Thinking Big About Learning

Cemex Auditorium

Some of education’s best minds came together on Sunday, October 18, 2015, to share research and discoveries that are transforming the way we think about and approach teaching, learning and education at Stanford’s first 125th anniversary symposium.

The event drew more than 550 participants and an online streaming audience eager to learn more about learning. Bay Area educators constituted nearly half the group, and for K-12 teachers, the weekend event was an opportunity to step away from the classroom, hear fresh ideas and be inspired.

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Stanford University 125th Anniversary background mark

Opening Conversation

Carol Dweck

Bruce McCandliss

Jeremy Bailenson

Carl Wieman

Piya Sorcar

Linda Darling-Hammond

Esther Wojcicki

Travis Bristol

Scott Doorley

Philip Pizzo, MD

Petra Dierkes-Thrun and Sebastian Thrun

Talking about Learning

Speaker Biographies

  • 2:00 PM
    Session 1

    Welcome and Conversation: Thinking Big About Learning

    Speakers: John Etchemendy, John Mitchell, Daniel Schwartz and Caroline Winterer


    John Etchemendy is Stanford’s 12th provost, a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and a senior researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information.

    As Stanford’s chief academic and budgetary officer since 2000, John Etchemendy has presided over an extraordinary era of growth and change. His teaching honors include the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1988), the Bing Award for Excellence in Teaching (1992), and the Educom Medal (1997) for leadership in the application of technology to the teaching of logic. He is author or co-author of seven books and numerous articles on logic. He also holds a faculty appointment in the Symbolic Systems Program and has served as co-editor of the Journal of Symbolic Logic.



    John Mitchell is Stanford’s vice provost for teaching and learning and is currently leading The Year of Learning, a wide-ranging discussion and debate that will influence the future of teaching and learning at Stanford and beyond.

    Mitchell is also co-director of the Lytics Lab and the former vice provost of Stanford Online. In 2009, he and six undergraduates built Stanford CourseWare, an innovative platform that enabled Stanford’s initial flipped classroom experiments and helped inspire its first massive open online courses (MOOCs). Mitchell’s team has worked with some 200 instructors on 400 projects to enhance Stanford course offerings on campus and around the world. Expert Stanford instruction in subjects ranging from economics to poetry now reaches 2 million participants in more than 100 countries.



    Daniel Schwartz is dean of Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and an expert in human cognition and educational technology.

    Daniel Schwartz oversees a laboratory whose computer-focused developments in science and math instruction permit original research into fundamental questions of learning. He has taught math in rural Kenya, English in south-central Los Angeles, and multiple subjects in Kaltag, Alaska, and this diversity of experience informs his work. Tools designed by Schwartz and his AAALab include choice-based assessments and a pre-school math program, Critter Corral. Among many honors, Professor Schwartz was named Graduate School of Education Teacher of the Year for 2015. His latest book, The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work and When to Use Them, is forthcoming in 2016.



    Caroline Winterer is director of the Stanford Humanities Center. A historian of early America, she holds the Anthony P. Meier Family Professorship in the Humanities and is professor of history. The author of three books and numerous articles, Winterer specializes in the transmission of ideas between Europe and the Americas in the era from Columbus to the Civil War. Her areas of focus include the American Enlightenment, ancient Rome and Greece, art and material culture, and political thought. She is writing a book called The American Enlightenment that will be published by Yale University Press. Winterer has received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center and the Spencer Foundation. Her work in digital humanities, which mapped the social network of Benjamin Franklin, was awarded an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution in 2013.

  • 2:20 PM
    Session 2

    The Art and Science of Learning

    Speakers: Carol Dweck, Bruce McCandliss, Jeremy Bailenson and Carl Wieman

    Carol Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of motivation and is known for her work on the growth mindset, the subject of her widely acclaimed book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

    Dweck’s research bridges developmental, social and personality psychology and examines the mindsets people use to understand themselves, guide their behavior and affect their achievement. She is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has lectured all over the world and appeared on Today, Good Morning America, and 20/20. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

    Bruce McCandliss is the founder and director of the Educational Cognitive Neuroscience (ECN) Laboratory at Stanford and a leader in the growing field of educational neuroscience.

    McCandliss is a professor in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and serves on the governing board of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society. He is bridging the fields of education and neuroscience by using brain-imaging techniques to study how the brain changes in response to educational experiences. His research into the brain activity of children with learning differences may one day allow educational interventions tailored to individual students. McCandliss was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering for his work in linking early literacy interventions to brain mechanisms.

    Through his work on virtual reality, Jeremy Bailenson is affecting communication, learning and the tools society can leverage to address a range of global issues.

    Bailenson is the founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab and a professor in the Department of Communication. Bailenson designs and studies virtual reality systems that allow individuals in remote locations to meet in virtual space. Systems from Bailenson’s lab have helped quarterbacks to read defenses, exercisers to stay focused and potential polluters to reassess their carbon footprint. Bailenson co-authored the 2011 book Infinite Reality and consults regularly for government agencies including the Department of Defense, the National Research Council and the National Institute of Health on virtual reality policy issues.

    Carl Wieman is a professor of physics, a faculty member in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, and former associate director for science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    Wieman seeks to introduce active learning into undergraduate science education and has pioneered the use of experimental techniques to evaluate the effectiveness of various teaching strategies. His method introduces “thinking like a scientist” into introductory classes. In 2002, he launched the PhET website which creates, tests, and distributes free online interactive simulations for teaching science. This year more than 100 million PhET simulations will be run by students around the world. In 2001, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics. Wieman has received the Oersted Medal, the Teachers College Medal for Distinguished Service and a lifetime achievement award from the National Science Teachers Association.

  • 3:35 PM
    Session 3

    The Learning Landscape

    Speakers: Piya Sorcar, Linda Darling-Hammond, Esther Wojcicki and Travis Bristol

    Piya Sorcar

    Piya Sorcar is founder and CEO of TeachAIDS and a Lecturer with the School of Education and an adjunct affiliate with Stanford’s School of Medicine

    Through open-source, culturally appropriate materials now used in 82 countries, Piya Sorcar harnesses technology, medicine, culture and education to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Sorcar’s Stanford PhD research led to TeachAIDS’ downloadable animated software, which convey HIV-prevention messages created by and for people in India, Botswana, China, Kenya, South Africa, the United States and other countries. Backers include UNICEF, Barclays Bank, Yahoo, Time Warner, Google, and many governments. Sorcar is a Lecturer with the School of Education and an adjunct affiliate at the Stanford School of Medicine. In 2011, MIT Technology Review named her one of the top 35 innovators in the world under 35. 

    Linda Darling-Hammond

    Linda Darling-Hammond is the faculty director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and has been named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy over the past decade.

    Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education, a member of the National Academy of Education and a former president of the American Educational Research Association. Her research focuses on issues of educational equity, teaching quality and school reform. Her work as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future led to sweeping changes in national education policy. She has written more than 400 publications and served as director of President Obama’s 2008 education policy transition team.


    Esther Wojcicki

    Esther Wojcicki is head of Palo Alto High School’s journalism program and a distinguished visiting scholar at Stanford’s MediaX.

    Wojcicki built Palo Alto High’s journalism program into one of the largest and most honored in the nation. Now encompassing 500 students, five teachers and five award-winning print, broadcast and digital platforms, the program has broken major stories and become an essential source in the national conversation about the state of student life today. In 2002, Wojcicki was the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Teacher of the Year. She is vice chair of Creative Commons, a consultant for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and co-author of Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.


    Travis J. Bristol is a research and policy fellow at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education.

    Bristol is a former high school English teacher in New York City public schools, a teacher educator with the Boston Teacher Residency program and a World Bank consultant. With the World Bank, he developed a curriculum on engaging boys in the classroom and created a male teacher recruitment campaign. His dissertation on black male teachers’ school-based experiences was awarded fellowships from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, Ford Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. Currently, Bristol is working with the Mayor’s office in New York City to develop an initiative to recruit 1,000 male teachers of color.

  • 4:35 PM
    Session 4

    The Future of Learning

    Speakers: Scott Doorley, Philip Pizzo, Petra Dierkes-Thrun and Sebastian Thrun


    Scott Doorley

    Scott Doorley is creative director of the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (a.k.a. the where he teaches classes at the intersection of design and media, develops mobile learning platforms, designs learning spaces and leads projects such as Stanford 2025. Doorley also designs spaces for people looking to bring creativity into their life and work and is co-author of Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration. He is a 12-year veteran of the film industry, and his video and interactive artwork has been exhibited at the San Jose Museum of Art, ZeroOne and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts.


    Philip Pizzo

    Philip Pizzo, MD, is founding director of the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute, a dynamic program for established leaders seeking new opportunities to make a social impact.

    Pizzo is the former dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine and a professor of pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology. His interest in life transitions underpins Stanford’s new interdisciplinary fellowship program in which accomplished individuals deepen their knowledge, undergo personal transformation and explore ways to improve their communities. From 2001 to 2012, Pizzo led medical school initiatives from compassionate care and medical humanities to a major revamping of medical school facilities. He has received numerous awards and authored the 2015 Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology.

    Petra Dierkes-Thrun

    Petra Dierkes-Thrun is the director of interdisciplinary teaching and learning in Stanford’s Office of the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and an award-winning teacher of comparative literature.

    Dierkes-Thrun’s research interests include European modernism, literary theory for the digital age, pedagogically smart uses of technology in teaching and project-based learning in the humanities. She is an advisory editor for gender and sexuality studies at boundary 2, an international journal of literature and culture, and is the founding editor of The Latchkey: Journal of New Woman Studies, a peer-reviewed, international online journal. Dierkes-Thrun also serves on the program committee for Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and in focal groups on humanities education at Stanford.

    Sebastian Thrun

    Sebastian Thrun is the co-founder and CEO of Udacity, where he is working to change the future of education by offering accessible, affordable and effective higher education worldwide.

    Thrun is also a research professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford and a former Google vice president and fellow. His research on artificial intelligence and robots led to the development of the robotic vehicle Stanley and later to the creation of Google Streetview. At Google, he founded Google X and launched projects ranging from self-driving cars to Google Glass. Thrun has published more than 370 scientific papers and 11 books. He has won numerous awards and was named among the 50 Smartest People in Tech by Fortune Magazine.

  • 5:20 PM

    Reception and Learning Community

    Learning Community Exhibitors

    Learning Community Exhibitors:

    A Year of Learning

    Stanford is thinking broadly about how best to educate students in the 21st century. Through a series of events and initiatives called The Year of Learning, the campus community will generate wide-ranging discussion and debate about the future of teaching and learning at Stanford – and beyond.

    Cardinal Service

    A new initiative, Cardinal Service, builds on the university’s longstanding commitment to public service by elevating and expanding opportunities to weave service more deeply into the distinctive identity and culture of the Stanford student experience.


    The Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis is comprised of the Spatial History Project, Humanities+Design, the Literary Lab and the Poetic Media Lab as well as Text Technologies and Chinese Railroad Workers. This interdisciplinary collective is organizationally housed within the Office of The Dean of Research at Stanford University. CESTA labs and projects pursue research which utilizes data and information visualization spanning a variety of methodologies, disciplines and departments, often collaborating with diverse team members from within the Stanford community and externally through national and international collaborations.

    Challenge Success

    Challenge Success provides schools and families with information and strategies to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for their children. It brings together administrators, faculty, parents, counselors, and students to identify problems and work on solutions. Educators can attend intensive conferences to design action plans to implement best practices. Challenge Success offers parents resources to help their children regain their balance, strengthen their sense of self, increase their motivation and critical thinking skills, and learn how to deal effectively with the inevitable challenges of life. It also publishes findings from its work to help the public make informed decisions that enable all children to thrive.

    Medicine and the Muse

    Medicine and the Muse provides opportunities for medical students, faculty, staff and community members to explore the intersections of creative expression, humanities-based critical inquiry and value-driven social science with medicine and biosciences at Stanford. These intersections are collaborative, interdisciplinary nexuses of discovery and innovation. Ultimately, these are areas where anyone in health care – or who studies health, illness, suffering and healing via the arts and humanities – can find meaning and powerful resonances about the human-human interaction which is at the heart of all health care.


    The Stanford Pre-Education Society’s mission is to inspire and empower Stanford students to pursue careers in education, broadly including teaching, administration, research, policy, tech, entrepreneurship, law, nonprofits, journalism, higher education and international education. We strive to inspire the next generation of educators and educational professionals by illustrating that education is an intellectually stimulating and fulfilling field worthy of pursuit. We seek to empower the next generation of educators and educational professionals by fostering a community of pre-ed students in which they can feel supported socially and professionally as they develop their educational interests and aspirations.

    Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute

    The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute is a new program for established leaders from all walks of life who seek to transform themselves for roles with social impact at the local, national and global levels. In partnership with the Stanford Center on Longevity, this yearlong program utilizes the wealth of innovation and knowledge at one of the world’s finest universities to create new and enriching professional and personal pathways for the next stage of life.


    Spun out of Stanford University in 2009 and recognized as an innovation that would “change the world” by MIT Technology Review, TeachAIDS is a 501(c)(3) social venture that creates breakthrough software to solve persistent problems in HIV prevention around the world. Used in more than 70 countries, TeachAIDS provides the most effective HIV education for free under a Creative Commons license.

    Worldview Stanford

    Worldview Stanford is an innovative Stanford University initiative that creates learning experiences for professionals to help them grow in their understanding of the complex issues and dynamics shaping the future.