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Pitching Big Idea Solutions for Education Challenges

Now that the 2012 Big Ideas Fest has come to a close, it's worth noting some important observations from the conference.

One aspect of the Big Ideas Fest that sets it apart from others is the Action Collabs. Conference attendees are split into groups of about 12-15 people in order to collaboratively tackle a challenge in education. By the end of the three-day conference, each group pitches a prototype for a solution to the challenge—similar to a startup weekend event. This year, the three challenges that the collabs focused on were creating opportunities for learning through international collaboration, reinforcing the value of the arts in education, and creating educational offerings for adults who want to improve their employment opportunities. There were nine groups total, with three groups working separately on each of the design challenges.

On the last day of the challenge, the groups pitched their prototypes to the audience, and a panel of judges chose three different ideas to "incubate," or help support, throughout the year. This year's prototypes ranged from a Web tool to help students document their creative process and show the creative process of other artists, a network of community members that could provide internships for adults hoping to move into different job opportunities, and a network of traveling teachers who could connect to share professional development opportunities.

The three chosen ideas included the aRtV, an RV that would pull into communities, set up, and allow students there to engage in art activities; mission: possible, which would facilitate a pen pal-type program between students in the U.S. and another country to send artifacts from their communities and environments; and Myne, a website that would allow users to input relevant job information, including extracurricular, church, and recreational activities as well as past job experiences into a website that would pull out relevant job skills from the data and match it with potential job opportunities in that community.

Conference staff members encouraged all participants to keep working on their ideas, even if they weren't chosen to be incubated. Overall, the Big Ideas Fest placed a large emphasis on networking and bringing people together who don't normally interact in hopes that by working together and including lots of stakeholders in the discussion, groups could come up with solutions to some of today's most pressing education challenges.

There were quite a few videos and recordings done at the conference, which I'm sure will be starting to migrate online once the organizers have a second to start sifting through the material. We'll link back to the material once it's online so those of you who didn't have a chance to attend can see what it was all about.

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