Wednesday, November 11, 2015

VT Fest 2015 is a wrap... and a glimpse into the future...

Painting with programmable robots! A first, and hopefully not last at VT Fest!

VT Fest 2015 was a success! 

People I spoke with at the conference relayed it and the reviews have certainly said it as well. Three days at the conference did evaporate quickly. Here's a quick and important recap.

I've worked with the VITA-Learn board over the last four years to ramp up these conferences and we're making some headway. 'The new' this year included:

  • an expanded creation / innovation / maker space: Hands on, dive in with mentors and try out some creativity
  • food! New, improved, more choices, and (despite the lines) people got fed faster than in years past. Always a crowd pleaser
  • more diverse session types and lengths: 1/2 hour, hour, and 1.5 hour unconference
  • meeting spaces! Round table style, propose your own and advertise or go spontaneously
  • awesome keynote speakers at VT Fest: The amazing Diana Laufenberg was our keynote this year
  • innovation grant! 2k to one lucky winner to do light up some creativity

We honored two people for their fantastic work: Bonnie Birdsall with the ISTE Making IT Happen Award, and Bob Owens with the Frank Watson Lifetime Achievement Award. It's been an privilege to work with these folks over the years, to get to know them and I've such admiration for their work. We truly did surprise them... either one had any idea their award was coming ; )

Arlyn Broccoli from East Montpelier won the 2K Innovation Grant! Here's an excerpt from Arlyn's proposal:
"I have a supportive administrator who will help make something go if she sees the benefit for kids. My school's entire robotics instructional program is the result of $150 that I received from a VitaLearn regional meeting. Imagine what I could do with $2K!"
Congrats to you, Arlyn, your school, and the kids you work with. We're excited to see where this innovation grant helps you go!

What a privilege to have Frank Watson himself
come again to VT Fest to talk about people
who inspired him in Vermont education!
A special shout out to Lucie deLaBruere and the fantastic folks at the Creation / Innovation Space. The reviews were off the chart on your creativity and willingness to help mentor hands-on work.

And another shout out to the amazing Diana Laufenberg for being our keynote speaker and leading a stellar workshop. Diana is a master at parsing the complex into elegant simplicity. I'm always inspired every time I get the opportunity to speak with her.

VITA-Learn said goodbye to three board members at the conference. Sue Monmaney, David Wells, and Steve Jarrett... many thanks to all of you for all you've done for work with VITA-Learn and for kids in Vermont education.

We'll welcome three new members in, voted on from the members meeting, and we'll be announcing those shortly (once the invites have been officially accepted)!

As always, I loved the opportunity to see familiar and new faces. I made a lot of new connections and gathered some ideas to move into the future.  For me, VT Fest was recharging and, like every large event you help pilot, a bit exhausting. It was the first time in four years I presented... and did so this year three times.

On the last day of the conference I closed on a new house and the very next day after I set to move our family to the new space. It made for one harried weekend. After two days of mandatory district training on Monday and Tuesday and shifting around in a chair all day... I finally did unwind today with a very much needed day off.

We got some valuable feedback from our surveys... and thank you to all those folks who filled them out, There's a lot to do still. Some ideas brewing for VT Fest 2016...

We'll strive to:
  • make the food selection even better and more streamlined
  • organize new and more inclusive social events Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night
  • continue to expand our offerings on session length and opportunity
  • advertise earlier... the conference itself and especially round table sessions
  • send invitations to more session leaders in other States
  • increase our efforts to poll our members for new and creative ideas
  • continue the awesome innovation / creation space: 2015 was the best yet!

... and the session I ran in the pool, the first in 30 years at VT Fest, will return by popular demand ; ) Hey, I can't think of a good reason why nobody thought of this in 30 years! Somebody had to do it!

Many thanks to ALL the folks at VT Fest who attended, vendors, those who helped organize, to the VITA-Learn members and board. It was a privilege to help organize and emcee the conference once again.

Now that I've had more some sleep (more than four hours!), that the Internet is live again after the move, and I am starting to find my clothes...

Thoughts are already brewing for Dynamic Landscapes in May!

DL is shaping up to be great! And yes, it's on a Monday and Tuesday! We wanted to take a shot at this to get away from the holiday weekend.

Invite students inquiry into the educational process. Give them a voice to help create, to help make schools more innovative, creative and rich with meaningful opportunities and connections.

We're expanding...

  • 1/2 day, full day, and two day workshops with options for college credit (re-cert / licensure) for specific grade levels on:
    • animation, programming, storytelling (video and audio) PLPs, maker space introductory workshops... to name a few. We've got some surprises in store... deeper pedagogical integration and wellness sessions, sessions for new teachers...
  • more meeting spaces: conjure a discussion, planned or spontaneous, you've got spaces!
  • more offerings and incentives for student inclusion
  • vendors with hands-on learning opportunities
  • downtown social event Monday night (live music?)

... to name a few!

Who will follow Gary Stager and Super Awesome Sylvia as keynote speaker at DL? We've got a few stellar invitations out and we'll be announcing it in a few days!

I'm off to prep... and to find which boxes I put some of my clothes in ; )

We win...



  1. Thanks for all the energy you put into Vermont Fest, Adam. It gets better and better every year! We are truly blessed to have such forward-thinking, innovative, generous, and fun people in our little community of 21st century educators. Carry on!

    1. Thanks, Frank! You and so many others are pat of that inspiration. We're working to build off the great ideas we all contribute!