Traverse17 Conference – Brief Summary

For the third year, I attended and facilitated sessions at the Traverse Conference, Watershed School’s Expedition to the Future of Learning (#tvrse17 on Twitter). In fact, the Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation (MVIFI) has been a partner for all three years of the Traverse Conference, providing multiple teams from MVIFI to lead and present various sessions about observation methods, design thinking, expeditionary learning, and instructional rounds, just to name a few.

For a window into the three days of this year’s Traverse Conference, check out the #TVRSE17 Twitter hashtag, or enjoy the Storify Trilogy from Jim Tiffin, Jr., an invaluable member of team MVIFI.

As for the sessions that I facilitated, I co-presented with Shelley Clifford, the Head of Lower School at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. We offered two sessions dedicated to learning about and experiencing learning walks and instructional rounds. Our session description follows, as does a link to our facilitator flow, which contains links to our materials and sites used during the sessions.

Learning Walks and Instructional Rounds: Being an Explorer of Your Own School
with Bo Adams and Shelley Clifford from Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
How do you study your own school community as researchers, designers and innovators? In this session, pioneers at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School will share their journey in using learning walks and instructional rounds to study the art and science of teaching and learning a their school. After laying some groundwork in our base camp, we will venture out to conduct learning walks among the other sessions at Traverse ‘17. Through experiential practice, fellow adventurers in this session will have a successful summit under their belts so that they can begin imagining and planning for future learning expeditions at their own schools upon return. [Facilitator flow and links can be found at]

SPARKplaces 2016

“Welcome to the first-ever SPARKplaces gathering.

From the very beginning of daydreaming this event, we were certain about a few things. We wanted:

  • an intimate experience that invested in authentic human relationships;
  • to gather creatives and visionaries that love discovering new ideas;
  • all participants to be uniquely hand-selected year one;
  • a fully immersive expedition, not a pick-n-choose conference;
  • to explore the design of learning environments but make sure we were focused on ‘learning’ first, ‘environments’ second;
  • to trust in everyone’s expertise and experience coming in the door, but more importantly we wanted to see what happens when people let go of their own biases;
  • to be inspired by the spirit of ‘design thinking’ without over worrying details;
  • to ‘wander’ and ‘wonder’ without apology;
  • to ‘do’ and ‘create’ something that gained momentum after the event ends;
  • to see if a tribe could emerge that seeks to keep exploring together over time.”

Such is how the SPARKplaces notebook began with a welcome to the participants. In this two-day design expedition, we gathered in the stunning Convent and Stuart Hall School, situated in the Flood Mansion, and we engaged in a collection of provocations and challenges that yielded compelling design possibilities and inspiring manifestos. For me, one of the most exciting findings took the form of the fast-cycle in which all of this concentrated effort occurred. The window of work, not much more than ten hours when all was said and done, created a set of artifacts and launching pads derived from committed teams of people — work that could be replicated, in process, with the people who make up a single-school community, as well as a tribe of people from various schools.

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Rapid-fire speakers sharing profound talks in five minutes, dinner table prompts hybridizing a Jeffersonian Dinner format, epic questions, learning metaphors, and a learning ecology build palpable momentum, “completed” by a manifesto drafted by each team and percolated to richness because of all of the meaningful pump-priming that preceded the quick-write of shared understanding and conviction.

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Paradoxically, the work felt “finished” and unfinished simultaneously. Wonderfully, it excited me to continue the efforts and forward the next steps…whatever they may be.

SPARKplaces 2016 Storify

Many heartfelt thanks to Christian Long (Wonder, by Design), Carla Silver (Leadership + Design), Howard Levin (Convent and Stuart Hall), and to the fellow participants who poured themselves into this collaboration. I felt honored to be in your learning community.

Please vote for Curiosity-based Learning to be at #SXSWedu


What if we could create and use everyday rituals and routines to nourish people’s natural, human curiosity and build fun systems to launch innovation projects in schools and communities?!

Well, Meghan Cureton and I proposed a session for SXSWedu (in March 2016) that can do that very thing! And SXSWedu uses a platform to select proposals that includes public voting and feedback (which we think is awesome!) We need your help to spread this good idea and take it even further with collaboration from others at SXSWedu.

Please consider voting for the proposal that Meghan Cureton and I submitted to SXSWedu 2016

Curiosity-based Learning: Exploring Innovation (link)

You can read about the proposed session on SXSWedu’s Panel Picker page (link above), and you can get more details – if you are interested – from the links below.

  • Curiosity-based Learning: Exploring Innovation has just been selected to the Evolve stage on The Teachers Guild. Check it out here and here.
  • I use CBL as the core of #fsbl – “father-son-based learning.”
  • Meghan and I facilitated two half-day workshops at Traverse 2015 focused on curiosity-based learning and exploring innovation.

We’d love to share this exhilarating and change-making method with other educators and innovators. And we’d so appreciate your help in getting to SXSWedu 2016.

THANK YOU! Stay curious! Be explorers!

Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design #TVRSE15

On Tuesday, June 9, Meghan Cureton and I are facilitating one of the hands-on learning expeditions at the Traverse Conference in Boulder, CO. Actually, we’re offering the session twice – from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and again at 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Mountain Time)

Our sessions are called “Curiosity-Based Learning: Teaching Innovation Through Design.” You can find our session flow and resource links at, and the Google doc is embedded below, too.

Also, you can find a post on the Traverse Ideas blog that shares some details about the thinking behind the session – “How do we teach ‘the explorers’?”

My Learning Journey at #SXSWedu 2014

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For several weeks, I’ve been wanting to archive the learning sessions that I attended at #SXSWedu this year. Today, I finally got around to it.

My Learning Journey at SXSWedu 2014:

Monday, March 3, 2014

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

IT’S ABOUT LEARNING: “Be Present: Mount Vernon Plays to Connect #SXSWedu Session & Creative Mornings Atlanta on #Childhood”

  • Meet-Up with Dr. Reshan Richards, 3.4.14, 4:30 p.m.
  • Mardi Gras Party Hosted by 4.0 Schools
  • Dinner with @am_gallagher, @scitechyedu, @SAISNews, @lndeutch, @kamithor, @elizabeth_lytle

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 Wednesday, March 5, 2014

STORIFY: “Wed., 3.5.14, Bo’s a.m. #SXSWedu #selfdirect #DisruptEdu”

  • Reverse Engineering to Teach Design in High School, 3.5.14, 2:00 p.m.
  • #AK12DC Mentors & Facilitators Conference Call, 3.5.14, 3:30 p.m.
  • Meet-Up with Julie Wilson, Institute for the Future of Learning, 3.5.14, 5:00 p.m.
  • Dinner with @scitechyedu, @jennzia, @WickedDecent, @treyboden, @lndeutch, @coachhkay, +some
  • #dtk12chat live from #SXSWedu

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Thursday, March 6, 2014

STORIFY: “Tapping Crowd Wisdom RE: #Badges #MicroCredentialing”

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STORIFY: Reflecting on #SXSWedu 2014 via Tweets”

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Related: SAIS@SXSWedu