Symposium 2018 Highlights

View highlights of the iNACOL Symposium 2018 held in Nashville, Tennessee. Revisit keynote presentations and discover resources you may have missed.

Keynote Presentations

Opening Keynote
Leading the Transformation of Education Systems; Dedicated to High-Quality Learning for All
Carlos Moreno, Big Picture
Phyllis Lockett, LEAP Innovations
Tony Monfiletto, Future Focused Ed

What does it mean to deliver powerful learning experiences and personalized pathways that build the knowledge and skills that students and communities need for future prosperity and success?

Despite dramatic improvements in education over the last century, the one-size-fits-all, time-based system does not work as well as we need it to if we are going to ensure that all students succeed. In fact, the traditional system was designed to rank and sort students through a combination of practices: curriculum based on age and grade levels without regard for students’ previous experiences, grading policies that inflated or reduced grades based on behavior (or bell curves), not mastery. We have a system of age-based cohorts in an industrial model of education that sets different expectations for students based on their perceived ability or identity, and promotes students to the next grade level despite having not learned what they needed for more advanced learning.

Across the country, educators and policymakers are coming to the same conclusion: the structure of the traditional system is a barrier to equity and excellence and does not provide high-quality learning opportunities for all students. The premise of transforming education systems toward personalized pathways, connected to communities and aligned across K-16 and workforce needs points to a competency-based education system as a backbone to reimagine our structures and pedagogy. The traditional system, having been designed to sort students, must be and can be replaced with culture that all students can learn and thrive. We must re-examine the design, structures inside and outside of school that promote high quality learning and pedagogy and reimagine the future with supportive policies and practices, to ensure every learner can succeed.

Key questions remain:

  • What does the future of education and the future of work portend for today’s youth?
  • Why does the traditional education system need to change and how will competency-based systems offer higher quality, more equitable learning environments?
  • How can we work together as a field to ensure that innovations in education systems benefit all students, especially those who have been historically underserved?

Our Opening Keynote plenary session will follow a TED Talk format, where extraordinary leaders will provide short, powerful talks sharing their journeys toward transformative learning connected to communities, future-focused careers and civic life. We are grateful to have three leaders who not only “talk the talk”, but “walk the walk” in catalyzing transformational change for the future of education from different perspectives. Their first-hand experiences in addressing tough questions, building upon local perspectives and wisdom, with an eye to rethinking what is possible, are helping to drive the transformation of education systems and advance equity for all students.  

Monday Luncheon Keynote
The Evolution of Equity in Rethinking High School
Russlynn Ali, XQ Institute
Nick Donohue, Nellie Mae Education Foundation

Everyone has a role to play in the future to respond to the vast changes in the world around us. By redesigning traditional approaches to high school, education innovators are working to prepare students for a brighter future.

Together, we are sharing our learnings and making resources open-source to stimulate dialogue and to inspire schools and communities all over the country. In our rapidly changing world, XQ views high school as the fulcrum for change in a process toward educational transformation. Changes underway include innovative approaches to curriculum and teaching that use real-world, interdisciplinary learning experiences to enable students to develop and apply deep content knowledge and complex skills. At the center is the empowerment of student voice and choice in approaches to teaching, learning and overall school culture that focuses on truly getting to know students, both inside and outside the classroom and giving all students opportunities to build their identities as learners and develop the capacity for agency and autonomy. Broader definitions of student success require communities to examine the goals and outcomes for our education system afresh and look at holistic outcomes that integrate academic and social-emotional learning and enable students to become masters of fundamental literacies, holders of foundational academic knowledge, original thinkers for an uncertain world, generous collaborators for tough problems and learners for life. Community partnerships are powerful and extend learning with community and cultural institutions, business and industry, higher education, nonprofit organizations and health and service providers — and provide support, real-world experiences and networking opportunities for students, enabling them to envision and set goals for the future. Personalized learning is supported by leveraging technology to empower tailoring learning for the unique needs of each student, as well as to actively assess student progress and provide tools that help students build the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in college, career and life. School leaders are pushing the edge of what we understand is possible through non-traditional, flexible uses of time, technology, space, place, resources and roles to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning.

Join leaders from XQ and XQ Super Schools to hear about how they’re rethinking traditional systems and bringing equity to the forefront of high school redesign to ensure far more young people throughout our country will flourish in our rapidly changing economy and contribute to their communities and a diverse democracy.  

Tuesday Morning Keynote:
An International Perspective on Innovation and the Future of Teaching and Learning: Reflections on a Decade of OECD Insights and Research
David Istance, Brookings Institution, formerly at OECD

Preparing our students to become lifelong learners with a deep knowledge of subject matter and a broad set of social skills requires all who are involved in K-12 education to have a better understanding of how pedagogy influences learning, knowledge of learning sciences, utilization of quality frameworks and recognizing the importance of networks and communities of practice to drive the transformation of school systems.

For over a decade, the OECD has conducted intensive international study on innovating learning, teaching and systems, ranging from the nature of learning and innovative pedagogies up to system transformation. This study has included the recent publication of a handbook of texts and tools aimed at educational practitioners. David Istance was a key architect and author of this strand of international work. It has produced frameworks and guiding principles for others to apply in their own contexts, rather than propose universal solutions. Underpinning this work has been a number of fundamental suppositions, including: innovation is a necessity not a luxury, change should be guided by profound understanding of how young people learn best, and that innovating learning environments calls for collaborative designs and complex forms of learning leadership rather than “letting 1000 flowers bloom.”

This keynote will present the key principles and frameworks developed by the OECD over the past decade and it will locate the innovation of personalized learning within these broader frameworks. David will share his insights and breadth of experience on transforming system design towards innovative learning systems.

Tuesday Luncheon Keynote: Student Panel and Innovator Awards
We Are the Evidence: Young People on Education Transformation
Facilitator: Jemar Lee, Education Reimagined

“Don’t let the past blackmail your present, for we all have a beautiful future….Of course, it’s going to take time; there will be failures. Try different strategies, but don’t stop. Please get on to this path, and you will see such beautiful results.” — Ikonkar Kaur Khalsa (Student, Lindsay High School graduating class of 2018)

Join moderator Jemar Lee — founder of EdRevision, current fellow with Education Reimagined, and recent graduate from Iowa BIG), for a conversation with five insightful learners from across the country experiencing learner-centered education in action. They will share their first-hand experiences of how transforming education has transformed their lives — who they are, the contributions they are making to their communities and where they see their future leading. In a provocative, unfiltered and honest conversation, they will inspire you to consider what you can do to start and embolden your communities’ shift toward learner-centered education.

Be ready to walk away with one key question: “As we work together to drive the transformation of learning in this country, what can I do to ensure young learners are at the forefront?”

Wednesday Closing Keynote:
The Power of Whole Child Personalization: Connecting Science, Learning and Human Potential
Pamela Cantor, M.D., Turnaround for Children

Every day, students arrive at school with a backpack full of experiences that impact how they behave and learn. Many of those experiences are positive, but others are stressful, even traumatizing. According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, almost half of our children have experienced at least one type of serious trauma. Traumatic experiences get under the skin, with implications for a child’s development and ability to learn and thrive.

Fortunately, emerging scientific research on how children learn and develop points to strategies for educators to unlock the potential in each student.

In this keynote presentation, Pamela Cantor, M.D., Founder and Senior Science Advisor for Turnaround for Children, will connect the dots between research and educational practice and explain how schools can be designed to support and personalize learning for the whole child.

During the presentation, Dr. Cantor will introduce Turnaround’s Building Blocks for Learning, a framework for comprehensive student development, and share insights from two papers she recently co-authored in the journal Applied Developmental Science which synthesize research from multiple disciplines into a set of scientific principles that can be applied today, to enable many more children to achieve and thrive. Dr. Cantor will use these principles to address the interconnected relationships between school system design, adult mindsets and skills, and the intentional support of successful learners – translating this complex body of work for practical use in schools.   

The goal: whole child personalized learning and the use of developmental principles that can and should be applied today to support innovations in school design and practice. Dr. Cantor will demonstrate how we can harness this scientific knowledge to design educational environments that promote the development of the brain, accelerate learning and drive holistic student development so that all children achieve to the fullest expression of their potential.


Images from the Event