Design Thinking, Social Media, World Peace, and Other Highlights from NAIS

This year’s NAIS logo: Innovation

It’s been three days since the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) Annual Conference in Seattle, and my mind is still full of all of the exciting things I learned. Here are a few highlights:

Design Thinking: Unlocking the Key to Innovation

I arrived early with Academic Dean Scott Young and Dean of Faculty Nicole Stanton to take a special workshop on design thinking. This concept isn’t new—in fact, I recently interviewed Coeylen Barry ’98 of KDT Consulting about her work with design thinking in schools—but it’s gaining a lot of ground. In the NAIS workshop I worked in a group to design a room that would be ideal for problem solving: what would the space of a lab for designing look like? These exercises are fascinating, fun, and a wonderful change for someone who’s usually in the front of the classroom.

Creativity and Emerging Media: Soraya Darabi

One of the featured workshops was with social media maven (and the first digital ambassador to the United Nations) Soraya Darabi. She explained how “the classroom is evolving—it’s no longer a groomed garden, but a jungle of information.” Appropriately, there was a lot of live tweeting from the event with conference attendees quoting Soraya and asking questions (Jason Ramsden of Ravenscroft School did a great job capturing many of these tweets). As Scott pointed out, the presentation made one realize how critical the aesthetic is when connecting to/interacting with students today. It was interesting how her talk about technology was being sketched live by conference artists!

The artist finishing up the sketch of Soraya’s presentation

World Peace Game: John Hunter

One of the most moving parts of the conference was a talk by award-winning teacher and TED speaker John Hunter. “Inspired by Gandhi’s home country and intrigued by the principles of nonviolence, Hunter began imagining how teachers could contribute to peace in the world. Accepting the reality of violence, he sought to inspire students to explore harmony in various situations, using a game—something that students would enjoy.” Watch this clip from the award-winning documentary World Peace and Other Fourth-Grade Achievements to see the game in action—it’s wonderful:

Bill Gates, Dan Savage, Amy Chua and other wonderful speakers

One of the first questions I was asked upon my return was about how the Microsoft founder, the It Gets Better Project founder, and the Tiger Mom were. It was a fantastic offering of speakers. I can’t write about them all, so I’ll share some of the live sketches from the talks. I’ll also share more about our culinary adventures (with alum Nat Stratton-Clarke ’00 and his restaurant Cafe Flora) it a future post—it deserves its own!

Bill Gates

Dan Savage


Looking forward to next year’s conference in Philadelphia.


About Travis

Head of School, Marin Academy.
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2 Responses to Design Thinking, Social Media, World Peace, and Other Highlights from NAIS

  1. Kathleen Dell says:

    Can’t wait to hear more!

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