Real World Solutions: A Seasoned Educator’s Experience at Big Ideas Fest

I did not land at ISKME by accident. My interest in our mission to transform education, and particularly my passion for research that bridges theory and practice, can be traced to one key influence: my father, Dr. Daniel Detzner. Since before I was born, my dad has focused his career on making higher education more accessible, on improving teaching and learning in his own classroom, and on mentoring and collaborating with colleagues.

It was only natural that in 2010 my dad joined the ranks of Big Ideas Fest participants. Then 65, he was just beginning a phased retirement from his role as a professor in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota. But my dad takes the concept of lifelong learning pretty seriously. As he explained, “Although I’m not in the early stages of my career I am always interested in seeing what new ideas are coming forth in education.”

Of particular interest to him was the convening’s focus on how technology can be leveraged to improve education systems. “I knew Big Ideas Fest would be an interesting intersection of technology and educators at all levels…I looked forward to hearing the interaction taking place among these people right in the heart of Silicon Valley.” In reflecting on his time at Big Ideas Fest, he noted that “coming to California is a different perspective than what you get in the Midwest, and the influence of technology is dramatic.”

Although he’s probably attended hundreds of conferences over the years, an aspect of Big Ideas Fest he found outstanding was the enthusiasm among participants for actively participating in the conference sessions, particularly the Action Collabs. “There was an unusual amount of creativity amongst the participants, that you don’t usually see. Most of the people in attendance came ready to participate, be active, and be engaged – whereas normally at conferences people are quite absent, passive, and disengaged,” he commented.

These outstanding levels of participation he attributed to Big Ideas Fest “being situated in the heart of creativity-land,” as well as the Action Collab method’s focus on real world solutions. At Big Ideas Fest, my father noted, participants are “working collaboratively on an idea that will have practical use in the real world.” In an era where there are so many pressing problems in the education field, Big Ideas Fest offers “an equal measure of inspiration and practical approaches to real world solutions.”