ReinventEd Unconference

October 25 – 27 | Black Mountain, NC

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The ReinventEd Unconference is an open, participatory event designed to foster deep conversations and inspire action. It is hosted by Black Mountain SOLE, the first self-organized learning environment for higher education and beyond.


We live in an economy of ideas and connections. What used to be helpful in the past—obedience, memorization, and standardization—is now holding us back from creating real success in the future.

Instead of ignoring 21st century values—like creativity, customization, passion, collaboration, and personal responsibility for ourselves and the world around us—what if education was designed to prioritize them?

We feel the call for and urgency of a new educational paradigm that is built around these values in support of personal and planetary transformation. And we believe we can accomplish so much more working together rather than working in isolation.

dr mitra sm


Leaders, visionaries, activists and lifelong learners working or ready to transform education – and beyond! We’re also delighted to announce the opportunity to innovate with our distinguished guests, including a video address from Dr. Sugata Mitra himself, pioneer of the SOLE concept and winner of the 2013 TED prize.

Where? – 84 Blue Ridge Circle, Black Mountain, NC

The Unconference is hosted at Black Mountain SOLE, a beautiful 1,200-acre campus called the Blue Ridge Assembly. Nestled in a pristine natural environment, our campus combines an inspiring mountain landscape with the vibrancy of nearby Asheville, North Carolina.

The natural woodland campus allows participants to explore scenic mountain streams, wildflowers, ridges, valleys and spectacular views.

Black Mountain SOLE occupies several dedicated buildings, including residential accommodations for participants. Educational amenities include various classrooms, group and private workspaces, media and presentation rooms, auditoriums, and a full service-dining hall. The innovative campus is adjacent to a full service retreat and conference center capable of hosting 30,000 guests annually.


Friday, October 25, 2013 – Sunday, October 27, 2013 (see below for the full schedule)


Join the conversation!

Register for tickets today and receive Early Bird pricing before October 15.

Distinguished guests

Steve Hargadon

Steve will be facilitating the Unconference. He currently hosts the interview series.

David Warlick

37 year educator, technologist, programmer, author, & public speaker, exploring the realms of edtech or educational technology.

Justo Méndez Arámburu

Founder and executive director of Nuestra Escuela in Puerto Rico. Promoter of the Alliance for Alternative Education.

Blake Boles

Author, educator, world traveler, unschooling advocate, entrepreneur, summer camp junkie, trail runner, classic liberal.

Shelly Terrell

Education thought-provoker, The 30 Goals Challenge author, International Speaker, Edchat founder, Host for AM TESOL Free Fri Webinars

Jake Duncan

Duncan bilingual educational consulting • Kelly Jake Duncan, M.Ed. • 6th grade bilingual social studies teacher

Peggy Sheehy

Educator, Change Agent, Keynote Speaker, Virtual Education/Games in Education, MMO Gamer.

Marianne Malmstrom

Marianne is a recognized leader in the use of virtual environments, digital games and multimedia in education.

Maria Droujkova

Social changes around mathematics, including helping children make their own mathematics, Math 2.0, and community-centered learning.

Why an Unconference?

It makes sense that we at Black Mountain SOLE organize a conference on education in alignment with the principles of a SOLE (self-organized learning environment).

A traditional conference structure, with speakers, presenters, panels, etc., can send the message that we the people in front of the room are the experts. This dynamic can create dependency, disempowerment,  low energy, and complacency – similar to what happens in the traditional structure of education!

In an Unconference, people self-organize – they create the schedule, decide what they want to learn, and choose with whom they want to collaborate, thus ensuring that participants walk away with highest level of value.

We are also fortunate to have the in-house Unconference expertise of Steve Hargadon, who has been running an international unconference/”unplugged” event annually for seven years. Also the host of the interview series, Steve will be lending his talent in facilitating the ReinventEd Unconference.

What is an Unconference?

Open house brainstorming An Unconference (wikipedia) is a great way for people who are interested in the same topic to share, learn, and network in an open environment. The conference schedule is created by the attendees that morning, so, unlike other conferences, you actually participate in sessions that you are interested in, not what the conference organizers think you might be interested in.

If you are interested in giving a presentation or leading a facilitated discussion, add a comment with your name and your proposed session on our Topic Suggestions page. (See “Session Patterns to Copy“, and “To Avoid” below.) You don’t have to be an ‘expert’ either — feel free to add suggestions for topics that you’d like to learn more about but aren’t necessarily prepared to be the convener.

Adding a proposed session or topic does not obligate you to convene a session; you may find yourself showing up at the event with one or more new interests or passions. Nor does not adding a session or topic here mean that you won’t be able to convene something at the actual event. Everyone will have the ability to add additional sessions and topics when we organize the Unconference schedule Saturday morning.

Unconference sessions are not product pitches — they are opportunities for diverse people to gather together to discuss a topic they are passionate about.


Join the conversation!

Register for tickets today and receive Early Bird pricing before October 15.


Friday, October 25th
  3:00p — Check-in & Registration
  6:00p — Welcome Dinner
  7:00p — Open Space Session 1
  8:30p — Movie Night: Fully Awake, a documentary on Black Mountain College (open to public)
10:30p — Close

Saturday, October 26th
  8:00a — Breakfast
  9:00a — Open Space Orientation for Newcomers
  9:30a — Open Space Session 2
11:00a — Open Space Session 3
12:30p — Lunch
  2:00p — Open Space Session 4
  3:30p — Open Space Session 5
  5:30p — Dinner
  7:00p — Free time
  8:00p — Concert: Santos opening, Lyric main performance (open to public)
10:00p — Close

Sunday, October 27th
  8:00a — Breakfast
10:30a — Open Space Session 6: Where do we go from here?
11:00a — Open Space Session 7: Where do we go from here?
  1:00p — Check-out


Proposed Sessions

Please see the Topic Suggestions page for the most up-to-date info on proposed sessions for the Unconference. Feel free to add your own topic proposals as well.


Steve Hargadon and the Black Mountain SOLE Team: Katie Cleary, Andra Adams, Dave Dobias, Steve Cooperman, and Chris Hanna.


Join the conversation!

Register for tickets today and receive Early Bird pricing before October 15.

Session Patterns to Copy, and to Avoid

Basic session patterns to copy

There are definite patterns you’ll find at unconferences. Even though they’re self-organized, some basic shapes are easy to make and work ok.

  • The group discussion. Someone picks a topic they’re into and forms an interesting discussion around it.
  • The semi-talk. This is a 5/15 minute presentation by the convener of the session, used as fuel for discussion.
  • The show and tell. The organizer has a cool project or something to show and let people play with. It’s the springboard for all the conversation in the session. Alternatively, individuals are asked to bring their own thing to show and tell (perhaps with a theme), and the session works round-robin.
  • Learn how to do X. If you’re inclined to teach, this can be simple and awesome.
  • The lecture. This is tricky, as the basic format is low-interactive. But if you’re a rock star, or have a big, well developed idea (a book in progress, a manifesto) you can pull this off. If only 10 people show, you should switch gears to something more interactive.
  • Something new. There are other ideas worth trying – but whatever you do, let people know the ground rules in the first 2 minutes. If they don’t like it or had different expectations, give them a chance to bail before they feel obligated to stay.

Basic session patterns to avoid

  • The introvert with a microphone. If you’re really not suited for facilitating a group of 15 people you don’t know, partner with someone that is. Or pick a format better suited to your comfort zone. (Hint: if you are a good facilitator, run a session teaching others how to get more comfortable presenting / facilitating / being in front of the room. Doublehint: If you know a good presenter, ask them to run this session).
  • The zealot with a microphone. If you can’t stand to listen to people who disagree with you, get a talk show, or start a podcast – but don’t run a session. Unless you set the ground rules, or describe the session in a way that makes your stance known, expect people to either challenge you, or leave the room in frustration. More fun: find a zealot with the opposing view, get a moderator, and have a debate.
  • The bad rendition of a bad blog post. Rants are great if people volunteer to listen: so if you really just want to vent to an audience for an hour, imply that in the session name. But don’t let yourself dominate a room or force the conversation back over ground everyone else has happily left behind. Also, the unconference spirit tends to be more about “60 second rants” where everyone gets to chip in, than it is about geek soliloquy.

Join the conversation!

Register for tickets today and receive Early Bird pricing before October 15.

Extra Resources about Unconferences and Open Spaces