About 180 people turned out for the annual education conference known as Big Ideas Fest, held at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and organized by the local education nonprofit Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education.

The four-day event drew individuals from 10 different countries, including a delegation of ISKME fellows from Qatar, in the Middle East, and about half a dozen Coastside teachers, says ISKME President Lisa Petrides.

“It went terrifically,” Petrides said. “It was an amazing, high energy, thought-provoking event.”

The fifth annual Big Ideas Fest drew teachers, students, policymakers and researchers to discuss ways in which they can bring innovative ideas to education. Participants created nine “action collabs,” projects that were meant to find solutions to education challenges. One such project was dubbed “Passport to the Future,” with the idea being that a student could stamp his own pass as he fulfills certain educational benchmarks rather than having to accomplish them with a mandated order or pace.

“The point of Big Ideas Fest is to have these very inspiring talks, (but) the whole idea is to have these talks and go into the action collabs and design really cool projects based on inspiration of what you’ve heard,” Petrides said. “People tell us when they leave that they’ve been transformed.”

Shiza Shahid, the 24-year-old co-founder and CEO of the Malala Fund and Big Idea Fest’s keynote speaker, was named the recipient of the conference’s Innovation in Action Award. She received $4,000 in cash to further her organization’s cause, which is to ensure adolescent females worldwide receive a proper education.

After Big Ideas Fest, Coastside teachers met with the Qatar fellows for a two-day workshop to discuss collaborating on math-related open education resources, which are lesson plans and other items that educators can use and share among themselves. Qatari teachers toured Half Moon Bay High School, visiting classes and speaking with students.

“We’ve always had Coastside teachers and principals participating in Big Ideas Fest and we have all kinds of education programs, but this is the first year we’ve brought a group from Qatar to meet with our American counterparts,” Petrides said. “We have many of the same challenges around teaching and learning.”

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