Teacher-led event pushes boundaries of American education
DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO—More than 500 educators from Colorado and the rest of the country will convene in Douglas County this June to Create Something Great. The annual conference and think tank—now in its third year—is a teacher-led meeting of great education minds with the goal of re-imagining and transforming education in classrooms and schools.
The event started with a simple premise -- to give teachers an opportunity to collaborate. Now it is a movement, made up of hundreds of teachers who network to find effective and sustainable ways to engage students in their learning, provide them with authentic, real world learning opportunities and give them more ownership and choice in their work so that their learning sticks with them.
Unlike corporate-led conferences, the idea for Create Something Great originated from teachers, who desired a stronger network to share best practices and push the perceived boundaries of the classroom together to enhance the learning happening in their schools.
“Create Something Great was designed by teachers, for teachers,” explained Mary Murphy, a Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator in the Douglas County School District’s (DCSD) World Class Education department. “This event is really empowering teachers to not only form their own networks and collaboration groups, but to also empower teachers to be leaders. To really be the change makers and change agents for education, for our profession.”
The four-day conference, which will be held June 6-9, 2016, features several notable expert presenters, such as Carrie Morgridge of the Morgridge Family Foundation, who has a history of sparking innovation and transformation in classrooms, and Michelle Leimsider, Founder of the NYC iSchool, a school rooted in Challenge-Based Education practices.
Presenters from the corporate world, such as Adrian Bazemore from Proctor & Gamble and Jeff Boodie, Founder and President of JobSnap, will also lead sessions during the conference. Additionally, a representative from Apple will lead a session on Challenge Based Learning.
“We’re not the only district being innovative. Districts around the world are being innovative, so we decided to bring these experts in,” said Dr. Dana Johnson-Strother, Chief Academic Officer with DCSD’s World Class Education department.
“For our teachers it’s an opportunity to hear what is going on in classrooms around the country and become a teacher leader and a change maker,” added Murphy.
A new addition to the conference this year is the first annual Student Innovation Expo, which will kick off the week on Monday, June 6. The Expo will feature an exhibit of student solutions to global problems—ones that they identified. Murphy sees the Expo as coming full circle from last summer’s Create Something Great. Teachers who participated in last year’s conference tried out new innovative techniques in their classroom, with the outcome being the projects and learning that the students have generated and are now presenting back to this summer’s Create Something Great attendees.
“Students will have the opportunity to interact with experts according to their categories,” said Murphy. “When students are engaged, they crave feedback for growth, not for a grade. They will receive feedback for their continuous improvement process and the next iteration.”
“Students engage and are intrinsically motivated in their learning when the work is relevant and aligned to their passion. When students find that value for sustainable learning, their curiosity and drive take over,” she added.
This year’s Create Something Great will immerse attendees in a plethora of topics, such as personalized learning, Artful Learning, Design Thinking strategies, authentic assessments and integrating a wide range of technology to help teachers achieve learning goals.
“The great thing about this conference is it gives teachers, principals and people visiting an opportunity to be exposed to a lot of different things,” said Eric Sonnentag, World Class Education coordinator at DCSD.
“We want teachers to blow the doors off of what American education has traditionally looked like and create what they think is the best learning opportunity for students,” added Johnson-Strother.
“Create Something Great was a professional learning experience unlike any other of which I’ve ever been a part,” said Jessica Craig, a teacher from Roxborough Intermediate who participated last year and is planning on attending again this year. “I’ve never worked with a group of such passionate, supportive individuals. It was a great place to share ideas and encourage one another to take risks. I would not be where I am now in my practice had I not been a part of Create Something Great.”