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Big Ideas Fest, in Half Moon Bay for Fifth Year, Focuses on Future of Education

The annual conference brings together education stakeholders, including Hatch Elementary School teacher Abby Foster, to collaborate and design new ideas in learning.

Students, teachers, administrators, faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers will converge at the Big Ideas Fest in Half Moon Bay on Wednesday, including Hatch Elementary School teacher Abby Foster who is attending the conference for the second year in a row.

“The big idea about the Big Ideas Fest is that it brings together a variety of education stakeholders in a uniquely creative venue,” said Foster, who teaches kindergarten for the Spanish Immersion program at Hatch. “The conference is geared to facilitate networking, collaboration and creative problem-solving.”

Hosted by ISKME, a non-profit education institute that pioneers open access learning technologies based in Half Moon Bay, the Big Ideas Fest is celebrating its fifth year held at the Ritz-Carlton with 175 attendees. The four-day conference this year features keynote speakers Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari education startup BrainRush, and Shiza Shahid, co-founder and CEO of the Malala Fund, investing in communities that support the rights of girls to education.

This year also includes “Action Collabs” workshops where attendees work together to design and prototype solutions to challenges in education, addressing one of this year’s topics: Learning Is Everywhere, Common Core, and Big Data.

Foster is planning to participate in “Action Collabs” involving the Common Core standards.

“I hope to bring this work back to Cabrillo Unified School District to help us integrate these new standards into our curriculum,” she said. 

At last year’s Big Ideas Fest, Foster’s group created a project called Mission: Possible, which was selected to receive funding for further development.

“I worked on this with another team member and brought my sister in as a pilot classroom teacher. This year we will share our experiences with the conference. We hit some snags with our prototype, and I don't know what will ultimately become of our idea, but I like to hope that the essence of our idea will impact children for years to come,” she said.  

The final day of the conference, on Saturday, Dec. 7, will showcase participant solutions and include an announcement about a new “Learning Challenge” partnership with GoPro, maker of wearable video cameras to highlight education in action.

During the event, the “Big Ideas Fest Innovation in Action Award” will be given to an individual or organization whose project best embodies the ability to transform education through inspired and innovative action. This award – like ISKME, the host of Big Ideas Fest – emphasizes innovations, such as last year’s recipient, Nirvan Mullick who made a film called Caine’s Arcade about a 9-year-old child who created an arcade from cardboard boxes that went viral in ways that enabled others to create learning tools and resources on a global scale. Judges will also consider the potential global impact of the program as well as its accessibility to populations that are underserved.

Short talks by education innovators called “Rapid Fires” will take place Dec. 5 and 6 and feature diabetes-control toymaker Hannah Chung, founder of Sproutel; Mo Qayoumi, president of San Jose State University; Ali Partovi, cofounder of; and Gabrielle Lyon, cofounder of Project Exploration.

A Thursday evening Tweet-Up will feature an exchange on the future of education between Big Ideas Fest participants and Robert Scoble, well-known blogger and technology maven.

Foster is looking forward to attending the conference this week, she said. “After last year's conference, my colleagues noticed a newfound enthusiasm in me, and this energy was contagious,” said Foster. “Big Ideas Fest helped rekindle a passion in me for effecting change and making an impact in the lives of my students.”

For more information and to register for the event, go to

Publication Date: 
December 03, 2013