Global Innovation in Education – an International Roundtable using Cisco TelePresence

November 21, 2011 - 1 Comment

At a conference on developing sustainable, connected and scalable cities, Cisco hosted an international roundtable using Cisco TelePresence, a high definition, life-sized video meeting solution, with education thought leaders from Amsterdam, Brisbane, Hong Kong, London and Lisbon.

Some participants joined via a Dialogue Cafe.  Under the auspices of the United Nations, the Dialogue Cafe Association is building a network of publically available, video-enabled spaces that make it easier for innovators, students, public leaders and businesses to connect and collaborate across geographical, cultural and sometimes political divides.

The group came together to discuss the barriers facing education innovators, ideas to help accelerate learning and practice as well as new approaches to learning for students in K–12 and higher education.

Visit and  download the full discussion from the roundtable.

Ideas to help accelerate learning and practice

Professional development for teachers and educators

Brett Wigdortz, CEO and Founder of Teach First (London) outlined how the charity has placed more than 2,500 teachers in disadvantaged schools to work with students and raise their achievement levels. Each graduate teacher receives an intensive six-week training course with ongoing support from a network of tutors, mentors and development officers. Wigdortz emphasised that the success of Teach First lay in the extent and quality of its partnerships with a wide range of organisations including schools, teachers’ unions, universities, businesses and other charities.

Graham Keys, Director of Technology and eLearning from Brisbane Boys’ College, noted that a structured approach to professional development like the Teach First model would work well in Australia, where most independent schools tend to build their own professional development programs internally, but lack coherent guidelines and external support.

Miguel Alves Martins based at the Social Entrepreneurship Institute, INSEAD, echoed Key’s views and found that the main issue facing the Portuguese education system was a lack of insight into innovative pedagogy from around the world. He stated that Portugal’s education system was highly centralised and could benefit from global benchmarks for innovative education processes and development.

Helping teachers to think differently

Several roundtable participants described their experiences in helping teachers and educators think and deliver programs in new ways.

In Australia, Nathan Pilgrim, Former Director, Information and Communication Technologies from Brisbane Girls Grammar School talked about his school’s internal program – Passions, Provocations and Learning.

Within this program, Passion sessions provide the opportunity for teachers to share any topic of interest they are passionate about. Provocation sessions bring outside mentors to the school to provoke debate among teachers and get them thinking differently about social, political or academic topics. Learning Innovation sessions focus on pedagogy and how to reconcile the pressure between teaching a nationally mandated curriculum and subjects or topics that fall outside its scope.

David Jackson, Partner of the Innovation Unit, a UK-based not-for-profit social enterprise, also discussed his work with the Coalition of Essential Schools in the United States. This organisation is collaborating on a one-year study program named Transformational Leadership Coalition (TLC), which is funding 90 education thought leaders to study the management difficulties and best practice around implementing new education designs and models. The definition of transformational leadership is when school leaders intentionally become critically aware of their own tacit assumptions and expectations, and assess their significance and consequence in decision making.

Partnerships and new perspectives are important for innovation

A common theme emerged of schools and educational organisations working with partners to introduce new initiatives for the benefit of teachers and students.

Simon Tucker, Chair for  Studio Schools Trust outlined how a new kind of school model is being introduced in the UK for 14–19 year olds of all abilities. The Studio Schools model aims to provide students with skills and knowledge by connecting them with local employers and a personal coach. At the same time, students follow a curriculum designed to give them employability skills and qualifications they need at work or to take up higher education. While different from the traditional education model in the UK, Studio Schools do not aim to replace other secondary schools, but to complement them by providing an alternative approach suitable for young people looking for a more entrepreneurial option or alienated by traditional pedagogy.

Chris Sigaloff, Vice Chair for Kennisland in Amsterdam, a non-for-profit think tank working with government, companies and social organisations to develop programs aimed at improving the Dutch education system shared her perspectives on how to create change. So often, education structures and curricula were devised outside the country and then “forced down people’s throats” said Ms. Sigaloff. In a recent example of a Kennisland program, “SchoolSupporters”, parents were encouraged to create a supporter’s network for their school and provide input for innovative, creative school activities alongside more traditional bureaucratic school structures.

Conclusions on innovative education

Traditional approaches to education must be supplemented with innovative approaches to learning. This requires governments to think differently about educators’ accreditation, curricula and classroom structures. It requires flexibility to tailor education to individual students, rather than forcing students to conform to set curricula. Greater access to technology and ICT advances such as the internet, social media and TelePresence makes this possible by giving educators and students access to a global pool of information and knowledge. Visit our report for the full discussion.


Many thanks to the following for their participation in this event:

Chair, Martin Stewart-Weeks, Director, Internet Business Solutions Group, Cisco (Brisbane), Brett Wigdortz, CEO and Founder, Teach First (London), Chris Sigaloff, Vice-Chair, Kennisland (Amsterdam), Simon Tucker, Chair, Studio Schools Trust (London), David Jackson, Partner, Innovation Unit (London), Graham Keys, Director of Technology and eLearning, Brisbane Boys’ College (Brisbane),  Miguel Alves Martins, Social Entrepreneurship Institute/INSEAD (Lisbon), Nathan Pilgrim, Director Information & Communication Technologies, Brisbane Girls Grammar School and Ada Wong, Supervisor of HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity (Hong Kong).

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  1. This is really an innovative method of teaching and the universities and schools should adopt this kind of technological advancement in their teaching methodologies to improve the teaching experience of the students.