Keynote Speakers

iNACOL is proud to announce the lineup of keynote speakers for the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, being held on October 25-28, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.

Wednesday, October 26th

Opening Keynote: 8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness

Todd Rose, Center for Individual Opportunity, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University

In traditional K-12 education, all students are measured against the yardstick of average every day. However, research and brain science shows all people learn and develop in distinctive ways. These unique characteristics become lost in traditional school models, designed around the “average person.”

Weaving science, history, and his experiences as a high school dropout, Rose brings to life the untold story of how we came to embrace the flawed idea of “average.” He explains the key principles of individuality and demonstrates how to shift from an average-size-fits-all education system into one engineered around student individuality and talent. He proposes key concepts as a blueprint for establishing an educational system consistent with the principles of individuality that will help all students choose and get trained for a career.

This ground-breaking book highlights recommendations for reimagining the future of learning with a stronger focus on honoring individuality, building talent, focusing on competencies and credentialing qualifications in the coming age.

View Todd’s bio.

Keynote Plenary Luncheon: 12:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

Innovation for Equity + Redefining Student Success: Practitioners’ Perspectives

Virgel Hammonds, KnowledgeWorks
Dr. Darryl Adams, Coachella Valley Unified School District

Twenty-five years of school improvement research has shown that changing schools depends on building capacity and new learning from students as well as adults across the system. It requires a continuous improvement orientation, fostering the creation of new knowledge, and the development of new skills, dispositions and relationships. In particular, improving practice depends on skill in using data, creating cultures of inquiry, engaging in deep and challenging conversations about practice, and changing long-established beliefs and patterns of practice.  A strong culture of growth, inclusion and focus on equity are central.

Together with students and educators, leading practitioners are redefining what success looks like through powerful, personalized learning environments designed to address equity and ultimately improve outcomes for all students. Communities are creating a broader definition of student success. This keynote presentation will feature powerful practitioners providing TED-talk style presentations on leading systemic, transformative change in K-12 education, including Virgel Hammonds of KnowledgeWorks and Dr. Darryl Adams of Coachella Valley Unified School District.

How can we take a position of trust and respect that can harness the collective intelligence needed to bring about transformative change? As a former principal at Lindsay Unified School District and Superintendent of RSU2 in Maine, Virgel Hammonds will share why and how educators and communities are making the shift toward powerful, learner-centered, competency-based systems.

View Virgel’s bio.

Known as the rock-and-roll Superintendent, Dr. Darryl Adams is transforming education through love, music and service to prepare each student for college, career and citizenship. He will share his district’s firm resolve and determination to be on the frontier of technological innovation and creativity in 21st century education. He will share his community’s moral imperative to bridge the digital divide to ensure all students are connected and empowered, and that educational equity and access is a civil right not denied.

View Dr. Darryl’s bio.

Thursday, October 27th

Thursday Morning Keynote: 8:15 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Bending the Curve: Innovating Toward Excellence and Equity

Jim Shelton, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative


Jim-Shelton-Keynote16
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) is focused on unlocking human potential and promoting equity through powerful, transformative personalized learning.  This requires rethinking definitions of success as well as higher aspirations for learners and communities to achieve impact and scale.

How do you take the research and science on how students learn best, help students drive their own learning, help teachers meet every student where they are and transform our education systems? How do we begin to foster a conversation to question fundamental assumptions about our education system? How can we migrate powerful ideas on personalized learning environments, identify what works and bring to scale? What do you believe is possible?

View Jim’s bio.

Student Plenary Panel Luncheon: 12:15 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.

The Leaders of Tomorrow: Illuminating Student Voices

What do students think about transforming K-12 education toward personalized learning? How has next generation learning impacted their learning experiences, growth and development?

This keynote panel features the leaders of tomorrow—students from diverse backgrounds, immersed in next generation learning models, who will share their perspectives on shifting toward student-centered approaches to learning. In a provocative, unfiltered and honest conversation, students will provide first-hand accounts of what it’s like to reimagine their own education and illuminate their own paths forward.

This is your chance to ask questions to students immersed in innovative learning models. Send your questions to the students through Twitter using #iNACOL16.

Friday, October 28th

Closing Keynote: 9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.

The Power of One

Manny Scott, Ink International, Inc.

Manny Scott shares his story and several eye-opening insights of how, through hard work and with the help of others, he went from being an “unreachable” and “unteachable” student to becoming a successful student, husband, father, entrepreneur, and public servant. His message inspires people to become change agents—“Page Turners”—who help others write new, more fulfilling chapters in their lives.

View Manny’s bio.

Speaker Bios

Todd Rose

Todd Rose is the Director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he leads the Laboratory for the Science of the Individual, as well as Associate Faculty at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. He is also the co-founder of The Center for Individual Opportunity, a non-profit organization that promotes the principles of individuality in work, school and society. Todd is the author of The End of Average.

Virgel Hammonds

As the Chief Learning Officer of competency-based education work at KnowledgeWorks, Virgel Hammonds partners with national policymakers and local learning communities throughout the country to redesign learning structures to become more learner-centered and based on proficiency, rather than seat time. He also works with KnowledgeWorks staff to build out competency education tools and services to help districts implement this personalized learning model.

Virgel previously served as the superintendent of RSU 2 School district in Maine. There, he collaborated with five communities to develop and implement a curriculum designed to ensure mastery of standards by all students. Before serving as superintendent, Virgel was a high school principal at Lindsay Unified School District in California. With 4,100 K-12 students in the district, 100 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. There, Virgel helped implement a personalized learning model where “learners” don’t earn letter grades, but rather are awarded mastery for subjects in which they’ve proven to be proficient.

Virgel earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and his Master of Education from Fresno Pacific University.

Dr. Darryl Adams

Dr. Darryl Adams has spent 26 years as an educator with the goal of preparing students for College, Career and Citizenship. He has served as music teacher, band director, middle school assistant principal, high school assistant principal, high school principal, director of human resources, assistant superintendent of human resources and superintendent. Dr. Adams has recently been selected by the White House and the United States Department of Education as one of the Top 100 Innovative Superintendents in America and was praised by President Obama for leading the way in ensuring students have equity and access to technology and the Internet.

Jim Shelton

James “Jim” Shelton is the President of the Chan Zuckerberg Education Initiative and was most recently President & Chief Impact Officer of 2U, Inc.  Previously, the  Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and the Program Director for Education at the Gates Foundation, he has held a broad range of management, policy, and programmatic roles, which have made a meaningful social impact. Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Morehouse College as well as master’s degrees in both business administration and education from Stanford. He resides in Washington, D.C., with his wife Sonia and their two sons.

Manny Scott

An original Freedom Writer whose story is told in part in the 2007 hit movie, Freedom Writers, Manny Scott has energized over a million leaders, educators, volunteers, and students worldwide with his authentic, inspiring messages of hope.

By age 16, Manny’s story was almost over:

His father was incarcerated, he missed 60-90 days of school annually from 4th to 9th grade, he dropped out of school at age 14, he lived in 26 places by age 16, and his best friend was brutally murdered. Sensing that the end of his life was near, Manny sat down on a park bench, and considered how he would make others feel the depth of despair and anger roiling in his soul. He says, “When I look back, I now see that I was heading down a path that would have destroyed me.”

Then, a man—a complete stranger—took a risk, and sat down beside Manny. That man connected with him, encouraged him, and inspired him to write a different story—to create a new life. That day, on a park bench, Manny Scott turned the page. He returned to school with a new attitude and purpose, and ended up in the back of Erin Gruwell’s English class—a group now known worldwide as the Freedom Writers, portrayed in the 2007 hit MTV movie.

In his journal, Manny began writing—and dreaming about—new, more fulfilling chapters in his life—chapters filled with healing, hope, perseverance, and possibility. Through very hard work, and with the help of others, Manny has achieved many of those journaled dreams.

In 2007, he founded Ink International, Inc, an educational consulting team that is preventing thousands of suicides, raising student achievement, and improving teacher effectiveness. Through Ink’s online Professional Speaker Academy, Manny is training people how to survive and thrive as professional speakers. He is the author of two books: Your Next Chapter, a book that shows people, step-by-step, how to create the life of their dreams; and, How to R.E.A.C.H. Youth Today, a book that shares several proven practices and principles that engage, equip, and empower people everywhere to reach people who seem unreachable.

He is now happily married, a doting father of three, a successful entrepreneur, a Ph.D. student, and one of the nation’s most sought after speakers.