My #Educon Adventures

I was in Philadelphia for the weekend of January 25-27 to present “Where are the Beautiful Learning Spaces?” with Andrew Campbell. The conference, #EduCon 2.5 was hosted at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) which is a public school that was developed in partnership between the public school board and the Franklin Institute, the science centre. The Franklin Institute, as the founding partner, launched SLA to promote science and leadership in education, the project is highly successful and an inspiring example of putting good ideas to action.

educon legos

Together, SLA and the Franklin Institute is bringing museum education, inquiry-driven, project based curriculum to life and sharing all the way, as demonstrated by #EduCon.

For me, #EduCon demonstrated to me how schools can be entrepreneurial, thought leaders, provocative and participate in bringing together some amazing people together. While the conference is highly supported online via Google hangouts and the massive twitter feed (actually went trending several times and then we started getting spammed…) there is nothing that can beat being there in person and getting to connect with people.

I got a chance to meet many people who I have talked to online and I feel like those in-person moments will solidify the existing relationships. Here are a few honourable mentions; Christian Long, educator of The Third Teacher, Dan Callahan, EdCamp; Alex Gillam, Public Workshop; Greg Bamford, Leading is Learning. Each of these people are making things happen in education, they are inspiring my work and I was ecstatic to meet them. I also met a slew of new people to add to my inspiration list; Christina Jenkins, designer of Quark Cards; Karen Blumberg, TedxYouth@School EdCampNYC & RoboExpo; Mary Cantwell, Deep Design Thinking and the most important people of all, the ones that come to our session! (More to come on that in another post)

me and Christian Long

I was surprised and loved the fact that a lot of the sessions were around design thinking. It meant that people spoke my language. Educators and designers who were using design thinking in the classroom, in education consulting and in thinking about the education system. It was simply marvellous!

Like all conferences, at some point we go back to our day jobs and all you can do is try and hold on to the memories to see what it may spark. I can say that there was more then a few ideas that were sparked and propelled by my weekend in Philly. Thanks Educon for inspiration, the cool peeps and the chance to eat a Philly cheese steak IN Philadelphia.

See you again,


And an extra special thank you to Patti Walker, President of Marathon Learning Materials Ltd. I couldn’t have done it without you. Your unconditional support is unbelievable!



Launching EdCamp Design Thinking

In 2011, I joined the inaugural EdCamp Toronto organizing committee. In 2012, I instigated EdCamp Hong Kong (the first EdCamp in Asia), participated in starting the harvest team for the second EdCamp Toronto and attended EdCamp Ottawa. Needless to say, I am a fan of the EdCamp movement and have been watching it grow over the years.  So, I was pretty excited when I passed an idea past the co-founders of Dan Callahan and Mike Ritzius to launch a spinoff of the original EdCamp with the addition of design thinking methodologies.

On February 20th, we will be hosting our first meeting and planning EdCamp Design Thinking!!! I am pretty excited 🙂

At the meeting we will be building a model for all future EdCamp Design Thinking, a model to be tested, to be hacked, to be spread. A model that is going to share the the process of problem finding, idea generation, empathy mapping, to design solutions and to pitch. The goal of EdCamp Design Thinking is to promote the 21st century skills: creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication as well as entrepreneurship.

I love the beginning of projects, so much potential! Our planning team currently is made up of designers, educators, innovators and people who are passionate about education.

For more information, check out the EdCamp Design Thinking wiki.

Make it happen,


Where are the beautiful learning spaces?

Imagine a classroom. What do you see? Is it the classroom of yesterday or of tomorrow?

In the fall of 2011, I went for a visit to a school and wrote a blog about breaking down school walls. I was struck by how the physical space of schools were not duplicating the vision of community engagement, creativity and innovation the way that so many are yearning for. I question the culture of learning that schools are promoting when the design leaves little to imagination. Historically schools are designed by institutional architects who also build hospital and jails. Now, I am not saying that none of these buildings have ever been beautiful, but it is not the norm. There are far more beige cylinder block classrooms and rows of desks attached to chairs than there should be.

I think we are ready to start seeing schools as places where we look up to, where we travel to, where we aspire to be more, where schools are beautiful learning spaces.

The role of schools is to keep children safe, to educate them for tomorrow, to learn the ABC’s of life and to pursue the next level. But where?

Last year, Andrew Campbell and I started a blog called Beautiful Learning Spaces, it is a collection of buildings that we find to be lovely and replicate the design principles that we think promote creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking that 21st century skills and respecting the space as the third teacher. We are inspired by the writings of Reggio Emilia and The Third Teacher which both understand the importance of the environment.

Between the two of us, we have been filling the blog with images of high schools, universities, classrooms, offices, libraries, museums and all sorts of beautiful spaces. What works well is that we don’t see beautiful learning spaces as coming from one specific sector but rather taking bits and pieces from spaces we have been or spaces we can only dream of visiting.

Andrew says “I want to find them and hold them up as inspiring models. To show what’s possible in a learning space and encourage educators to think more creatively about the spaces we create for learning. I want to use them as we go forward and remake our learning spaces to better meet the changing needs of our students.”

I want to find beautiful learning spaces and elevate the conversation of what space and environment does for learning behaviour, community culture and collective inspiration. I want to see what happens when beautiful learning spaces are everywhere and we as students and educators are co-designing those spaces. How we we become involved in the conversation of what beautiful learning spaces look like? Understand how they affect us and how we use them?



Come be a part of EdCamp Hong Kong

EdCamp Hong Kong is happening on April 21, 2012!!!! 

EdCamp HK will take place in a kindergarten classroom at a school in Hong Kong. We thought that the playful atmosphere will add to our conversation and welcome joyful new ideas. 

Registration is Open! 

EdCamp Hong Kong is an education unconference that is part of the EdCamp family. EdCamp Hong Kong is the first EdCamp to leave North America!

What are you in for? 

Here are the basic fundamentals: 

(1) The people who come are the best people who could have come.

2) Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.

3) It starts when it starts.

4) It’s over when it’s over.

5) The Law of Two Feet (“If you are not learning or contributing to a talk or presentation or discussion it is your responsibility to find somewhere where you can contribute or learn”). 

If you are interested in having a conversation about the future of education, than this is for you. You want to join because you have something to offer, something to learn or are just plain curious. Education doesn’t stop because we are out of school and it is something we all have opinions about. Come to meet new people, build a network, because you care and  want to be a part of a movement.

Where to have edcampHK?

The first order of business to planning an event, after the initial idea is to find a location. So, I have been asking where we should have edcampHK? There have been a few back and forths on twitter and so far the energy has been swirling already. There were some initial suggestions to have it at Hong Kong University in a study room or an international high school, now the suggestions have switched to some more atypical learning spaces like the beach, a public park, shopping mall or street corner!

As an advocate for alternative learning spaces and styles, I am pretty excited by the idea. In a little while we will put the location to a vote. Stay tuned.

Inspire Yourself!

Let the planning begin!

Thanks to the help of @dancallahan there is a edcamp Hong Kong wikipage set up! This will let everyone in the edcamp community and beyond get in touch if they are looking for ways to get involved.

I have also gotten a few bites through the grapevine of people interested. We have a few options for locations now.  A study room at Hong Kong University or space at an international high school in Hong Kong. Looking for a few more non-typical locations and then we will put it to a vote.

This is happening!


EdCamp Hong Kong?

While I am in Hong Kong, I would like to try organizing an event. EdCamp is a movement for participatory leadership in education reform. EdCamp is done in an unconference model and is meant to ignite conversation. The idea is that, education needs to be talked about. An unconference is lead and driven by the participants, who ever comes are the ones who determine what the learning will be for the day. The questions guide the process and the conversation flows through curiosity, respect for all voices and experiences and a desire to make a change. You get out of it, what you put in.

After being involved in EdCamp Toronto, I love the idea of sharing the experience all the way around the world. I am in Asia for the next 4 months and in Hong Kong off and on. My parents grew up in the Hong Kong education system, my grandmother was a teacher in Hong Kong and I am really curious to know what learning I can bring back home with me.

If you are interested in having a conversation about the future of education, than I am looking for you. You want to join because you have something to offer, something to learn or are just plain curious. Education doesn’t stop because we are out of school and it is something we all have opinions about. Come to meet new people, build a network, because you have something to offer and  want to be a part of a movement.

EdCampHK will happen in April. The location is to be determined, it could be in a cafe, a park, a library or anywhere for that matter.

I look forward to sharing EdCamp Hong Kong with you. Feel free to get in touch!


Youth Environment Camp

At the end of July, I had the privilege of spending 4 days with the Leaders in Training (LIT)  at the Albion Neighbourhood Services Boys and Girls Club Camp. I programmed a week of activities to discuss sustainable cities, environmental impacts and community engagement.

We covered the room in paper and drew sustainable cities. The blank canvas gave the youth an opportunity to create amazing landscapes  about recycling, transportation systems, free community centres to get fit at, buildings with green roofs and garbage free zones.

We worked on a Needs-Assets-Ideas map. We produced hundreds of ideas. And from that we pulled 10 ideas to turn into projects for the week.

Did you know that youth between 12 and 16 really like post-it notes? They hoard them by the bundles.

Teamwork was very important to getting the projects done, so we worked on collaboration, competitiveness and action.

The very popular marshmallow challenge inspired by Tom Wujec from Autodesk. This challenge promotes prototyping, idea generating and rapid building.

Working with 20 pieces of spaghetti, 4 marshmallows, masking tape and string.

This project had a slow start, there were lots of questions and doubt, but with a little encouragement and curiosity the teams started assembling tiny towers and through their competitive nature they continued building strong and taller towers. Eventually the winning tower was 15inches tall.

All teams were happy to eat marshmallows as prizes.

Outdoor scavenger hunt and marshmallow challenge both created an ambiance for teamwork and creative ideas flow.

The outdoor scavenger hunt was overwhelmingly successful.

Each team ran across the field collecting answers to clues and figuring out items that are recycled, well designed, playful, squeaky, bouncy to name a few.

We drew “I wish” statements in chalk outside. Each statement was made with the intention of coming true when the rain washed it away. This was a commitment to making action to making our dreams come true.

There was lots of learning and discovery between team mates and between all the LIT’s. They were growing more confident with their team work and collaboration skills. We began work on the ideas that had been chosen from the Needs-Assets-Ideas mapping exercise.

In teams, LIT’s worked on signage to help promote healthy living, recycling, and ultimately saving the earth. Additionally, two healthy living programs were implemented as well. Dancing and Basketball skills. We also spent a lot of time playing with clay and making recycled jewelery.

After all the LIT’s hard work, we talked about making commitments to making change in our communities. Respect goes a long way to keeping a community connected and maintained. Each person can make change in their community by simply making the decision to do so.

I had a great 4 days with the Albion Neighbourhood Services Boys and Girls Club LIT’s!!!!!

Thank you so much, I learned something from each and every one of you.