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Innovate2015: Developing Sustainable Change at School

Innovate2015: Developing Sustainable Change at School by Jeff Lippman, Middle School Principal, Graded School



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This year Graded hosted its second Innovate Conference and welcomed over 400 participants from all over the world to its campus. The idea of the conference was to “reimagine school” and create spaces where children own the learning process and are engaged in an education that is authentic, connected, and has the possibility of positively impacting our world. We were fortunate to have tremendous presenters such as Suzie Boss, Ewan McIntosh, Scott McLeod, Mike Anderson, and Joey Lee who all ran in-depth workshops that gave educators the tools to make change now in their schools.

There is no doubt that we are now in the middle of a huge transformation in the realm of education. The disruptive nature of technology has unseated the teacher as the “owner” of knowledge in the classroom and opened the possibility for global collaboration that is unprecedented. In addition we now have tools that have the potential to destroy grade level paradigms and create the possibility for personalized educational experiences anytime, anywhere. This conference was not organized to convince people of the changing landscape; rather, is was designed to give educators the tools to fully take advantage of these changes. It was truly a “now what” conference.

In one of the sessions by Ewan McIntosh, called ‘Building Better Ideas Through Creative Conflict’, he took participants through a fantastic protocol that helped them anticipate resistance to innovative ideas and plan for how to negotiate in order to develop sustainable changes at schools without falling into the trap of compromise. In the session there were about 30 teachers working in groups of 5 or 6. The room was buzzing with intensity as everyone tried to finish the task in the allotted time.

At the end of the session, Ewan pointed out the power of being next to so many other educators who were committed to the task at hand. By witnessing each other’s energy, everyone was stimulated to match that energy with their own… and this was the story of our conference. The collective focus on learning and the constant sharing through Twitter created a momentum that was palpable for all participants. Inside each session, in the hallways, at the cocktail or coffee break, people were engaged. Joey Lee commented on the conference in his blog by saying: “I’ve never seen a group of educators so engaged and passionate about designing learning experiences through innovative approaches.”


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We shouldn’t forget the importance of the social construction of knowledge. As much as online learning has allowed us to break down barriers and create the possibility for asynchronous learning environments, it cannot replace the power of face-to-face collaboration. Bill Rankin, Director of Education at Apple, also presented at the conference. He cited Vygotsky who once stated that “All the higher [mental] functions originate as actual relations between human individuals.” What we saw at Innovate 2015 was the power of these relations and how they can create synergy towards the accomplishment of goals.

We hope to see many more international educators at Innovate 2017!

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