CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend

(This post contains embedded ‘tweets’ that may not render properly depending upon your device and browser.)

It all started, as so many connected learning experiences do, with a tweet.

If Kristen Swanson #couldntbemoreexcited about #EdcampPalooza, then lurking on the #CISC2015 hashtag on Twitter with @Haydeewan seemed like an inviting activity. 

Probably irrationally, I was inspired to virtually attend the symposium by following its stream, collecting tweets, and then organizing them into this reflective blog post. By reordering the tweets, I think it’s interesting how common themes run across different sessions and activities.

If you were at the symposium, I hope you enjoy my curation and interpretation. If you were not, I’m sure will enjoy attending virtually with me!


The CISC Leadership Symposium included the largest Edcamp ever!

Kristen shared the Edcamp CISC Session Schedule which, in true unconference fashion, represents the authentic interests of the participants. They included the divergent and ambitious inquiries that characterize self determined learning.

At Edcamp Tokyo, we asked participants to share their session notes so that everything would be published via our Edcamp Tokyo Collabornization document, a practice I would like to have seen adopted for this most epic of Edcamps.

I believe that Edcamps and other ‘unconferences’ and the authentic and engaging conversations that they kindle and sustain are a model for the future of professional development.


Education visionary Grant Lichtman introduced the concept of the cognitosphere, a model which provocatively represents the ubiquitous and highly dynamic nature of learning.

‘The cognitosphere includes both the body of knowledge as it exists and evolves, and the process of creating, teaching, transferring, managing, and learning that knowledge.  Knowledge is based on the human experience and therefore includes both content and skills. It represents the total of all the answers to all the questions that have been asked in the past, as well as the process of asking questions that will create new knowledge in the future.’

// think a model based on the ‘4 Cs of the Cognitosphere’ could have serious traction. I see a strong connection to the 21st Century Fluencies of the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, a core resource in my approaches to teaching and learning.

One word

Mr Lichtman also took the opportunity to pose his #OnewordK12 question, ‘What one word describes your vision of the highest goals of learning? What do you hope to exude as an educator? Of what do you want your school to “reek”?’

As the audience responses poured out from Twitter, I recognized this as an exercise in Collaborative Sensemaking and tasked myself with tabulating and organizing the results. This was a truly tedious task which I wouldn’t repeat under the same circumstances, but due to an unwavering combination of curiosity and stubborness, I completed the list below which includes the results, organized by number of entries, alphabetized, with a link to every ‘one word’ tweet at the symposium.

It turns out that the educators at CISC this year describe their vision as, most wish to exude, and most want their schools to reek of ‘passion‘!

passion 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17

excitement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
innovation 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12
joy 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

creativity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11

engagement 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9; inspiration 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9

curiosity 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

enthusiasm 1,2,3,4,5,6

collaboration 1,2,3,4,5; success 1,2,3,4,5

fun 1,2,3,4; wonder 1,2,3,4

agency 1,2,3; commitment 1,2,3; community 1,2,3; confidence 1,2,3; empowerment 1,2,3; energy 1,2,3; excellence 1,2,3; hope 1,2,3; imagination 1,2,3; love 1,2,3; perseverance 1,2,3; possibility 1,2,3,4; transformative 1,2,3

acceptance 1,2; amazing 1,2; authentic 1,2; connection 1,2; courageous 1,2; dynamic 1,2; exuberance 1,2; leadership 1,2; learning(culture) 1,2; meaningful 1,2; mindfulness 1,2; ownership 1,2; positive 1,2; relevance 1,2; risk 1,2; understanding 1,2

achievement 1; active 1; affirmation 1; believe 1; big 1; brave 1; buy in 1; challenging 1; compassionate 1; competence 1; delight 1; democracy 1; determined 1; different 1; discovery 1; discussion 1; empathy 1; equity 1; everyone 1; exhilarated 1; expectation 1; exploration 1; fearless 1; flow 1; focus 1; gamification 1; give 1; google 1; growing 1; happy 1; honesty 1; imperative 1; inquiry 1; inquisitiveness 1; intriguing 1; inviting 1; kindness 1; motivating 1; opportunities 1; optimism 1; options 1; oral discourse 1; preparation 1; progress 1; purposeful 1; relationships 1; rigor 1; sky 1; sparkle 1; spirit 1; stickwithitness 1; systemic 1; team 1; urgency 1; value 1; voice 1

I’m sure it would amuse Mr Lichtman that the word ‘grit’ appears exactly zero times.

Maker Education

Perhaps the most exciting event at the symposium for me was Dale Dougherty’s Maker Movement workshop.

Reading these educator leaders find excitement in the Maker Movement gives me tremendous hope and encouragement for the future of formal learning. In my blog post, Maker Club year 1, I reflected on my experiences with the young makers in my school and I am thrilled to see growing awareness and enthusiasm for making.


I have always found value in improvisation, particularly due to being a jazz musician, as an abstract conversation and exploration of shared models, ideas, and feelings.

Unfortunately, my experiences in formal education, other than my New School years, have emphasized predictability and repetition over spontaneity and iteration.

Truthfully, I was shocked to see educator leaders waxing on improvisation, valuing creativity and divergent connections.

What if the professors in my teacher preparation program thought similarly?…


Chip Heath’s observation is one of my favorite tweets from the symposium. I have often experienced the conundrum of being encouraged to innovate and redefine how learning occurs in my classroom, only to be asked later for traditional reports aligned to standards with quantitative summative assessment data.

The symposium’s conciousness of change seemed to center around decomplication. In fact, the metaphor of farming, often regarded as a ‘simple’ way of life, was used to change perspective on the act of teaching. Farming is complex, but farmers tend not to be complicated. I find this analogy to be very comforting somehow.

The word ‘cultivate’ has probably appeared in every one of my classroom blog posts in various contexts, although this is my first time thinking of education in terms of farming. It aligns perfectly with my ideas of LX Design and metateaching and I appreciate the organic and visceral imagery.

Considering plants and animals, why not address the elephant in the room?

While there are undeniably elephants being ignored at any educational conference, this elephant is another metaphor which seeks to provide a model for change.

I appreciate that only emotion can move the elephant, and I believe that that emotion comes from, and should come from, the children.

When we focus on the children and their stories, the elephant is unstoppable.

If listening to children is ‘innovative’, then we have a lot of catching up to do.

While listening to children in education may be historically new, it is gratefully older than history in terms of relationships and mentoring. It was great to see the Educator Leaders at the symposium focusing on positive developments.

Bright spots

Fortunately, incredible learning is happening all around us, all the time.

What if Trust and Transparency can empower ‘bright spots’ everywhere?

What if…?

My ‘What if…?’s

What if we took Grant Lichtman’s suggestions literally?

What if we discard ‘anchors and silos’ by closing county and district offices of education, convert them to community centers, and move all educators into school sites?

What if educators observed a five year moratorium on conferences? Instead, apply 100% of our energy, resources, attention, and passion to finding and cultivating the bright spots within our own learning communities. Then we get back together to share.


What if educational leadership was a true inverted pyramid with students at the top, determining and directing  the learning, and teachers and administration below, facilitating and supporting?

// if ‘the day when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to blossom’ is today?

The CISC 2015 Leadership Symposium was a test. A test of authenticity and courage.


Without courage, nothing else worth doing is possible. So much of what I gleaned from the tweets from CISC 2015 is that educator leaders are trying to muster their courage to reform education, how we learn, into a totally new model.

Looking for ‘bright spots’, adopting a design mentality, motivating the elephant, etc, it’s all meaningless if it doesn’t lead to action.

With so many outstanding, inspiring, and impassioned ideas in such a short time, I hope this post has helped to synthesize some of them and provide opportunities to reflect and act.




Published by

Bart Miller

Father, Teacher, Composer, Philosopher

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