20 Education Innovation Conferences in 2017

As we enter 2017 and make plans for the year ahead, one way to enhance our knowledge and network about the future of learning and education is to attend conferences geared towards educational innovators and enthusiasts. The following list highlights twenty such gatherings around the world, some specifically focused on education and others general hotbeds of creativity and new ideas that bring in interesting and relevant insights from other sectors.

1. Ashoka U Exchange: March 2-4, 2017 (Miami, FL)

Ashoka can be considered the top international organisation that supports social entrepreneurs and the development of the social innovation sector internationally. The Schwab Fund defines social entrepreneurs as individuals who work to “drive social innovation and transformation in various fields including education, health, environment and enterprise development.” Ashoka U is the branch within the organisation that works with universities in adapting their curriculum to prepare the next generation of potential social innovators and entrepreneurs to be effective in their work and leadership. It is their belief that social innovation, with its interdisciplinary, collaborative, and self-directed nature, can be a driver in the effort to bring higher education up to date for our world today.

This year’s Ashoka U Conference, hosted by Miami Dade University, will offer over 100 sessions including site visits, workshops, panels, keynotes and curated lunch conversations that all aim to build a community of changemakers in higher education. According to the organisers, “each year participants come to the Exchange asking and answering the question: ‘How can we play a role in transforming our institutions into engines for social impact?’

*Application necessary to attend. Full price registration is $850 USD for non-students.

2. SXSW Edu: March 6-9, 2017 (Austin, TX, USA)

Six years ago South by Southwest, the famous music and innovation gathering in Austin developed an education offshoot that is considered internationally by many as a must-attend when it comes to the “What’s Next?” in education. In addition to having the traditional format of keynote sessions, workshops, and panels, SXSWEdu also offers the following several other unique programs:

  • Mentors: Participants can sign up for 10-minute one-on-one meetings with experienced professionals, from classroom teachers and professors to industry insiders and CEOs.
  • Policy Forum: From “Computer Science Standards: Best Practices” to “K-12 Ed Reform in the Post-Obama World,” this forum brings to the forefront policy-focused discussions that impact public and higher education.
  • Film program: Showcases narratives and documentaries focusing on all aspects of education.
  • Launch Competition: For early-stage education startups seeking feedback, investment, strategic partnerships, and exposure.
  • Playground: Fueled by innovation through discovery, the Playground hosts a number of educational pursuits highlighting maker, STEM, gaming, virtual learning, accessibility, arts integration, and more.
  • Learn by Design: This program focuses on the design of physical learning spaces and the ways in which they affect learning outcomes. Designers and educators work together to discover design-based solutions to challenges within education, and a design competition showcases several of these solutions.

*Tickets cost $445 USD.

3. Do Lectures: July 27-30, 2017 (Hopland, CA, USA)

The Do Lectures is a series of intimate gatherings that occur worldwide and focus on “embracing uncertainty, quieting your cleverness, supporting vulnerability, and living empathy.” Oftentimes educators need the space and time to become re-inspired and invigorated to continue their work, and what better circumstance than doing it in a supportive, curious community of peers in a beautiful environment 90 minutes north of San Francisco, California? Do Lecturers share their stories with attendees in a rustic barn, and it is the organisers’ belief that “doing starts with being. We firmly believe this. We also believe that trust breeds magic and curiosity trumps judgment.”

This particular gathering is in California, but Do Lectures also happen in Wales, Australia, and other locations, so feel free to check out their website for additional info. To get a sense of previous DO Lectures focused on education, check out the following:

*Tickets cost $1800 USD for regular registration, early bird is $1500 USD.

4. PopTech: October 19-21 (Camden, ME, USA)

Poptech is an organisation and global community of innovators from many different fields—science, technology, design, corporate and civic leadership, public health, social and ecological innovation, and the arts and humanities. Their annual conference in Maine, which can be compared in nature to the TED conference (though said to be more informal and casual), helps to seek out the ‘genius in the white spaces,’ which the organisation defines as “insights that can only be discovered when people from very diverse disciplines come together, and concepts from one field are ‘mashed up’ with those from another.” An article in Take Magazine covering last year’s conference notes that “The big takeaway that benefits all of us is that PopTech identifies valid, workable projects and adopts them as initiatives to be enacted. PopTech is not just a mental exercise. PopTech will provide project management, fundraising, and share their network to get good ideas out there, actively making a difference.”

For a taste of talks at PopTech focused on education, click here.

*Tickets are now $1750 USD through April 1. After April 1, they will be available at $2000 USD.

5. The Art of Designing and Facilitating Learning Spaces: June 7-9, 2017 (Aarhus, Denmark)

Kaospilots, an alternative leadership and business school based in Denmark, has become a notable institution for teaching entrepreneurship and program development to individuals with a more creative and/or socially conscious slant to their entrepreneurial drive. The program now facilitates three-day “master classes” for 3rd level educators, program directors, trainers and edu-preneurs to create similar programs and experiences to inspire, facilitate, and design for creativity, innovation, and risk in learning spaces and education. Kaospilots has developed an ‘opportunity based pedagogy’ based on their learnings from 25 years of working with young dynamic learners and leaders. As the gathering takes place at the Kaospilot campus in Denmark, attendees have the benefit of seeing a successful program in action and can interact with and ask questions to the students going through the Kaospilot program.

Participants will leave with knowledge of informal and formal learning processes such as project work, scenarios, role plays, talk-shops, open space, peer to peer, dialogue, feedback and listening tools, offering alternative ways of working with assessment, learning, feedback, and planning.

*The course fee is €550 (+ VAT if you do not have a VAT number) or €1050 for private (non-ed) participants, consultants or trainers. Grants may be available.

6. PBL World Conference: June 20-22, 2017 (Napa Valley, CA, USA)

Hosted by the renowned Buck Institute for Education, the PBL World Conference is the premier conference for Project-Based Learning (learn more about this methodology here.) Attendees are typically K-12 teachers, instructional coaches, and school and district leaders from all over the world who wish to network with each other and learn more about PBL. In addition to keynote speakers, panel discussions, and networking events, the conference consists of professional development workshops facilitated by BIE’s expert National Faculty and staff. The workshops this year are:

  • PBL 101: Learn how to design or adapt a project for your own classroom.
  • PBL 201: After taking PBL 101, this workshop takes a deeper dive into specific aspects of designing, assessing, or managing projects.
  • PBL Leadership workshop: School and district administrators create a plan to initiate and sustain the use of PBL.
  • PBL Coaching workshop: Instructional coaches develop plans for supporting teachers in doing PBL well.

This year they have also added a full-day “Project Slice” pre-conference workshop on June 19th. Learn more about the various workshops here.

*$900 USD to attend. Pre-conference workshop is an additional $250 USD.

7. EdTechXEurope: June 20-21, 2017 (London, UK)

Described as TED talks meets the global edtech community, EdTechXEurope highlights “the now and next” of educational technology, whether it be talks from thought influencers, demos, and networking events. Attendees are typically executive level investors, innovators, and industry influencers from European and international education companies. Although this year’s speakers have not yet been announced, last year the conference featured thought and business leaders such as:

  • Jonathan Rochelle, Product Management Director, Google for Education
  • Daphne Koller, President & Founder, Coursera
  • Johannes Heinlein, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, edX

For the first time in its history, this year the conference has expanded to be a component of the newly launched London EdTech Week, a week-long celebration showcasing EdTech innovations during a series of connected and collaborative events from 19 – 23 June 2017.

*2017 pricing to be announced.

8. Future Schools AU: 22-24 March 2017 (Melbourne, Australia)

The sister event of EduTECH (Australasia and Asia Pacific’s largest education event), FutureSchools is a two day event held in Melbourne to explore the future of various facets of education in Australia and abroad. It consists of one central exhibition and five parallel conferences designed to tackle specific aspects of the future school:

  • Future Leadership
  • Young Learning
  • Special Needs
  • Teaching about and using emerging technologies
  • STEM, coding, robotics and the new digital curriculum

This year’s conference will feature speakers such as Milton Chen (George Lucas Educational Foundation), Will Egan (Code the Future), Anne Knock (Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning), and countless other interesting thought leaders and entrepreneurs. Additionally, there will be 5 interesting pre-conference masterclasses attendees can partake in:

*$995-$1350 AUD depending on which parts of the program you would like to attend.

9. ASU GSV: May 8-10, 2017 (Salt Lake City, UT, USA)

Every year Arizona State University partners with Global Silicon Valley, an investment firm to produce this annual conference that the New York Times calls “The Must Attend Event for Education Technology Investors.” The event “gathers more than 3,500 entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, policy makers, philanthropists, and educators to accelerate innovation in education and talent.” Educational startups and companies come from all over the world to present their product in front of the top investors in the field. Videos of past keynote speakers (such as Michael Moe, Futurist Peter Schwartz, William Sahlman from HBS, Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, Harriet Seitler from OWN, and Todd Rose from the Center for Individual Opportunity) can be found here.

This year GSV has created a unique partnership with OpenIDEO to find the best new solutions for higher ed in the Future of Higher Education Challenge. Winners have the chance to win $25k in incubation bootcamps and industry exposure.

*Current Pricing: $2,395

10) Creative Mornings: 1x per month (Various locations worldwide)

Originally initiated in New York, Creative Mornings is a free monthly breakfast lecture series that has grown to 158 locations worldwide. Organised and produced by volunteers, the format involves breakfast followed by a short TED-style talk one Friday morning per month. Every month there is a global theme ranging from “Mystery” to “Sound” to “Ethics” and speakers are selected based on their relevant connection to the theme. It’s a great consistent environment to connect with like-minded passionate individuals working in all spheres of society, though most come from the creative industries. In the case that you can’t attend a certain talk or want to re-watch them, don’t fret! Many of the talks are filmed and available for viewing on the Creative Mornings site.

*Attendance is free

11) Ouishare Fest: Dates TBD (Paris, France)

Founded in France, Ouishare is a unique organisation working to connect people and accelerate projects for systemic change. “We experiment with social models based on collaboration, openness, and fairness.” In addition to publishing a magazine, conducting research, organising smaller events, and helping to accelerate early-stage projects, they also organise several larger-scale conferences known as OuiShare Fest. The Fest is an interdisciplinary gathering of creative leaders, entrepreneurs, movement builders, purpose-driven organisations, and communities from across sectors and countries. With talks titled “Exploring the Future of Cities” to “Digital Networks for Accelerated Learning” to “Ready to Work in the Post-Industrial Era?” Ouishare Fest helps participants tap into ways to strengthen our future selves and communities for upcoming changes in society.

Although their flagship OuiShare Fest happens in Paris, it has spread to Barcelona and Rio and will be coming to more cities soon.

*Prices TBD, though 2016’s Fest had prices ranging from 50€-450€ depending on the type of business or organization you represent.

12. Educhange: 25-29 September, 2017 (Melbourne, Australia)

Produced by Education Changemakers, Educhange is a week-long education festival in Australia that empowers educators to curate their own learning experience. The founders of Educhange were weary of going to events “where we were told WHY education needed to change but not HOW,” so they launched Educhange to bring together doers to share how they change things for kids. Attendees have the option to attend everything under the sun—bespoke education workshops, documentary screenings, education expos, and the flagship EduChange event, EC17. The organisers also dissuade calling the gathering a “conference”; instead, “it is a catalyst for the changes we need to see in education. There are no dot-point dull presentations, no stuffy lecture theatres, and no breath mints in white bowls on tables (sorry, not sorry).”

*Free for members of Education Changemakers; $500 AUD for non-members

13. The Science of How We Learn: February 17-19, 2017 (San Francisco, CA, USA)

If you have a fascination with the physiological and psychological processes behind learning, this conference is the place to be! Attendees will connect with and tap into the latest research on the most effective strategies for learning, memory, and motivation. More specifically, they will be able to explore ways to improve instruction, motivation, and mindsets, content mastery, makerspace and design thinking, hands-on exploration, active student-directed inquiry, effective feedback, and praise. The conference is organised by Learning & The Brain, which connects educators with the latest research on the brain and learning and its implications for education. Sample sessions and keynote titles include:

  • Why Should Educators Care About Cognitive Neuroscience?
  • Getting Students Motivated and Engaged Through Interest-Based Learning
  • Why the Maker Movement Matters for Every Student: Design Thinking in K-12 Classrooms
  • The Science of Being Little: The Power of Play, Creativity and Exploration in Young Children

*Tickets are $599 if purchased before February 3rd and $619 afterwards.

14. Edutech: June 7-9, 2017 (Sydney, Australia)

The largest education-focused event in the Asia-Pac and Southern Hemisphere, Edutech is made up of one large exhibition and eight parallel “congresses.” Within the conferences, masterclasses are offered in topics ranging from K-12 education and higher education to VET sector, university, IT admin, library management, and workplace training. In past years, the conference has featured speakers such as educational theorist Sir Ken Robinson, writer Daniel Pink, Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, and game designer Jane McGonigal.

Masterclasses range in topic from Teaching Kids to Code, to Mindfulness and Neuroscience, to
Mindmapping, and this year’s congresses will be:

  • K-12 Ed Leaders
  • K-12 IT Directors & Managers
  • School Business Management Congress
  • Future Library
  • Higher Ed Leaders
  • Tertiary Education IT Leaders
  • Workplace Learning
  • VET/RTO Leaders

*Ticket packages range in price from $750-$1800 AUD

15. PSFK 2017 Creative Intelligence Conference: May 19, 2017 (New York, NY, USA)

PSFK is the world’s leading provider of innovation insights. Want to know about the future of work? Retail? Currency? Subscribing to their newsletter or perusing their site will lead you quickly down the wormhole of learning about interesting new gadgets, systems, and trends for living and working in our world of the future. Aside from publishing trend reports and acting as a consulting agency for businesses and organisations, PSFK produces their annual flagship event, the Creative Intelligence Conference. Their selected speakers have backgrounds in art, technology, design, marketing, and media, which allows the conference to become “an environment where disparate ideas can come together in new ways to fuel work that changes the world for the better.”

*Tickets are $600USD plus a service fee of $40USD.

16. CIID: Service Design Through Experience Prototyping: April 20-22, 2017 (Mumbai, India)

The Copenhagen Institute for Interaction Design offers long term programs in service and interaction design, though their world tour in 2017 will offer a condensed 3-day program for interested participants to learn more about this unique framework of design. Service design is the intentional and thoughtful design of internal and customer-facing activities needed to deliver a service. As education can be seen as a service, educators could benefit from developing a designer’s mindset when developing and refining curricula, physical spaces, and other processes related to learning. “Services are made up touchpoints across a wide range of channels from apps to physical devices to direct human interactions, and this hands-on workshop prepares you to effectively and rapidly prototype across all of them.” Though this specific course occurs in Mumbai, the same course will be offered in Berlin, Bangalore, and New York City.

*Tickets range from $750-$850 USD.

17. Fast Company’s Innovation Festival: Fall 2017 (New York, NY, USA)

With its unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design, Fast Company is a leading media brand and a fantastic source for staying up-to-date with these evolving sectors. They produce various large-scale events every year, including the Innovation Festival in New York where attendees can network with fellow designers, entrepreneurs, civic leaders. This year’s festival will feature speakers such as:

  • Melinda Gates: Philanthropist and Co-Chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Kimberly Bryant, Founder & Executive Director, Black Girls Code
  • Neil Blumenthal, Founder and Co-CEO, Warby Parker
  • Charles Best, Founder & CEO, Donors Choose

*Pre-sale tickets cost $799, regularly-priced ticket prices TBA

18. Art of Hosting: April 27-29, 2017 (Prince Edward Island, Canada)

If you’re an educator, entrepreneur, student, or community organiser who is looking for new tools and systems for having constructive group conversations that solve complex problems, look no further than the Art of Hosting methodology. It is a way of “harnessing the collective wisdom and self-organising capacity of groups of any size.” This three day training in the practice will help attendees learn participatory methods, practical exercises and new ways to engage with their community. Imagine how such a practice can help transform learning processes within schools and businesses!

*Tickets range from $400-$800.

19. Tech Open Air: 12-14, July 2017 (Berlin, Germany)

The organisers of this conference/festival that occurs every summer in Berlin write, “Technology is a transformative power that disrupts entire industries and touches every angle of life. By bringing together technological changemakers with representatives of different disciplines, we help the disrupted better anticipate the future and the technologists better understand the world they change.” As more careers become automated and whole roles are replaced, having an understanding of the shifting technological forces will give you an edge to be prepared for the future of the world of work and industries you may be involved in. This year’s Tech Open Air will feature sessions such as:

  • Entrepreneurial Decision-Making
  • Cracking the Code of Creativity
  • How and Why Social Media Changes Our Everyday Behaviour
  • How Persuasive Technologies Are Changing Your Mind

Aside from the main events at the selected venue in Berlin, there is a wide variety of satellite gatherings to attend as well, or sign up to host your own!

*Tickets range from €269-€479

20. OE Global: 8-10 March, 2017 (Cape Town, South Africa)

If you see education as an essential, shared, and collaborative social good, OE Global is a conference not to be missed this year! Organised by the Open Education Consortium, it is one of the leading gatherings in the world to discuss openness, collaboration, innovation, collective development and use of open educational materials. The fact that this gathering happening in Cape Town is no coincidence—ten years ago the Cape Town Open Education Declaration was launched as a manifesto for opening up education. The keynote panel will feature original authors of the declaration, including Delia Browne (Australian National Copyright Unit), Sanjaya Mishra (Commonwealth of Learning), Alek Tarkowski (Centrum Cyfrowe), Richard Baraniuk (Rice University) and the panel will be moderated by Philipp Schmidt (P2PU). They will celebrate their successes, reflect on the the changes over the past 10 years, and offer a look forward to the future of open education and the challenges we face.

The Open Education Awards for Excellence will also be presented at the gathering.

*Tickets range from $200-$540 USD.

As our society continues to evolve and change at a rapid pace, the need to gather and exchange ideas and best practices from within education and other industries has become increasingly evident. The above list is just a sample menu of many valuable and relevant gatherings that are to come in 2017. Our hope is that it serves as a good starting place when making plans for networking and learning more in the new year!


Weezie Yancey-Siegel is an experienced producer and writer who is passionate about new forms of learning, global citizenship, and community building. She resides in central Mexico, and when not writing and producing events on a freelance basis, she is a Program Manager for GoodWorld Journeys, a learning retreat organisation.

One Response

  1. Betsy Elias says:

    Can you provide me with the names and dates for these sort of conferences scheduled for the rest of 2018 and 2019?
    Many thanks

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