I think you’ll agree that there was something very special in the air at December’s Reimagine Education Conference—something buzzy and electric. And while prior years were great, 2018 was by far our best yet! It makes you wonder what caused this year to be better? Sure, we moved the location to San Francisco from Philadelphia (and next year we’ll be at Imperial College in London). But a simple location change can’t be the only reason we saw such marked improvements in the engagement levels of the attendees.
To get to the bottom of this question, let’s rewind back to the conference planning phase, when your dedicated team of RE organizers set a challenge to deliver something much better for 2018. The truth is, even though there is value in talks and panel discussions, there’s also a real problem with this traditional format because it’s a passive experience for most attendees, and it’s not designed to get a room teaming with ideas to work together on sharing expertise and collaborating on inventing the future of education. In other words, the organizing committee knew we needed to incorporate more opportunities for attendees to connect with one another, or we would never fulfill our mission to reimagine education.
And then the unlikely happened, much to my delight. We had scheduled 2 breaks for the investor and expert volunteers throughout the day, but many said they didn’t need the break as they’d much rather keep meeting entrepreneurs. Which meant I got the awesome task of reaching out to many, many folks with this good news. By the end of the day, what began as 50 meetings ballooned to over 200 meetings! The generosity and enthusiasm of the investors and edtech experts was truly amazing, and a big reason for the positive changes we experienced at Reimagine this year.
At the end of each day, conference co-founder Professor Jerry Wind led a thought-provoking discussion with the entire group of attendees, challenging all of us to rethink the traditional mental models for education. This sparked a lively discussion on both days, with audience members sharing many of the valuable insights they had gained from the day, and sharing ideas that they’d like to see gain wider adoption. Beyond these all hands-on deck daily interactive sessions, we also added many networking opportunities into the program.
Another big change for 2018 was the addition of an interactive track on the second day of the conference, where a number of hands-on workshops were delivered:
These were all very popular, with signups at capacity, and requiring waiting lists—another positive sign for the changes made to this year’s format. Again, I had the pleasure of having a front row seat—facilitating the workshop on Frameworks to Practice: Building Best-in-Class EdTech. The purpose of my workshop was to give attendees first-hand experience using agile principles to design user-centered edtech projects. On the flight out to San Francisco, I had some fun developing fictitious logos that would be the inspiration for generating innovative ideas for education. In the workshop, I asked attendees to team up with people they didn’t know, and after a short talk on agile and user centered design, the room got busy inventing their products, designing user stories and defining what success and failure look like for their offering. At the end of the session, I asked one member from each team to present their project. We heard some really great ideas, from libraries of the future to making education more accessible for students with special needs (maybe some future Reimagine Education award winners in the making…watch this space!).
If you’re interested in getting a copy of my workshop (including the slides and worksheets), please contact email@example.com. I’m very happy to share them! And if you have ideas for how we can continue to improve the interactivity of Reimagine Education, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.