Saturday, November 14, 2015

15 Takeaways from #iNACOL15

Sometimes you just have to take one for the team and go to a conference in Disney World. And although my love for Disney and Imagineering knows no bounds, I'll save that for another post. This one is focused on iNACOL.

The 2015 iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium is (and I quote) "the industry’s leading event for K-12 online, blended and competency-based learning. Experts, practitioners, educators, policymakers, and researchers gather and work to transform education." (Edtech Buzzword Bingo, anyone?)

Standard conference hyperbole aside, there were over 3,000 folks in Disney's Dolphin conference center, all of whom were interested in, concerned over, monitoring closely, proselytizing the unitiated about, or just trying to get a handle on the realm of blended and online learning.

Here are my 3 big takeaways from the conference, and there are 12 more useful resources you may enjoy listed at the bottom of this post. (Thus, 15.)

  1. The HACK Model of Innovative Instruction
    HACK is a systematic way for teachers to release control to students when using technology in the classroom. It comes from Northwest Nazarene University's Doceo Center and gives a framework for moving from highly structured teacher control to knowledge (and learner) centered use.

    During the session, our presenter used a great, simple visual that I've included below. But if you go to the HACK website, all of the images there include apps and programs for every step. I'm not a big fan of that approach because it implies that using a particular tool magically transports your students to a certain level of thought. This is a falsehood that should not be propagated. (update: see the clarifying comment below from the Doceo Institute)

    The way they should always present HACK

    But the visual above is what drew me to HACK, where the framework is clear and not crowded out by forcing apps into categories. First, the teacher begins with Highly Structured activities in which students get use to using one system in a guided way. Then the next move is to Allowed Choices, where instead of being guided explicitly in one tool, choices are opened up to solve more complex problems with choices of digital tools.

    Consistent Application is the next level, where strategic reasoning and planning by the student is involved, and the technology is a transparent part of the environment. Finally, Knowledge Centered activities involve the teacher creating explorations where students are fully in control of their learning. (For a "From the Field" example of HACK, check out this ASCD article).

    Since this was a blended learning conference, HACK also seems like a solid path for teachers to move from simply being "technology-rich" to enabling students to learn at their own pace. It's aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge, and is a good conversation starter (along with SAMR and TPACK) to discuss with teachers increasing the rigor of their lessons and making the shift from lecture to facilitation. I'll definitely be exploring how to include it in our professional learning in the future.

  2. Sustaining a Culture of Innovation
    If you've never heard Bryan Setser, founder of 2Revolutions, add it to your bucket list. This man has done basically everything there is to do in education, and now runs an "education design lab" focused on innovative solutions for educational institutions.

    Along with The Learning Accelerator, 2Revolutions is responsible for So You Think You Want To Innovate?, an incredible tool for assessing your organization and determining if you're ready to take the leap into deeper waters of innovation. It helps you put everything on the table and start some very honest discussions about how you'll work to remove barriers to innovation in your district.

    Bryan's presentation riffed on the themes in the guide, but like any good jazz musician, he played well to the room, responding to questions with examples from the field and providing an understanding of organizational change that only comes from being in the trenches. He reminded me again that to have creative, sustainable change, a focus on innovation must be a priority of the system.

  3. Eminence - School on FIRE
    When I heard someone say Eminence wants to be the "Disney World of Schools," I rolled my eyes. But when Superintendent Buddy Berry got up on the big stage and started sharing his (intense) passion for how every lesson should include "surprise and delight," I actually found myself leaning in to make sure I didn't miss anything.

    Eminence completely redesigned their district a few years back, focusing on personalized and authentic instruction, the central role of technology, and a focus on college-and-career readiness starting in Kindergarten. The district leverages everything in their power to get their students engaged and ready for college, from their "Exemplars of Eminence Excellence" to free college courses for students in high school two days a week. (And if you've seen the WiFi buses, that's them too...).

    Berry also highlighted the importance of "Best Practice + Next Practice." In other words, you don't leave behind best practice in instruction just because you're including new practices. It's a concept I've been trying to put into words this school year and he helped me to do it.

    Like with Bryan, it's impossible to summarize all the great things that came from Berry's speech, but the most important takeaway is that solving the problems of our children is going to take an innovative approach, not business as usual.
Those were my three big ideas, but there was plenty of other good stuff that I'll list here for you to peruse at your leisure. Enjoy.
  1. The Blended Learning Research Clearinghouse
  2. Data from the Speak Up survey
  3. Baltimore County Public Schools Blueprint 2.0
  4. Continued Progress: Promising Evidence on Personalized Learning (RAND/Gates Foundation)
  5. Wendy Oliver's Blended Practice Framework
  6. BetterLesson BlendedMTP (videos)
  7. Afton Partners (school financing for blended learning initiatives)
  8. CCSD Open Book (Clark County School District's transparency website - brilliant idea)
  9. "WE Day" (founder Craig Kielburger keynoted on Monday)
  10. "WE Day" - WE Schools Framework (service learning)
  11. Relay/GSE Learn (free blended learning professional learning modules)
  12. iNACOL Blended Learning Competencies framework


  1. Thank you for your post on the H.A.C.K. Model. The Doceō Center is truly excited to be working with educators on increasing innovative practices and personalized learning. We appreciate your feedback, and were able to use it to better clarify information on our website. We would love the opportunity to link your blog post on our center's website. Would that be ok? Once again, thank you for your kind words. We are hopeful that the H.A.C.K. Model will continue to impact and influence instructional innovation and practice, and therefore student learning.

    Amy Ackley
    Doceō Center - Northwest Nazarene University

    1. Absolutely! I love the model and appreciate you sharing your work at iNACOL. That session was the most informative and useful of the entire conference.

      Love how you've updated the HACK site. THAT is the image that should be front and center!