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Highlights from the 2015 SAIS Annual Conference

Wednesday, October 21, 2015  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By Christina Mimms, SAIS

This year's SAIS Annual Conference attendees witnessed several firsts, including new SAIS President Dr. Kirk Walker's first year of leading the conference and presentations by the inaugural recipients of the Stephen P. Robinson Collaborative Grants. Additionally, there were several new topics among the breakout sessions, including discussions of LGBTQ issues, new takes on branding, and new issues related to technology. SAIS also welcomed speakers Rick Wormeli and Catherine Steiner-Adair.

Demonstrating 21st century learning in an engaging and high-energy talk on October 19, Cultivating Personal Creativity, Wormeli challenged our assumptions about learning and the role of the teacher and assessments. Teaching requires a great deal of creativity, and teachers also need to inspire creativity among their students. “We still have a factory model in so many places,” Wormeli said. “We need to remember that it’s a student’s first time to learn something.”

He encouraged the free flow of ideas, both among students in the classrooms and among faculty to allow all to demonstrate their creativity, even if they complete a task or project in a way different from what was planned or assigned. If they are able to master a concept using their own creative ideas, why not support that?

Johannes Gutenberg, Steve Jobs, Eli Whitney, and other innovators were, at one time, young students in a classroom. “Creativity is about recombining everyday things,” Wormeli said. “The moment you judge creativity, you shut it down. I want kids to ask questions, not make declarations.”

One might not think of Julie Andrews’ character from The Sound of Music as a teacher, but in his closing remarks, Wormeli exemplified her as such. Her innovative approach to teach the von Trapp children to sing (doe, a deer, a female deer…) does all that Wormeli would suggest in being a creative, successful teacher: break down a difficult concept (do, rei, me, etc.) into bite-size pieces, get outside, include a physical component (kids climbing steps, kids riding bikes), repeat, encourage, and voila! They’ve got it.  

Keynote speaker Ian Symmonds also took a creative approach with his address on October 18. In the months and weeks leading up to the Annual Conference, Symmonds and his team were crowdsourcing with the hashtag #EduTrendingNow to gather from school leaders the top trends in education today.

Serving as a mirror, Symmonds presented the information back to attendees, naming seven major issues or trends: Disconnected & Disengaged, The Learners are in Charge, Intersection of Innovation & Independence, Get Real, Data-Driven, and From Diversity to Inclusivity.

Schools need to engage their students and focus on learner-centered learning, Symmonds said. “We can change the model and challenge the status quo.” And in so doing, Symmonds suggested a get real approach to better reach Millenials and their younger counterparts. Be inclusive, practice authentic marketing principles, and engage those around you.

Symmonds also noted that schools are famous for collecting data – numbers, percentages, facts, figures – but what are we doing with the information? “It’s not about data, it’s about insight that inspires action,” Symmonds said.

Thank you to all who attended the 2015 SAIS Annual Conference. Save the dates October 22-24, 2016 for next year’s SAIS Annual Conference in Atlanta!


Click here for the audio download of 2015 SAIS Annual Conference keynote speaker Ian Symmonds' address.

SAIS is producing videos from the two keynotes and select breakout sessions. They will be available on soon. Highlights from breakout sessions will be in the next issue of SAIS HeadLines. Photos and comments are also available on Twitter @SAISnews and #saisac.

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