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Sharing Big Ideas to Tackle Education’s Challenges

EdForward participated recently in a wildly innovative educational summit called Big Ideas Fest (www.bigideasfest.org) where teachers, professors, students, administrators, researchers, policymakers, non-profit leaders, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, foundation executives and technology pioneers came together to tackle some of education’s most intractable challenges.  How can we help schools break free from conventional modes of learning? How can we ensure that innovations and technologies flourish?  How can we make education relevant to all of today’s students, at all levels of learning?  The beauty of the conference though…was that is was not a conference of yesteryear with snooze-inducing speeches…instead…

Through a fast-paced combination of rapid-fire presentations by visionary speakers already “making change” coupled with six high energy Action Collabs sprinkled across three days, multiple teams of 12-15 people participated in a process that encouraged fresh thinking and innovative designs that addressed these challenges in education. Utilizing a series of creative and invigorating “labs,” each group progressed from brainstorming to rapid prototype design to testing to the creation of a tangible solution, some of which bordered on “wild and crazy.” And while UC Davis and the School of Education are sensitive to the danger to fall for  ”fad” solutions to monumental challenges,  the idea of the Action Collabs was to liberate thinking so that groups could tackle and resolve familiar issues from new perspectives. And sometimes a new perspective is just enough to inspire transformation while maintaining core value.  The conference ended with each group giving a three-minute pitch of their solutions and designs to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Maker Faire for commentary and suggestions for scale to the real world.

I encourage you to check out how an innovative education company called Roadtrip Nation captured the spirit of the work being done at the Fest and associated advice to a group of South San Francisco AVID high schoolers.

And, so I ask you, what else can we do to continue the momentum generated at the Big Ideas Fest, while still maintaining our commitment to sustainable transformation in education that is at the core of the UC Davis mission?  If you would like to participate in the discussion or learn how to design for innovation, please contact me at taschmidt@ucdavis.edu.  EdForward will begin hosting Action Collabs in early 2011.  Be a part of the ongoing Fest.  

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