Team Takeaways: Highlights from the AG Bell Symposium

By Hearing First Team July 26, 2017

Connected Learning, News & Events | professional perspective, professional learning network, professional learning community, community of practice

It’s been almost a month since we returned from the 2017 AG Bell Symposium in Washington DC and we’re still inspired by all the knowledge-sharing and connected learning that took place with other LSL professionals from around the world. Read some of the takeaways and highlights from the Hearing First team members who attended the event!

What does connected learning mean to you? For us, it’s all about up-leveling our knowledge and creating opportunities for collaboration to support families and professionals on the LSL journey. That’s exactly what we saw happening all around us at this year’s AG Bell Symposium in Washington DC.

We learned, connected and grew with other LSL professionals who came from across the globe to engage in new areas of thought and practice. We met members of the Professional Learning Community at the Hearing First Community Member Meet Up and had the opportunity to connect with them face-to-face. We even launched the new white paper collaboration between Dr. Carol Flexer and Hearing First, Start with the Brain and Connect the Dots, a research-based paper organized as a logic chain to build one upon the other, beginning with brain biology and moving through to the development of literacy in the early school years. The takeaways are endless!

Sometimes it’s just better to hear about the specific highlights from attendees themselves. Here’s what the Hearing First team had to say about their favorite learning moments at this year’s AG Bell Symposium.


Teresa Caraway - CEO

Oh, so many highlights to mention! In her keynote address, Dr. Golinkoff’ reported the latest research findings on infant and toddler language development that has such direct implications to our LSL practice. She reminded us that the original theories of language development are based upon production, or what the child could say. In other words, what could be heard or seen that the child is producing. However, the current theories are based on what cannot be heard or seen, creating a revolution in our understanding of early language development. Now, because of new methodologies, we have a window into the baby’s mind.

One point Dr. Golinkoff made was we now know that at six months of age, babies can remember words they hear in short passages - if those words follow their own names and not someone else’s. They can also recognize words that come after Mommy or Momma or other key family member’s names. As she presented the study from Bortfeld et al. (2005), I began to consider how I could use the baby’s name and key family member’s names followed by target beginning vocabulary words in familiar commands to facilitate a baby’s word learning.

That's what I love about this profession - always things to learn!

Kathryn Wilson - Coaching & Mentoring Leader

As a professional who has been in the field a long time and one who has attended and presented at this conference in the past, I especially enjoyed the presentations given by “the new generation of LSL professionals.” This year’s keynote from Dr. Roberta Golinkoff was very interesting, applicable to our field, and offered new learning via latest research findings.

It was also great to hear and feel the buzz about strengths-based coaching in presentations offered at the conference as well as discussions with fellow LSL mentors and coaches.


Marge Edwards - Family Support Community Coordinator

I actually had several great highlights from this year’s AG Bell Symposium, but here are a few favorites:

  1. Dr. Golinkoff’s Keynote
    Dr. Golinkoff discussed the idea that babies are born ‘pattern seekers’, continuously ‘taking data’ on their linguistic environment to identify patterns in the dialogue they have and receive from their parents. The learning occurs in a highly social context in what she calls ‘conversational duets’—the back and forth, turn taking exchange between caregivers and babies. This reinforced for me the importance of encouraging families to have conversations with their babies from day one!
  2. Meeting Community Members
    I loved meeting members of the Professional Learning Community in person! It was great to meet the individuals who I have gotten to know through forum discussions. Having the prior online connection made for fast friendships and instant conversations.
  3. The Collective Knowledge of LSL Professionals
    In each of the sessions I attended, I was continually amazed at the depth and breadth of knowledge shared, both individually and collectively, by LSL professionals. This was strikingly apparent in the post-keynote session, ‘Extended Learning with AG Bell and Hearing First’, where over 135 professionals wedged into a small conference room and 14 groups put their minds together to discuss, develop, refine and produce one-page posters reflecting their collective ‘mind maps’. I feel so fortunate to be a part of the LSL profession!

Katie Paffhouse - Community Leader

My biggest takeaways relate to adaptability – how professionals may adapt strategies to meet family needs, how programs can adapt their support offerings to help vulnerable families, and how professionals help one another problem solve and adapt to challenging situations. I’m in awe of the passion and knowledge shared at the conference and appreciate that our community may offer a place for continual knowledge-sharing and problem-solving. As for my highlight- it was meeting so many of our PLC members in person!


Wendy DeMoss - Programs Officer

The theme this year was "innovate, integrate, motivate." I was challenged by the research from Roberta Golinkoff, Ann Geers and other colleagues on early sensory input and access to meaningful auditory information. With a mindset of "innovate, integrate, motivate" I believe as LSL professionals and families we can overcome barriers, focus on fitting devices earlier, apply this critical data in intervention and interactions with babies, and expect better early LSL outcomes for more children.

Jennifer Reiswig - Planning & Integration Specialist

It was amazing to watch professionals learn out loud and grow together during the conference. The realization of how much everyone was collaboratively learning in the shared space proves how many committed, inspired and idea-generating professionals are in the field and how much opportunity for growth lies ahead when we work together toward a common goal.


Jantzen Jolly - Communication Specialist

As a first-time AG Bell Symposium attendee, it was so refreshing to see the way professionals were actively connecting and collaborating. Whether they were attending the sessions of advanced LSL practitioners, or those of professionals newer to the field, attendees were supportive, encouraging and engaged in the research being presented. It was also great to meet members of the Professional Learning Community at the Hearing First Member Meet Up! I loved putting faces to professional names and getting to know members on a deeper level.


It was an informative, interactive, and impactful event to say the least! Want to see photos from the Member Meet Up and Hearing First sessions? Join the Professional Learning Community and visit the AG Bell thread to see some of our favorite photos of the event!

Connected Learning, News & Events | professional perspective, professional learning network, professional learning community, community of practice

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.

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