acquire some learning-to-learn skills, and as a result, I’ve always been fascinated by the question of how exactly people learn and how we can learn in more effective ways.


3. If you could try out any job for a day, what would you like to try?

This was actually a tough question for me. I went back and forth and thought about being a cook, but I decided on a race-car driver. I know it sounds juvenile, but I really do love the feeling of going fast. It would be a fun job to test out for a day.


4. Which technology, in your view, had the biggest influence on the way we learn now?

In my mind, it was the invention of writing. We don’t think of writing or all the technology associated with it – stylus, keyboards – as a learning technology. However, if there’s one thing that had a tremendous impact on how we think, it was writing. It allows us to share ideas, take notes; it makes learning more effective. We can think more carefully. I think we really underestimate the power of writing as a technology tool.


5. What is the coolest gadget / technology / tool you have seen lately?

For me right now it’s natural language processing. When I think about the power of writing for learning, and when I think about some of the new technologies that are out there, natural language processing and the way that it can give feedback, and the way that it can improve teaching, the way that it can really hone assessment, is just phenomenal.


6. What current learning trend do you think will have a lasting impact?

Riffing off my last comment, just AI in general is just so powerful when it comes to learning. I think it’s a trend that will have this lasting impact.


7. Who would you recommend in the Learning World to follow on twitter right now?

Without question and with the utmost emphasis, Donald H. Taylor. He’s such an innovative thinker about education. He’s someone I really trust, and I can’t recommend him highly enough.


8. What would be the title of your autobiography?

That’s an interesting question. My last book was “Learn Better”, and it might be the last book that I write, so for now I’m going to consider it my autobiography.


9. What was your first thought about OEB 2018’s overall theme: Learning to Love Learning?

I feel that, generally, we love learning. We’re born with that instinct and interest. I think the bigger question is how we learn to love learning when we don’t have natural interests. You know, some people just aren’t curious about, for example, planets – but other people get really geeked up on the topic. Some people are more interested in acting than others. How are we going to get interested in topics we don’t have that natural curiosity about?


10. What do you hope to take away from OEB?

In my mind, it’s the people. Conferences like OEB are fantastic for the people who attend, and this is a conference I’m really looking forward to.

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