Friday, December 7, 2012

Taking Ordinary to ExtraOrdinary-Big Ideas Fest Didn't Disappoint!

I don’t consider myself an ultra-sensitive or overly emotional person. I don’t cry often, but I was so touched by Matt Harding’s work, I started to cry during his presentation this week at The Big Ideas Fest. His videos from 2008 and 2012 showcase his travels to over 42 countries to unite people...all through the power of dance! They involve a goofy grin and a bit of silliness too! His 2008 video has over 44 million hits! Check it out!

Why was I so touched? As I watched the videos, I reflected on how we all laugh and dance in the same language.  We have more in common than we realize! Do our students think about what they have in common with kids across the globe? I reflected on how a goofy dance had the power to unite so many people. With today’s technology we have the power to connect with others throughout the world.  How might we facilitate more international learning opportunities for our students? How can we connect our children here in Los Altos to other children internationally? What could the future hold for our youth if we help them form connections with each other across the globe?

Presentations and Action Collaboration!
For the first part of this week, I felt like I was thousands of miles away, even though I was just in Half Moon Bay! The Big Ideas Fest, hosted by Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), is not your typical conference! Instead of featuring solely presentations, the format interweaves group collaboration activities called “Action Collabs.” Within my specific Action Collab, we explored the design challenge: “How might we create opportunities for learning through international collaboration.”

I was so fortunate to learn from the diverse backgrounds and the individuals within my Action Collab. Just to give you a feel for some of the individuals in my group; one person captures photos and video for Qatar Foundation International and she visits classrooms all around the world! Her footage from schools in Kenya and parts of Asia was phenomenal! Another person is a curriculum developer with Road Trip Nation. We had several educators in our group. From a teacher from inner city Boston who connects with students in Qatar, to another who works as the head of a school in San Francisco and a government official who focuses on education from a statewide perspective, we had a variety of experiences in Education.  With this collection of people, the dialogue we had around promoting more international collaboration was incredibly rich! Frankly, I found returning to speaker presentations as a refuge and time to reenergize! As Kami mentions in her last post, I appreciated balance between collaborative time and the time to think.  With the flow of phenomenal speakers and a challenging group task at hand, the days were extremely invigorating. How might we make everyday in a classroom like a day at Big Ideas Fest?

From a Moment to a Movement
So who were some of the presenters and what did I glean from them? A few of the presentations made an unforgettable impression. First of all, I loved hearing from Director Nirvan Millick about his creative process developing the Caine’s Arcade film. His message: We should always have our “antenna up” looking for opportunities. One day, when he needed a new door handle, he stumbled upon an amazing boy named Caine with a cardboard arcade and a film was born! After he posted Caine's Arcade to You Tube, the video went viral, and his life took a new course. Not only did he raise over two hundred thousand dollars for Caine’s scholarship fund, but the film spawned a Global Cardboard Challenge. He recently launched a nonprofit organization called Imagination Foundation that has a mission to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in more kids.” All of this has happened in less than a year! It is amazing how this moment transformed into a movement to provide more support for creativity for children.

Taking Ideas to A Larger Scale

Here I am with one of the "Coke and Mentos" guys at Big Ideas Fest!
Playing with something seemingly simple can lead to big results! For example, Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz were curious about the chemical reaction that happens when a few mentos are added to a two liter of Diet Coke. You may have seen the video featured above showing how they took this idea to the extreme! They kept taking their idea to a bigger and bigger scale-until finally, they discovered what would happen if they used lots of Mentos and 100 bottles of Diet Coke. Whoa! That took perseverance! How might we encourage students to design science experiments with everyday objects? I can only imagine what our students here in Los Altos would come up with! 

During their presentation, Fritz and Stephen encouraged the audience to follow their passions and find something that inspires a personal drive. Whether it be post-it notes or chemical reactions, they explained how people can take the “ordinary to the extraordinary” by being obsessive, stubborn, taking things to the extreme and remembering to set limits. I was lucky to have a photo opp too!

So how does this all apply to teaching and instructional coaching? As educators, I think it is so important that we always have our antenna up, as Nirvan Millick was when he walked into an auto mechanic shop last Spring. We never know what may happen if we take advantage of a "teachable moment" and take cue from our students to create a new learning experience. Matt Harding shows how something as simple as a dance can help people learn about our world and its many cultures. Within the Big Ideas Fest, I heard so many people touch on the importance of pursuing intellectual curiosity, fostering international connections and allowing students and teachers to tap into their passions.  For we never know, by providing time and structure to play with an idea, or complete a design challenge, a change that seems "small" could turn out to be the next Big Idea!

Ellen Kraska is the Technology Integration Instructional Coach within the Los Altos School District. She is passionate about edtech, creativity and collaboration within innovative learning environments. You can email her at and/or follow her on Twitter @kraskae. 

1 comment:

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