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Changemakers to unite at ASU's ShapingEDU Winter Games

Program aims to design the future of education, smart regions

ShapingEDU Winter Games

ShapingEDU Winter Games, a free virtual conference, will take place Jan. 5–7, 2021.

December 28, 2020

Three days of highly-interactive, creatively inspiring and collaborative sessions are at the center of Arizona State University's upcoming ShapingEDU Winter Games, a free virtual conference from Jan. 5–7, 2021.

Described by program organizers as a “digital immersive experience” for dreamers, doers and drivers interested in learning, co-creating and community, Winter Games will offer plenty of opportunities to explore with and be inspired by colleagues who are innovating what comes next in education and in smart region planning during and after the pandemic.

“We know you have thousands of other things you could be doing while you work/learn during a pandemic, but I think this is a foundational ‘reset’ event,” said Samantha Becker, who serves as executive director of creative and communications at ASU's University Technology Office, as well as community director and co-founder of ShapingEDU. “If we don’t take an intentional pause to together address the question of, 'Where do we go from here?' we risk splitting off in different directions. This is an opportunity to bring together a chorus of voices to present and spark real change.”

Winter Games is organized by the creators of Learning(Hu)Man virtual summer camp, which brought together more than 2,100 registered participants from around the world in July 2020 to advance emergent strategies for learner success. This new set of games invites students, faculty, education leaders, technologists and business leaders to engage in a breadth of activities designed to surface the best in emerging approaches for shaping the future of smart campuses, cities and education.

ShapingEDU Winter Games At-a-Glance

Daily keynotes, breakout and hackathon sessions, lunchtime activities, and end-of-day gatherings that combine entertainment, collaborative activities and socializing are all part of the highly interactive schedule. Participants can expect to learn and collaborate with colleagues, and also walk away with ideas of how to design smart city and region planning, as well as deliver engaging online learning experiences.

“ShapingEDU is a really fun community,” said Michelle Sullivan Govani, who serves as director of strategy and partnerships for ASU’s Office of Applied Innovation and will be among the presenters at Winter Games. “Many of the people who are engaged with ShapingEDU are optimistic about the potential for technology to change lives, expand access to opportunities and improve outcomes in our education system. The reality, however, is that the work of achieving that potential isn’t really that technological. Social and political systems — including our education system — are complex, have multiple competing purposes and tend to ‘domesticate’ our technological interventions in ways that end up limiting the promise of change. There are also many stakeholders to be considerate of: learners, families, educators, administrators, policymakers and more.”

It is the continual effort to reach out to and include as many of those stakeholders as possible that leads to the consistently productive results flowing out of ShapingEDU events, and the Winter Games virtual immersive event promises to extend that process in significant ways.

“Last year UTO, along with other internal and external partners, hosted the Smart Region Summit, which focused on the application of new technologies, systems and innovation strategies that could be directed to the idea of the ‘smart city and region,’" Becker said. "It was a week of activities attended by more than 300 regional smart changemakers who grappled with themes like sustainability, transportation, community partnerships, ongoing education and more.

Cross-Countries Smart Skiing Track “Based on the engagement around this event, which ultimately launched The Connective —a Diamond Co-Convener of Winter Games — we saw so many thematic overlaps with ShapingEDU and thought it would be interesting, and very much in the spirit of Winter Games, to build a ‘smart’ track into our event. Smart campuses are often incubators to build smart cities and regions, after all.”

Cross-Countries Smart Skiing, one of three tracks to be featured at the upcoming Winter Games, is the official track of the third annual Smart Region Summit. 

Allie Nakonek Slack is among the list of Co-Convenors helping to bring the games to virtual life.

“We joined the conversation at Learning (Hu)man this summer, and Slack was eager to participate in the next gathering of education changemakers," said Allie Nakonek, Slack customer success manager for higher education and another Winter Games co-presenter.

“In our (Learning(Hu)Man) sessions and others, it gave me great perspective to consider the challenges and opportunities faced in higher education, at a deeper level than just how Slack fits into the picture," Nakonek said. "It was also really encouraging to hear how solutions developed by students and professors can resonate across and beyond the education community. Makes me very excited to hear about the ‘smart cities/classrooms’ at Winter Games!”

For more information and to register for the free event, visit the Winter Games website.

Written by Paul Signorelli, one of three Storytellers in Residence for ShapingEDU. He can be reached at

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