Collaboration: The not-so-secret sauce

With Sandbox Summit only a week away, I realize it takes a village to create content for a meaningful conference. But the diversity of the village also makes the conference meaningful.
April 10, 2013

With our ninth Sandbox Summit only a week away, Claire and I should have planning down to a science.  We use the same basic checklists every time: email blasts, sponsor notes, easel copy, maps. But the really important stuff is never formulaic. Original content and new ideas are what inspire us, and what we hope continue to entice attendees. What sets Sandbox Summit apart from myriad other conferences about kids and technology is the convergence of thought leaders and creators from diverse disciplines, together in one room that’s both large and small enough to enable conversation and collaboration.

I recently spent time with Andy Clayman, the Creative Director of Avenues: The World School, and the opening keynoter at this year’s conference. Roaming through Avenues is like visiting the school of tomorrow: every student has an iPad; writing on the walls identifies objects in different languages; QR codes delve deeper into the artwork that decorates the halls; seating is arranged to facilitate interaction between students rather than teacher-centric lessons. When I asked Andy what was one of the most important lessons he hopes Avenues teaches, he answered  “collaboration.”

At Avenues, collaboration translates across subjects as well among learners. In an art class, for example, kids were working together to create 1000 bags made out of recycled flags to showcase at a local sustainability craft fair. Some were figuring out how many flags they needed, researching patterns and materials, others were planning marketing and PR, still others were considering designs. The teacher was guiding, rather than directing. Math, economics, ecology, psychology, all in the art room! The kids’ enthusiasm made me want to stay and join in.

Over the years, Claire and I have realized how important collaboration is. Even with two of us, we can’t know everything. Sometimes we don’t even know what we don’t know.  When we begin planning each Summit, we ask our Advisors what’s new and newsworthy in their worlds. We talk to peers and colleagues. We read and research. But the real collaboration begins once we hone in on a trend. Just as I saw at Avenues School, we approach our topic from multiple angles—innovative, academic, marketing, scientific, and just plain fun. We curate the types of presentations and speakers: panels, workshops, two-person discussions, mesmerizing storytellers, and singular sensations.  We encourage Q& A, inviting audience participation. An—and even jobs—have come out of the collaborations we’ve facilitated in the Sandbox.

We hope you’ll bring your voice next week.

Can’t come, but still want to collaborate? Email me at

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