Later this week, educators and thought leaders will gather in Springdale, Ark., to collaborate on ways to tackle professional development. There, at the second annual Innovation Institute: Transforming Learning with Technology, which is sponsored by eMINTS National Center and Springdale Public Schools, the theme is "connect, discover, transform."
ConnectIT blogger Eric Patnoudes, who will give the keynote speech at this year's conference, recently sat down with eMINTS' Brooke Higgins to discuss the origins of the conference and this year's offerings.
PATNOUDES: Can you start by giving me some background information on Innovation Institute? How did you come up with the idea?
HIGGINS: Traditionally, the eMINTS National Center had a yearly conference in Columbia, Mo., gathering eMINTS teachers, trainers and other like-minded educators together to collaborate and share best educational technology practices. When Springdale Public Schools was awarded the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top grant, they had the opportunity to expand their eMINTS program within the district. Knowing that travel would be challenging for that many educators, they had a vision to create a similar experience for Springdale educators and others.
PATNOUDES: What was your original goal for the conference, and how has that evolved over time?
HIGGINS: With the award of the Race to the Top Grant, Springdale Public Schools placed Chromebooks in the hands of every 3rd through 12th grade student. This exciting endeavor created unique opportunities for professional learning. Springdale teachers had a wide variety of skill levels when it came to using Google and Chrome platforms. The original goal was to grow teachers' experiences and expertise using Google for Education and Chromebooks to transform classroom practices. Many Springdale teachers benefitted from attending sessions and presenting at sessions.
PATNOUDES: How has the Innovation Institute evolved over time?
HIGGINS: After the success of the first event, other Springdale district leaders reached out to be part of the planning committee. They 2016 Innovation Institute planning committee decided to expand the content beyond Google and developed the focus for this year's event: Transforming Learning with Technology.
PATNOUDES: Who are the ideal attendees? Is there something here for administrators too?
HIGGINS: This event is ideal for any educator who wants to expand his or her knowledge and ability to infuse technology into daily lessons and practices. There is something for all experience levels — from preservice teachers to administrators. Sessions will accommodate multiple devices, technology experience levels and all educator roles. With more than 100 sessions, attendees will walk away with strategies and tips for using technology, information about managing the modern classroom, innovative leadership practices, productivity tools, experiences with 3D printing, robotics, coding and more.
PATNOUDES: How many people do you expect?
HIGGINS: Currently we have almost 400 participants registered. Registration is still open, and we invite you to join us for this event. Thanks to Race to the Top, the registration rate is $35 for one day and $60 for two days.
PATNOUDES: What's the one thing you would want every person who's reading this article to know about the conference?
HIGGINS: eMINTS National Center brings educators together to connect, discover and transform learning for all. Our goal is to inspire teachers to inspire students. Through the eMINTS instructional model, we build community, embrace authentic learning and support high-quality lesson design, all powered by technology. Like all eMINTS professional learning experiences, the Innovation Institute will exemplify these core beliefs.
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This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.