10 Inevitable Education Evolutions Educators Can Lead

Change in education is something that is being discussed, written about, researched and even making the news at unprecedented levels. Like our climate crisis, it’s not a matter of whether it’s happening, but who will actually take action. If educators allow others to take the lead—politicians, researchers, pundits, business leaders, and consultants to name just a few—then the changes will be delayed and ultimately implemented with less fidelity. It’s time for educators to own the changes, thus owning their profession. We need to truly flip the whole concept of what it means to teach and be a true teacher.

Here are the 10 things that must change about education and why educators need to own them:

1. Professionals – Teachers need to claim and lead the professional standards of their profession. Just like in the profession of law enforcement, the system cannot tolerate or endure bad professionals. Cops need to police their own and so do teachers. For too long, we have collectively accepted that there are going to be a certain percentage of just plain ‘bad’ teachers. The fact is that they not only harm the profession, they ultimately cheat students. And we should not tolerate that—unions, tenure, contracts or whatever be damned. And with the teacher shortage at crisis levels, we cannot afford to continue this trend. The younger generations will not flock to a profession that tolerates such an ethical divide—where some teachers are there with a moral purpose to help students and treat them well and others are not.

2. Community Members – Globalism has affected education in many ways. But to be honest, teaching has always been a community-oriented profession. The only way to have an impact on students and learning is to be integrated into the community. This is why many teachers choose to coach teams, advise clubs, and lead extracurricular and co-curricular activities. As teachers, we often complain about not having enough respect professionally from our society. And sadly, that is true. But the only way to combat that is to be leaders in our communities. This does not mean we cannot have private lives or that we have to live our profession 24/7. But it does mean that we cannot hide. We cannot have teachers that show up before school starts and leave when school is out and never engage with their communities. There are dozens of ways to do this and we all need to discover our own way of belonging to the community.

3. Creatives – Author, speaker and publisher Dave Burgess, of “Teach Like A Pirate” fame, states it best. He says teachers will say it’s easy for him because he’s creative. According to Burgess, the truth is that one has to work at being creative. It’s like everything else—it has to be a focus and an ongoing effort. We all have different innate talents and abilities, but we can apply them creatively to our profession. This does not mean we all have to be artists, but it does mean we have to continually reimagine our instruction, curriculum and profession.

4. Relationship Ringleaders Edu Disruptor Jon Corippo, author of the two EduProtocols books, said that he always viewed his role as a teacher as a “Maker of Kings.” It was his duty to treat every student with personal attention and then optimize their learning. This is only possible if we view ourselves as focused on relationships. Too many teachers either see this as an annoying leadership request or sadly, even irrelevant. Teaching is not primarily about curriculum. It’s about connections. Students want to work for people, not systems. We should know this because as educators we operate the same way.

5. Advocates – We can’t leave this to others. We all have to be advocates for all things education—funding, technology, autonomy, professional development, policy and more. But perhaps most importantly, we all need to be the ultimate advocates for young people. Too many adults, including many educators, spend way too much time unnecessarily criticizing and belittling young people. More than anything, students need someone who is consistently going to bat for them. Who better than teachers to serve in that role?

6. Professional Development Patrons, Promoters and Purveyors – As part of our role as consummate professionals, we need to embrace professional development (PD) as a universal foundation of education. We cannot preach lifelong learning to students and not live it ourselves. It cannot be viewed as something that administrators make us attend. We have to take ownership of our learning by leading it, presenting at conferences, reading professional literature, selecting options, partnering with colleagues, and requesting more time for PD. Too many educators view PD in the same way that too many of our students view school—as something that happens to us, not with us.

7. Curriculum Curators – Like so many things, curriculum is moving to a more open-source environment. The digital world is our new textbook and it’s unlimited. With the world becoming more project-based, there is really no excuse not to design curriculum for one’s current students based on their needs, interests and input. In a deeper learning culture, our curriculum is all things the universe has to offer (websites, blogs, books, higher education sites, local experts, business partners and more). Teachers will no longer be using a packaged, uniform curriculum that is being led or facilitated by others. We all need to become ‘the curriculum folks.’

8. Consistent Collaborators – This is not an isolated thing. Indeed, it’s the top skill that employers are looking for in our current students. We have become a truly collaborative universe and we have to work this way—especially in education. The work is too demanding, specialized, customized, and dynamic to work as solo artists. To be brilliant, we need one another. Collaboration can be with colleagues at our sites and all over the world thanks to social media. But we also need to take a larger view of collaboration. We need to collaborate with students, parents, community members, business leaders, politicians, volunteers, experts, professionals, and others.

9. Change Agents – All educators need to begin to view themselves as masters rather than captives of change. Change is inherent in learning and we need to model it. We should continually push for experimentation, risk-taking, and new approaches, ideas, skills, levels of mastery, models, and designs. If we cannot embrace change, we need to get out. If we can, then we need to lead it. With the number of problems, issues and challenges that our students and the world face, we have to know that change is the only constant.

10. Futurists – Teachers have traditionally had many responsibilities including lesson design, classroom management, assessment, and parent communication. However, most teachers have not seen themselves as students of the future. We cannot afford to leave this to the academics and business leaders. Educators need to understand the quickly changing dynamics of our new globalized economy and digital planet. It’s not enough to know that things are changing, we need to understand why. We need to regularly study the trends, the data and the innovators. Much of the resistance in the teaching ranks toward technology, new standards, project-based learning and more is directly connected to a disconnect to what is really transpiring in this new age.

The hope is that this list is the beginning of the conversation versus the end. As usual, I’m confident the list is not comprehensive or complete. Like everything else, it will have to evolve and change.

For more, see:

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Empowering Students Through Sharing

This is part 1 of a 4 part series about how student engagement increases when students share their learning.

When students are provided an opportunity to publicly share their knowledge about something they have learned, they are given more opportunity to take ownership of their work, which demonstrates that it has value, and many also see their self-esteem increase as they take pride in their work and their sharing.

Authentic public presentations of learning may also lead to increased student engagement, which is why a campaign called Share Your Learning was formed. The campaign’s focus is on encouraging teachers, schools, districts, and organizations, to commit to public presentations of student learning. But what are authentic public presentations of learning? We will be featuring stories from teachers around the country who, with their students, are answering that very question.

The Power of Student-Led Conferences

We are all familiar with the traditional method of conferences, a parent and a teacher gather to discuss a student’s progress. While parent/teacher meetings are important for many reasons, equally important is providing students with the chance to tell their own learning story to their parents and community.

Fifth-grade teacher, Camille Nunnenkamp, has firsthand experience with student-led conferences. Camille is in her fifth year of teaching at Lake Elementary, which is part of Vista Unified School District, in Oceanside, California. Oceanside is located in North County San Diego. Lake Elementary is a large neighborhood school which serves a diverse population with over 15 languages spoken. She is continually looking for high-quality engaging experiences for her students and knew that student-led conferences would give her students a sense of ownership and pride.

The Project

Before Camille’s students could share their work, they needed to develop a product. She explained, “my students created digital portfolios using Google Sites to highlight the learning they had done in the first trimester to share at their Student Led Conference with their family.” Camille’s students each created a digital portfolio with sections for Reading, Writing, Math, Social/Emotional, Habits of Mind, and PBL. Within each section, students dove deeper into their goals and talked about their learning progression throughout the first trimester. This included answering whether they met their goal and their self-made action plan for the second trimester based on their first-trimester goal.

The Conferences

The student-led conferences took place over the course of four days, and students prepared by building out their digital portfolios. Camille shared that the “Digital Portfolios are a work in progress and will be a continued reflection and showcase of learning throughout their time as a 5th grader in my class.”

“It was important for me to have my students share their learning because as a teacher I want my students to take ownership of their learning and where they are in the progression of learning. By taking ownership and creating an action plan to be successful students develop agency and become the drivers in their learning. I also believe it is important to have my students share their learning with their families because, with so many changes in education, education looks much different now, then when their parents were in school”

Camille asked her student’s this question and they responded:

“I think it is important to share my digital portfolio at my student-led conference because it helps parents and students remember or learn what you have learned during the school year. I also think our digital portfolios are important because we can keep working on them at anytime.”

“I think sharing our digital portfolios at student-led conferences helps people understand the learning we are doing and why we are doing it. We also make goals and that helps us be successful at school.”

“I think it is important to share our digital portfolios so our parents are educated on the learning we are doing. We have goals to help us know how to be successful. Our goals are important because we know what we need to work on in every subject (reading, writing, math, etc.). This is why it’s important to share our learning!”

Get Involved

This is just one way that students can share their learning, be sure to visit www.shareyourlearning.org for ideas on how to bring exhibitions and presentations of learning into your classroom.

Are you using these practices already? We’d love to hear how your school or classroom is publically sharing student learning:

Stay in-the-know with innovations in learning by signing up for the weekly Smart Update.. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.

Team Getting Smart Gives Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, readers. This year, the Getting smart team would like to take a moment to break from our regularly scheduled content to express our sincere gratitude for all that we have.

We are thankful for the chance we have to explore new ways to build a smarter, happier and more equitable society.

Thankful for the teachers, principals, administrators, superintendents, EdTech providers and ed-focused organizations working hard to improve education for students everywhere.

Thankful for philanthropic funders with a laser focus on funding innovations that will ensure equitable opportunities for all of our learners and their families.

Thankful for the wonderful partners that we have been fortunate to learn from and support.

Thankful for the schools we get to visit who are providing high-quality learning experiences for their students.

Thankful for our guest bloggers, columnists and teacher blogger team for learning with us and helping us learn more from their writing.

Thankful for our families and friends.

Most of all, we are thankful for you, for joining us on our journey. We wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and hope that you’ll join us again tomorrow as we continue our efforts to explore the cutting edge of education.

In the meantime, here are a few staff favorites to read and listen to:  


The Getting Smart Team

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The Promise & Challenge of Student-Centered Learning

In the old days (like 3 years ago) we told computers what to do, now they increasingly figure it out on their own. Artificial intelligence—code that learns—will prove to be humankind’s greatest invention. It will help cure disease, create clean energy, produce cheap safe transportation. It will also displace jobs, concentrate wealth, and create new existential risks. AI will have more influence on the lives and livelihoods of young people than any other factor.

Our #AskAboutAI investigation identified eight key trends shaping the future of work:

  1. Change is exponential but we still think linear.
  2. Every field is computational, everyone is augmented.
  3. Most work delivery by diverse teams (complexity > experts).
  4. Majority freelance/gig workers in 10 years (now for high school grads).
  5. Everyone experiencing novelty and complexity at work and in life.
  6. AI will eat the middle of the job market, unemployment and income inequality will increase.
  7. AI creates employment and contribution opportunity for people and communities that skill up and support entrepreneurship.
  8. AI will outstrip the civic capacity to deal with rapid-fire complexity.

The World Economic Forum calls this bundle of AI-driven trends the Fourth Industrial Revolution (the first three were steam, electricity, and computers). It demands a new approach to learning and living together in community.

AI will steadily improve teaching and learning as well as most back office services. Following right behind it will be improvements in security, portability, and efficiency using distributed ledger technologies.

We see a dozen trends shaping the future of learning (particularly P-12):

  1. Personalized skill building
  2. Community-connected projects with public products
  3. Dynamic grouping (skill, interest, theme, age) and scheduling
  4. Progress on demonstrated mastery with teacher and machine-scored tasks
  5. AR/VR + Voice as the new interface for a 4 screen day
  6. Interoperable formative provides composite real-time status
  7. Expanded (official) student records and portable (curated) learner profiles
  8. Smart recommendations provide informed options
  9. Stackable micro credentials (earned anywhere) signal progress
  10. Rapid pathways to good jobs and affordable postsecondary
  11. Space that supports dynamic models (with cheap, safe transport)
  12. Talent development is personalized and competency-based

Given the extraordinary opportunities and challenges of the world of work and the new chance to personalize learning, it’s a good time to reconsider what it takes to be successful.

What Should Graduates Know and Be Able to Do?

This year’s first graders are the class of 2030. Those graduates will live in a very different world with new challenges and opportunities. We owe it to them to discuss what graduates should know and be able to do.

There is a broad movement to expand the definition of success from basic literacies to work and life readiness. In the last few years, a number of outcome frameworks have been introduced that value success skills including:

  • NGLC MyWays: a well-developed framework from Next Generation Learning Challenges that builds on David Conley’s Think, Know, Act, Go framework. Stressing applied knowledge, MyWays includes “wayfinding” and “creative know-how.” NGLC provides lots of resources and some assessment strategies across the framework
  • ACT Holistic Framework: early learning to job training, has assessments behind most dimensions
  • XQ Learner Goals: a composite framework that provides guidance to 19 super school grantees. To “creative and generative thinking,” XQ adds “Learning for life”
  • KnowledgeWorks’ Foundation of Readiness puts social and emotional at the heart of an outcome framework focused on the future of work
  • Vermont’s 7 Transferable Skills include 34 sub-skills with enough detail to guide assessment. Schools and districts can modify and expand
  • Battelle’s Portrait of a Graduate: with a nod to the 4Cs from P21, Battelle resources include a gallery of sample graduate profiles and a roadmap for how to construct them

It’s time for communities conversations about an updated set of goals for school—goals that reflect the future of work and life. With those new priorities in mind, the next question is what kinds of learner experiences will produce the knowledge, skills, and dispositions for success?

4 Tenets of Student-Centered Learning

Self-direction and project-management can be learned by engaging in extended challenges. Individual needs can be addressed through personalized learning. More time and support can be provided through competency-based progressions. Social capital can be developed by supporting rich community connections. The Nellie Mae Education Foundation calls this approach student-centered learning.

With new practices, tools, and structures, student-centered learning holds the promise of providing powerful learning experiences for every student while developing deeper learning outcomes. The four tenets of student-centered learning (see the Students At The Center Hub) are described below with associated trends and challenges.

Personalized learning recognizes that students engage in different ways and in different places. Students benefit from individually-paced, targeted learning tasks that start from where the student is, formatively assess existing skills and knowledge, and address the student’s needs and interests. Working together, educators, parents, and students customize instruction as much as possible to students’ individual developmental needs, skills, and interests. Students develop connections to each other, their teachers, and other adults that support their learning.

Signs of progress and key trends include:

Barriers and equity challenges include:

  • Technically challenging: apps, Wi-Fi, and schedules
  • Inadequate learning platforms limit individual pathways
  • Can’t combine formative (weak interoperability)
  • Sameness reinforced by structure, staffing, testing, and tradition
  • Class management challenge: lots of activity, new roles
  • Struggling students require more time and support
  • Risk of small tasks focus on low-level skill building (and no extended challenges that promote higher order skills)

Competency-based learning enables students to move ahead in the curriculum based not on the number of hours they spend in the classroom but, primarily, on their ability to demonstrate that they have reached key milestones along the path to mastery of core competencies and bodies of knowledge.

Signs of progress and key trends include:

Barriers and equity challenges include:

  • Technical, structural, political and talent challenges
  • No consistent way to measure learning
  • Inadequate learning platforms limit individual pathways
  • Can’t combine formative (weak interoperability)
  • Low stakeholder demand (from higher ed and parents)
  • Struggling students require more time and support
  • Risk of skills checklist with binary assessment (no extended integrated challenges)

Anywhere anytime learning creates equitable options to learn outside of the typical school schedule and away from the campus. Whether that means studying online, completing an internship over the summer, or taking advantage of some other out-of-school opportunity, they can receive credit for the knowledge and skills they master.

Signs of progress and key trends include:

  • More organizations using badging platforms to certify learning
  • LRNG badging for out-of-school learning
  • Place-based and project-based learning are spreading: schools in libraries, zoos, museums, manufacturing plants, micro-schools (15-150 students) are spreading
  • Widespread access to online and college credit classes

Barriers and equity challenges include:

  • Need consistent ways to measure learning
  • Districts guard budgets, resist portable funding
  • Challenge to fund equitable access to quality out-of-school learning
  • Risk of low-level field trips, bad online choices
  • Quality guidance is key to equity as options expand

Ownership (Agency, Growth Mindset) is developed as students gain an increased understanding of and responsibility for their own learning via frequent opportunities to decide such things as the topics they study, the books they read, the projects they pursue, and the curricular pathways they take en route to meeting college and career-ready standards.

Signs of progress and key trends include:

  • Growth in project-based learning with more voice and choice (e.g., New Tech Network assesses agency in each project)
  • Widespread recognition of growth mindset: effort matters
  • Secondary advisory (distributed counseling) is key but idiosyncratic
  • Advocates: “learners are active participants in their learning as they gradually become owners of it.” (Education Reimagined)

Barriers and equity challenges include:

  • Standards-based reforms reinforced teacher-directed cohort learning which may improve test scores but can reduce self-direction and persistence
  • Challenging to integrated standards-based and interest-based learning (i.e., where/how to add voice and choice)
  • Most teachers not trained in student-centered learning
  • Risk: interest isn’t always the best next step

How to Promote Student-Centered Learning?

Projects can be a great way to promote extended community-connected challenges that uniquely produce deeper learning. Some projects can be individual, some team-based; some with a specific product and some that require an iterative solution; some teacher-directed but with increasing voice and choice; and some community-connected projects resulting in public product.

Individualized skill-building strategies before and during projects enable equitable participation.

Next generation assessment, as David Conley describes it, promotes student ownership of learning and help students identify interests and develop self-knowledge. By producing actionable information, assessment profiles guide development and goal attainment.

Improved data interoperability will allow many forms of assessment to be combined. Smart tools will allow different learner profiles to be compared.

Advisory systems in secondary schools are a distributed modeling of counseling that provides a daily check-in for academic and personal growth. They often provide opportunities to build social and emotional learning skills.

DIY doesn’t work

Most schools cannot figure this out on their own. Personalized and project-based learning is complicated. Developing aligning structures, spaces, schedules, and staffing is hard. Building an integrated technology stack is complicated. Most measures are immature and hard to combine.

As discussed in Better Together, networks can reduce complexity and improve effectiveness in every classroom.

Some networks share outcome frameworks (IB, Building 21). A growing number of networks share learning models and platform tools (New Tech Network, Summit Learning). Curriculum networks share partial school models and digital tools (PLTW, AVID). Regional collaborations like the Pittsburgh Personalized Learning network and leadership networks like the League of Innovative Schools share best practices and attack common problems.

School visits are the best way to learn. Check out 100 middle and high schools worth visiting and 85 K-8 schools worth visiting.

10 State Policy Levers for Boosting Student-Centered Learning

States that want to advance student-centered learning have at least 10 levers: standards, assessments, accountability, funding, certification, authorization, resources, infrastructure, incentives, and partnerships.

Standards. State learning expectations are communicated as student learning goals (standards), summative assessments, graduation requirements, and occasionally as graduate profiles (like Virginia and South Carolina). Potential next step:

  • Express career ready aims but avoid incorporating immature measures into accountability systems.

State assessments (and accountability) most concretely express what’s really valued. Potential Next Steps:

  • Subsidize climate and SEL surveys (PanoramaEd)
  • Create plans for skinny summative (banking on cumulative validity and interoperability)
  • Pilot diploma networks with assessment systems proven reliable and comparable

Accountability systems reinforce grade-level proficiency, dampen competency progressions and reduce the focus on career-ready outcomes. Potential next steps:

  • Consider a performance assessment pilot (like New Hampshire)
  • Pilot addition of work-ready skills to an extended transcript (24 states already use climate survey as an early proxy)

Funding signals values. In many states, funding remains unequal and reinforces inequitable practices. Potential next steps:

  • Increase weighted funding to support equitable learning
  • Pilot prepaid accounts for out-of-school learning (could make it a blockchain pilot)

Certification is the talent gateway. Potential next steps:

  • Increase alternative certification flexibility
  • Sponsor (then require) personalized and competency-based preparation

Authorizing new schools can target types, locations, and student groups. Potential next step:

  • RFP for student-centered schools in underserved areas (supported by grant funding).

Resources. States can subsidize or provide important resources such as curriculum and guidance information. Potential next steps:

  • Sponsor open curriculum units (e.g., Louisiana) and guidance programs (e.g., Washington)
  • Subsidize personalized learning platforms (e.g., Canvas in Utah)
  • Sponsor robotics activities (e.g., FIRST)
  • Sponsor maker activities (e.g., MyMachine in Belgium)

Infrastructure. Access to devices and broadband facilitates anywhere anytime learning. State data systems can be a barrier to SCL. Potential next steps:

  • Check for equitable access: ask your education department for a report on broadband in schools
  • Consider partnerships to expand family access at community hotspots
  • Modify data systems to support nontraditional grading and progress reporting

Incentives. State grant programs can be helpful in scaling innovation:

  • Straight A Fund in Ohio ($280 million) resulted in networks
  • Texas High School Project (now EdTx.org) yielded 135 STEM and early college high schools
  • Virginia awarded 10 $50,0000 high school innovation grants

Potential state sources of investment: reserving a portion of federal Title 1,2 or 4 grants; seeking national grants, and partnering with nonprofits that run statewide programs (eg, Highlander Institute in Rhode Island).

Partnerships can expand learning opportunities, improve college access, and improve youth/family services. Potential next steps:

  • Require Higher Ed to accept competency transcript (could expand homeschool provisions)
  • Support College Promise Campaign (based on Tennessee Promise)
  • Encourage district-charter collaboration (eg, Texas SGS)

The dominant philanthropic view has a strong point of view on half of these levers: Common Core aligned standards and assessments; strong accountability; weighted, flexible, and portable funding; and cities as multiple-operator portfolios with equitable resources and access.

Diploma networks are an alternative way to spread student-centered learning. As the Building 21 network illustrated, diploma networks are schools that work together with a shared outcome frameworks and assessment systems, and platforms including curriculum materials and professional learning opportunities. As schools join geographic or thematic diploma networks, states could reduce required summative assessments.

Student-centered learning is promising but challenging in many respects. It requires new goals and new roles; new incentives and new supports (for both teachers and students); new partnerships and new measures of success.

Well implemented, student-centered systems will produce more equitable results –more young people prepared to contribute in this age of innovation.

For more

Stay in-the-know with all things edtech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures, please see our Partner page.

Better Together: How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project Based Learning

Authored by Tom Vander Ark and Lydia Dobyns, CEO of New Tech Network

Buy the Book Now

Networks are proving to be an engine for innovation as well as a powerful scaling strategy that, for the kids that need it most, can boost access to quality. The core premise of Better Together: How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project-Based Learning, is that creating powerful learning is hard work and there’s no reason for teacher teams to work alone. District leaders, principals and teachers aim to improve student outcomes, but old constraints and inadequate tools and supports make it extremely difficult to innovate at scale. The answer: working together in formal and informal networks.

Better Together is a practical resource containing specific strategies that can be implemented to build and scale effective school networks. The book includes information on leadership, business models, governance, school supports, and advocacy that will go a long way for creating an environment where school networks can thrive.

Taking a “do-it yourself” approach to innovation, poses significant challenges. Throughout the book readers will learn about over a dozen school networks and will be introduced to teachers, principals and district leaders who have re-imagined hundreds of schools with the support of networks. The authors also share:

  • Proven learning models for scaled school networks
  • The latest innovations for more effective collaborations
  • Smart strategies for optimizing the educational network experience

To learn more check out our Network Effect series and download the full press release. Follow along on social using #BetterTogether.

Praise for Better Together

“A wise superintendent once said, ‘Isolation is the enemy of improvement.’ This invaluable book provides a powerful rationale, great examples, and incredibly useful guidelines for genuine innovation networks among teachers and schools. It should be in every education leader’s tool box.   – Tony Wagner, author of The Global Achievement Gap and Creating Innovators

“Education can no longer rely on hub and spoke methods of distributing learning. Learning is happening at a faster pace in a networked world. Across the 500 schools we work with the most successful schools are collaborating across schools within their district and across the country. Tom and Lydia provide examples a taxonomy of networks which increases learning and helps schools attain their goals.”   – Anthony Kim, CEO of Education Elements & Co-Author of The New School Rules.

“A tour de force through the most cutting-edge ideas, schools, and educators, Better Together not only gives the 101 on the concepts educators and citizens need to understand, but also how they can be enacted effectively in schools.”    – Michael Horn, Chief Strategy Officer, The Entangled Group, Distinguished Fellow of the Clayton Christensen Institute, and author of Disrupting Class and Blended


To better help educators utilize the resources in the book, Tom and Lydia are launching a series of Better Together workshops, keynotes, and book chats. This is an excellent opportunity to have Tom and Lydia come speak about the book and answer questions you may have or work with your team to determine how to use the book topics to solve a problem together. If you are interested in hosting a Better Together workshop or event, contact us and we can start designing the best event for your team or network.

27 Can’t-Miss Education Conferences for 2018

We’ve updated this post for 2019! Check out 26 Can’t-Miss Education Conferences for 2019.

Our team spends a lot of time traveling to conferences around the country to learn from experts, facilitate sessions and cover various conference happenings. Throughout our travels, we continue to curate and update a list of our favorites that we think everyone should attend.

Here is the latest list of 27 can’t-miss education conferences in 2018:

1. iNACOL Blended & Online Learning Symposium 

iNACOL’s annual conference is a leading event for K-12 competency-based, blended and online learning. With over 200 sessions, it brings together over 3,500 experts, EdLeaders and educators to explore next-gen learning for K-12 students. Check out our Storify capturing the 2016 theme of Innovation for Equity. Check out our podcast of some EdLeader voices from this year’s event.

October 21-24, 2018; Nashville, TN

2. SXSWEdu 

The eighth annual, internationally recognized SXSW EDU will be four days of sessions, workshops, learning experiences, mentorship, film screenings, policy discussions and so much more all aimed at impacting the future of teaching and learning. The event hosts over 16,000 attendees, 1,200 speakers, 500 sessions and 200 expos and continues to stand out as a true thought leadership summit. Check out our look back at SXSWEdu 2017.

March 5-8, 2018; Austin, TX

3. ASU+GSV Summit

This annual conference is the “only conference during the year where you’ll have access to the smartest and most influential Learning & Talent Tech minds from around the world.” The three-day event hosts over 300 of the best and brightest in business, entrepreneurship, higher education and education innovation Check out what it meant for educators and 20 high impact EdTech enterprises, which we saw in our time at ASU+GSV in 2015.

April 16-18, 2018; San Diego, CA


With almost 35,000 attendees from 130 countries, representing 850 leading companies and 103 edtech start-ups, and thousands of exhibitors demonstrating the latest in EdTech, BETT is the world’s largest EdTech conference. Taking place in London, BETT believes in creating a better future by transforming education. This conference is premium, inclusive and game-changing. Here are opening day highlights from BETT 2017.

January 24-27, 2018; Excel London

5. NewSchools Summit

Next year’s event will be the 19th year for this annual, invitation-only gathering hosted by New Schools Venture Fund which brings together more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, educators, community leaders, funders and policymakers to share ideas on reimagining schools to prepare all students, from every background, for the future. We’re eager to see what next year has to bring.

May 8-9, 2018; Burlingame, CA

6. National Charter Schools Conference

NCSC is the best learning and networking event for school educators, leaders and advocates. At the 2017 event, attendees had an opportunity to connect with over 4,700 others in over 100 breakout sessions, 17 meet-ups, eight charter talks and five networking lounges. Participants walk away with an incredible learning experience and opportunity to share ideas and strategies for growing and improving charter schools. See the 2017 highlights to learn more. Registration opens on November 8th!

June 17-20, 2018; Austin, TX


Next year’s theme for the 73nd annual professional learning experience is “Empower18.” Jill Biden, Colin Powell, and Manny Scott (freedom writer) will be amongst the session speakers. This conference is “for every educator,” aiming to gather the best minds in educational leadership including teachers, principals, superintendents, instructional coaches, university professors and central office staffers and delivering a revolution in education.

March 24-26, 2018; Boston, MA


As the “epicenter of edtech,” ISTE Is where educators and school leaders go to learn about new tools and strategies. With over 550 companies, 1,000 sessions and 16,000 educators attending, this event boasts endless learning opportunities perfect for industry reps, teachers, tech coordinators/directors, administrators, library media specialists and policy makers. Check out our recap of some of the new and innovative edtech products announced at ISTE 2017.

June 24-27, 2018; Chicago, IL

9. CoSN

CoSN is the conference to attend if you’re a district tech director or leader. The 2018 event will be themed around the 4th Industrial Revolution and its Impact on Learning and will focus on the ways that school systems can change their organizational culture, embrace a culture of digital options and accelerate success. Sessions will cover three focus areas of ubiquity and access, vision and leadership and pioneering innovation. There are plenty of opportunities to network, share ideas and maximize professional development at breakout sessions, workshops and pre- and post-conference events.

March 12-15, 2018; Washington, D.C.

10. SETDA Leadership Summit & Education Forum

With the 2017 event wrapped up, SETDA looks ahead to its 17th year. As one of the most important convenings for state EdTech officials, SETDA brings together leaders from over 40 state departments of education to join leaders in EdTech, assessment, instructional materials and professional development to collaborate and engage in in-depth dialogue. Take a look back at the event archives.

November 4-7, 2018; Arlington, VA

11. BbWorld

2000+ thought leaders, educators and other great minds from around the world join to “exchange ideas, share best practices and address today’s toughest educational challenges.” Next year’s Orlando event will host over 200 valuable sessions, 50 technology partners and access to Blackboard resources, offering participants a chance to walk away with tools to foster success at their institutions.

July 16-19, 2018; Orlando, FL

12. PBL World

PBL World is the premier project-based learning conference, bringing together dedicated teachers, instructional coaches and school and district leaders who want to connect and learn more about PBL. Rather than a conference with short sessions by various presenters, this event is an institute where participants go through a continuous multi-day experience. The conference, hosted by Buck Institute for Education’s (BIE), stands by the belief that PBL transforms students and PBL World transforms educators. Check out our reflections from this year’s PBL World.

Date: June 19-21; Napa Valley, CA

13. Deeper Learning Conference

DL2018 is the 6th annual gathering of powerful educators focused on creating more opportunities for students to learn deeply. Attend this conference to experience deeper learning hands-on through interactive workshops, makerspace and deep dives. You can listen in to our podcast coverage from 2016’s amazing Deeper Learning conference here and a series of videos from the conference with a focus on equity and deeper learning.

March 28-30, 2018; San Diego, CA

14. New Tech Network Conference

NTAC 2017 was themed Making It Relevant—Connecting School, Opportunity and Equity, with the guiding belief that through the creative use of technology, collaborative project designs and empowering student voice, students can achieve academic and social development success. NTAC gives principals, teachers, and staff the opportunity to sharpen skills, share best practices and network with like-minded professionals from around the country.

July 12-16, 2018; St. Louis, MO

15. ExcelinEd National Summit on Education Reform

This year Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education will host the 10th annual conference. The best and brightest policymakers, education leaders and advocates from around the nation will meet for the premier gather of education reformers to share information on evolving laws, new trends, successful policies and the latest innovations transforming education in the 21st century. Last year’s event was attended by over 1,000 education leaders from 47 states. Here’s a video archive from last year’s summit.

December 5-7, 2018; Washington, DC

16. FETC

FETC is the largest national independent EdTech conference discussing tech trends, strategies and best practices for student and school success. 2018 marks the 38th annual event focusing on the Future of Education Technology and gathering a group of dynamic and creative education professionals from around the world for an intensive and highly collaborative event exploring new technologies, best practices and pressing issues.

January 23-26, 2018; Orlando, FL

17. TCEA

Spanning 5 days with over 8,000 attendees, 1,000 sessions and workshops, and 450 exhibiting companies, TCEA is the largest state convention and exposition in the US. This year’s 38th annual event feature nationally-recognized experts with topics catering to every educator.

February 5-9, 2018; Austin, TX

18. CUE Conference

CUE is the largest and oldest EdTech conference in California and is targeted towards educators and EdLeaders looking to advance student achievement by using technology in the classroom. The conference has been a go-to event for educational innovation for almost 40 years and provides a best-value, three-day experience for over 6,000 educators.

March 14-17, 2018; Palm Springs, CA

19. Personalized Learning Summit

In its 4th annual summit, Education Elements is bringing together 750 innovative district leaders. In 2018, Education Elements is reevaluating what workshops at a conference can look like. Participants can expect engaging and dynamic sessions, professional development and networking opportunities, and even tours of some of the most innovative companies in the Bay Area. Here’s a look back at the 2017 summit.

May 2-4, 2018; San Francisco, CA

20. Blended and Personalized Learning Conference

Educators, leaders and innovators can enjoy this three day conference because it gives them an opportunity to discuss blended and personalized learning as it exists today in their schools and classrooms. At the 2018 conference, the Highlander Institute, the Christensen Institute and the Learning Accelerator will be showcasing the best classroom, school and district implementers from across the country.

April 5-7, 2018; Providence, RI

21. Serious Play

This will be the 8th year for Serious Play, a leadership conference that embraces the idea that games can revolutionize learning. Speakers from around the world share tips on how to move game-based education forward and their experience creating or using game-based learning. Attendees actively listen, share and participate in critical conversations about game design requirements.

July 10-12, 2018; Manassas, VA

22. Distance Teaching & Learning Conference

This conference attracts a broad range of professionals in distance education and online learning. In over 30 years, the conference has grown to over 800 participants and 130 sessions. Attendees can expect to connect with online learning leaders from across the nation and around the world and discover innovative ways to teach and support online learners, as well as best strategies, practices and solutions. We are staying tuned for more information on next year’s event.

August 7-9, 2018; Madison, WI

23. Annual Conference for Middle Level Education

A valuable and comprehensive PD conference for educators and administrators working with middle school students. AMLE features over 300 sessions in 60 topic areas with hands-on and meet-and-greet opportunities. Because AMLE knows everybody learns differently, the conference caters to the needs of every educator with a multifaceted approach—various session types and styles, opportunities for one-on-one discussions with the leaders, explanations and explorations of technology, and networking—for a most valuable and comprehensive professional development event.

October 25-27, 2018; Orlando, FL

24. Learning Solutions Conference & Expo

Learn about technologies that are changing the world of training and development and enhancing learning experiences. In 2018, the conference is expanding to focus on instructional design, delivering a world-wide view, and bringing real industry perspectives with more than 100 engaging sessions for training and learning professionals to connect with peers, develop practical skills, and gain knowledge to create effective learning experiences.

March 27-29, 2018; Orlando, FL

25. OEB 2017

OEB is a global, cross-sector conference on tech-supported learning and training held in Berlin. In the upcoming 2017 conference, OEB is focused on “Learning Uncertainty,” and how we can learn to live with, accept, manage and thrive on the defining characteristic of our age. Attendees can expect to learn from over 2,300 participants from over 100 countries in over 100 hands-on workshops, plenaries, interactive breakout sessions, debates, labs and demos.

2018 Date: TBD; Berlin, Germany

26. Advancing Improvement in Education (AIE)

This two day conference intends to inspire growth and reignite passion for increasing student outcomes. The mission: to connect leaders and inspire accountability, innovation and possibility for school improvement through partnerships and research-based best practices.

November 13-14, 2018; San Antonio, TX

27. LearnLaunch Across Boundaries

Now in its 6th year, the Across Boundaries conference hosted by the LearnLaunch institute brings together the edtech community – educators, administrators, entrepreneurs, investors, education companies and tech innovators – to drive innovation, transform learning and increase achievement using digital technologies. The conference has grown to over 1,200 participants from 33 states and an agenda full of engaging keynotes and informative breakout sessions.

February 1-2, 2018; Boston, MA

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