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September 2014
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Winning Ideas from the Big Ideas Fest

Both Jacky Hood and I along with 150 other leading educators and business executives focused on education convened in Half Moon Bay on December 4-7 for the Big Ideas Fest (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-big-ideas-fest). In addition to listening to 18 speakers (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-speakers-big-ideas-fest) ranging from Martha Kanter, Under Secretary, US Department of Education, to Kaycee Eckhardt, an amazingly giving and passionate Reading Teacher from New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy, we ate good food, networked, and worked on some big ideas.

Part of the conference was the facilitation of Action Collabs (http://bigideasfest.org/2011-big-ideas-fest/2011-action-collabs-big-ideas-fest, a great way to brainstorm solutions to core questions. There were nine groups of 15-20 people led by facilitators through the multi-day brain-storming process. Open Educational Resources (OER) were the major focus. Four of the nine groups took on the following question: “How might we leverage open (content, data, and research) to transform teaching and learning?” The groups all followed a six step process: 1) Identify the Opportunity, 2) Design the Solution, 3) Prototype the Solution, 4) Present and get Expert Feedback, 5) Update the Solution based on the feedback and Design if to Scale and Spread, and 6) Present it again. Step 1 included interviewing experts. Former COT director and now Open Courseware Consortium/CCCOER community college outreach manager, Una Daly, was one of the experts. The process was engaging and produced very interesting results. It was fun to see the solutions that 150 bright minds can produce. Strong synergy emerged  among educators, business people, foundation managers, and others.  The four different groups focused on the same question approached their solutions in very different ways.

Other Action Collab Topics included Assessments and Basic Literacy/Math Skills.

ISKME secured a $50k grant from the Gates Foundation to take the three most promising “big ideas” to the next level. It is a matching grant and ISKME is looking to find another $50k to match the Gates funding, which means that $100k will be used to bring 3 of the 9 ideas presented to the next level. Everyone in the Action Collab I participated in (aka WeLearn) were elated when our idea was paired with another group as one of the winners. WeLearn emphasized vocational life-long learning. Putting tools and knowledge in the hands of those in the workforce to help them learn and grow. In addition to OER and traditional content, we had focused on mentor/mentee matching and close ties to corporations as one of the benefactors of a more skill-based workforce.

This big idea is similar to a concept that the Open Doors Group has been discussing; it is called CHAI (Commerce, Healthcare, Agriculture and Industry) as a potential sharing space for flexible, affordable education/training materials. This is a much larger initiative with a focus on vocational education initiatives utilizing open resources. Very exciting idea that has synergy with the big ideas that surfaced at the Big Ideas Fest. Stay tuned for more ideas.

Mitchell Levy, Co-Director, College Open Textbooks
- 408-257-3000, http://collegeopentextbooks.org
CEO & Author, Happy About
- http://happyabout.com, http://42rules.com, http://thinkaha.com

Related posting: Read move about the Big Ideas Fest from Carol Hedgspeth’s blog post: http://www.collegeopentextbooks.org/blog/?p=1845

NOTE:  IMAGES ARE CC-BY-SA BY ISKME.

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