6th Annual Philosophy of Education Conference

6th Annual Philosophy of Education header image

Re-Imagining Education in an Automating World

Friday, May 24th, 2019 Toronto, ON

An annual gathering of practitioners and theorists involved in all aspects of teaching and learning, intended to keep questioning alive in public discourse on issues that concern post-secondary education.

About the conference

This year's event will continue to explore the theme of "Re-Imagining Education in an Automating World" with the help of our keynote speaker, internationally-acclaimed economist and social theorist,  Jeremy Rifkin, followed by award-winning 'Indigeneer',  Deanna Burgart.

This event aims to facilitate conversations about the impacts of AI, machine learning, and the automation of work on the future of education and the environment. Registration will also include refreshments, lunch, breakout sessions and a chance to network with colleagues.


George Brown College
Waterfront Campus, Room 237
51 Dockside Drive, Toronto

Proposed Agenda

Time Event
8:00 a.m. Registration
9:00 a.m. Welcome & Opening Remarks
9:30 a.m. Keynote: Jeremy Rifkin
The Third Industrial Revolution: A Framework for a Sustainable Energy Future

full description
10:50 a.m. Refreshment Break
11:15 a.m. Speaker: Deanna Burgart
Indigeneering™ the Digital Age: Welcoming Indigenous Knowledge and Wisdom Digitally with Integrity
full description
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1:45 p.m. Breakout Sessions - see below for descriptions
3:15 p.m. Break
3:30 p.m. Plenary Session: Re-Imagining the Future
Moderator: Thomas Ponniah, Professor, School of Liberal Arts & Sciences
full description
4:30 p.m. Closing Remarks


Jeremy Rifkin Jeremy Rifkin is an American economic and social theorist, writer, public speaker, political advisor, and activist. Rifkin is the author of 20 bestselling books about the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment.

He has been an advisor to the leadership of the European Union since 2000 and advised three presidents of the European Commission as well as the European Parliament, and numerous EU heads of state.

His most recent books include the international bestsellers, The Zero Marginal Cost Society (2014), The Third Industrial Revolution (2011), and The Empathic Civilization (2010).

Jeremy Rifkin speaks on "The Fall of Capitalism and the Internet of Things"

Deanna Burgart Deanna Burgart P.Eng, CET is an engineer, speaker, and mentor that has a talent for identifying gaps and providing solutions to systemic, organizational and transformational change. She brings over 20 years of experience and education in energy and pipelines and is passionate about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People. She helps STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) focused organizations and educators operationalize Indigenous inclusion in their work.

Deanna is a recipient of the 2019 Evolutionary Business Council's Unstoppable Award, the 2018 American Indian Science and Engineering Society's Blazing Flame Award, the 2017 Women of Inspiration Award for a Trailblazer in STEM and Oilweek Magazine's Rising Star of 2015.

Breakout Sessions (please choose one to attend when you register):

Expand All

"Green," and The Anthropocene: Envisioning Educational Environments | Moderator: Colleen Mahy, Professor, Liberal Arts & Sciences, School of Work & College Preparation

Panel Participant(s):
Shiralee Hudson Hill, Senior Interpretative Planner, Art Gallery of Ontario
Veronica Madonna, Principal, Moriyama & Teshima Architects
Ian Craine, Professor, George Brown College

We live on land; we experience seasons. And now, we are shifting, shaping and styling our environments at a rate unprecedented in recorded history. Landscapes are not passive natural art; landscapes are now constructed environments. Our human interventions and inventions alter how we perceive each other. As we design more ways for technology to frame, form, and found our interconnectedness — spaces, places, people— how will we respond? Imagining space and the environmental considerations for the future of education have preoccupied the work of our panelists. As we contemplate how automation has affected our world, the question of how we can create sustainable engaging environments that meet the needs of future learners will be the focus for the discussion of this panel session.

Relationships with Intelligent Machines | Moderator: Edward Ksenych, Professor, Liberal Arts & Sciences, School of Liberal Studies

Panel Participant(s):
Dr. Reza Tahmasbi, Professor, George Brown College, Tarus Gula, Professor, George Brown College

After listening to an interview with Hansen Robotics' Sophia the Robot, we'll explore questions regarding the nature of encounters between humans and more advanced forms of AI. Are such encounters a 'social inter-action', a 'technical utilitarian exchange', 'a theatrically contrived engagement', a 'simulated interface in which humans actually do most of the interactional work', a 'creepy' or conversely an exhilarating erotic experience, or a combination of these and/or something else? Our exploration will be assisted by insights into human-robot relationships provided by Dr. Reza Tahmasbi and take into consideration current calls to develop "a human/machine partnership" (DELL Technologies), "an augmented" human inter-connection (Maurice Conti), and what has been termed "the Centaur relationship" (Nora Young) with advanced AI.
The seminar/workshop will address some of the underlying assumptions that frame our encounters with robots and the importance of examining them for future education.

The Future Of Critical Thought In An Automating World | Moderator: Dan Kozlovic, Professor, School of Liberal Arts & Sciences

(This session is full)

Panel Participant(s):
Dr. Christopher DiCarlo, Professor of Philosophy, U of T Scarborough
Christopher Sciacca, Communications Manager, Global Labs, IBM Research

Many high-value tasks are now being performed through automation and machine learning; these technologies have either replaced or fundamentally restructured human work. What if we could further develop the predictive ability of learning models and have those models also provide a rationale for their predictions? This idea brings critical thinking, a uniquely human skill, into the realm of artificial intelligence.

What challenges do automation and artificial intelligence pose to students, educators and academic institutions? Join our panelists as they share their insights on the future of critical thinking in education and society at large, as machine learning catches up with the human mind.

The Soul is in the Wrists: The Crisis of Meaning for Students in an Automating World | Moderator: Heather Lash, Professor, School of Work & College Preparation

As all technologies tend to, the forms aimed at students both solve and create problems – perhaps even the same problems. Online learning, for example, helps students who are unable to come to classes, while the fast-developing wearable AI that gets strapped to the wrist to monitor mental health indicators may well prove helpful – early detection of suicidality, in particular, is being promoted as lifesaving.

But at the same time, digitally mediated education and work threaten to alienate students and foreclose possibilities of enjoying the security and the dignity that come with a sense of purpose, and of belonging to a place. Not only do people require these things in order to learn well, but their absence also produces a 'crisis of meaning', an unmooring of identity from community, that makes students more and more depressed, anxious and suicidal.

This interactive session is an opportunity to re-imagine – with coherence, empathy, and integrity – the features of truly supportive educational contexts, given that these technologies are all here to stay.

What Do We Really Need to be Good at? | Moderator: Mandy Bonisteel, Professor, School of Social & Community Services

(This session is full)

Panel Participant(s):
Stella Bastone, Professor, George Brown College
Lori Budge, Counsellor, George Brown College
Sandra Lapointe, Project Director for the Collaborative, McMaster University

For half a century, forecasters at the intersections of education and globalization have variously labelled what we need to be good at as core skills, life skills, relational skills, soft, transferable or broadband skills, generic skills, and employability skills. Listening and intercultural awareness, teamwork and critical thinking are amongst the most important competencies sought by employers. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action includes "building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect". Joseph Aoun says that 'humanics' - technical, data and human literacy - will help us to be 'robot proof'. In this session we will re-imagine what human literacy brought to life in educational environments might look like.

Registration Fees

General Registration Fee: $100.00 + HST
General Registration Fee: $ 50.00 + HST [for college contract / part-time employee]
Student Registration Fee: $10.00 + HST

Register Information

For more information on this conference or to receive future notifications contact: Jordy Koffman at PoE@georgebrown.ca

History of Philosophy of Education Conferences

In 2014, the Centre for Preparatory and Liberal Studies decided to host the first Philosophy of Education Conference after the success of a series of philosophy of education seminars over several years.

It was decided that a conference on issues related to academic excellence would offer a valuable, scholarly forum for the George Brown College community. As a day-long forum, the Philosophy of Education (PoE) Conference has explored such themes as philosophical approaches to postsecondary education, truth and technology.

Past keynote speakers have included Ann Chinnery, Faculty of Education, Simon Fraser University; Professor David Newhouse, Chair of the Department of Indigenous Studies, Trent University; and Professor Geoffrey Rockwell, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta.

This now annual college-wide conference has brought together key note speakers and participants from across the post-secondary education sector as well as participants from industry and community to question, discuss and probe current issues and current directions in education.

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