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Innovate 2015: Re-imagining School

I had the privilege of being one of the key speakers at the Innovate 2015 Conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Over 350-400 attendees from around the world came to this amazing conference.  As the theme of the conference was “Re-imaging School,” there was a lot of productive, thoughtful discussion on the challenges that educators face and how we can re-imagine school in order to make it better.  How do we prepare and inspire students for tomorrow? How do we make use of innovative approaches to promote 21st century skills and lifelong, lifewide, lifedeep learners?  What role does technology play?  There were lots of great ideas and excellent insights from the speakers, workshop leaders, panelists and attendees (you can follow along the Twitter conversation by searching by hashtag #innovategraded).

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I gave a talk/interactive workshop on game principles and gamification tools for education.  The goal was to discuss the principles in well designed game environments that could be applied to challenges in education.  How can game-like elements be used to cultivate essential qualities like creativity, self-directed learning, collaboration, and reflection in the classroom?  I unveiled the Teacher Tinker project, an online community where teachers can tinker with game principles in their classroom and share their experiences with each other.  It includes a free toolkit (gamification card editor) and various resources teachers can refer to (research articles, case studies, lesson plans).  I hope that teachers can create interesting game tools and experiment with different ways to get their students engaged with game-like approaches (e.g., goal-setting cards, role cards, peer assessment tools, quests/missions, achievements, reflection-oriented cards, materials to foster collaboration and prosocial behavior, and so on) and to share their experiences of what works.

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I also gave a talk on designing climate change games and how to design a social issue game (a meaningful game with a purpose beyond mere entertainment).  I presented EcoChains: Arctic Crisis — a multiplayer card game that teaches systems thinking and the causes and impacts of carbon pollution — and Greenify, a mobile app to promote sustainability through real-world eco-friendly challenges.  Participants were involved in various design exercises, including a crash course on designing a “social issue game” that addresses a social problem.  I was impressed when bright young kids at the Graded school came up with game concepts to teach people about poverty and how to care for the environment.

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All in all, an amazing conference with great networking, important discussions, and a lot of Brazilian culture on display (still impressed with the artists, dancers and musical performers!).  A big special thanks to Teachers College, Columbia University for their support, and to the Graded School for putting together such a wonderful conference.  I’ve never seen a group of educators so engaged and passionate about designing learning experiences through innovative approaches.  I hope we can stay connected and keep the conversation going!

Update: A nice blog post by Joe Koss on 5 useful tools and takeaways from Innovate Graded.

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