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Innovate2015 – Re-Imagining School – Re-Thinking the Professional Learning Paradigm

Innovate2015 – Re-Imagining School – Re-Thinking the Professional Learning Paradigm by Lee Fertig, Superintendent, Graded School

We often speak of flipping the classroom, leveraging more student-centered learning activities in order to get the most out of our limited face-to-face time in the traditional classroom. We constantly strive to make learning as authentic, relevant, and rigorous as we can by thinking of ways to maximize student engagement, to have them own their learning as much as possible. We want students to make connections across disciplines, to make connections with each other in order to harness the strength in diverse perspectives. We challenge students to apply their new learning in powerful and innovate ways, and to transfer knowledge and skills from one classroom to another… and to their life experiences in general whenever possible. This is what we claim, as educators, makes so-called 21st century learning unique. These are the things we aim for in student learning: authenticity, engagement, collaboration, and transfer.

Well, why not practice what we preach? Why not aim to reach the same noble learning goals in professional learning. We are often stuck in an old and tired paradigm of educator conferences characterized by passive listening to keynote speakers, disengaged exhibitors, compartmentalized breakout sessions, and limited opportunities to debrief, reflect, and act upon new learning. This is the paradigm we challenge at Graded School’s Innovate Conferences. As adult educators, we are learners ourselves. We need just as much authenticity, engagement, collaboration, and transfer in our own learning, if not more, if we are to be the facilitators of student growth in the ways outlined above.


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Innovate2015, hosted by Graded School in early March, set a new standard for professional learning at a conference. As evidenced by the incredible energy on campus during the conference, verbal and written comments made by participants, the conference’s Twitter dialogue, and much more… Innovate 2015 was viewed as a tremendous success for all involved. The fact that just about every stakeholder group in a school community was represented at the conference- teachers, support staff, parents, students, alumni, principals, heads of school, board members, those involved in external relations, teachers from local host-country schools, corporate partners, presenters–only made the entire experience even more authentic and collaborative in nature. This was Innovate2015, a comprehensive learning journey that challenged and empowered all of us to re-imagine school so that it remains relevant in this rapidly changing world.


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This was Innovate 2015. I encourage you to take a look for yourself what transpired on Graded’s campus during those few days, an intense conversation among educators that continues post-conference through various venues. Peruse the website. Scan the Twitter dialogue with #innovategraded. Speak to those who attended the conference. The collective energy generated by participants was truly inspiring. And the impressive transfer of learning that is currently taking place around the world as a result of Innovate 2015 represents a genuine call for action to re-imagine school.

All of us at Graded urge you to re-think the professional learning paradigm used in your own educational setting. See you at Innovate 2017!

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