More than 2,200 teachers, education leaders, providers, and policymakers met in New Orleans this week for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) annual Virtual School Symposium (VSS) to discuss innovations and solutions to today’s education challenges with the help of online and blended learning.

Topics trending at #VSS12 this year included:

Creative tools and schools that will leave behind out-dated models for new ways to teach and learn. Lunch keynote speaker Chic Thompson encouraged the audience to drop the “terminal seriousness,” ask why five times, and look for “what’s right?” in failure.

Competency-based learning is big at iNACOL–the leading advocacy group for competency over chronology. Audience members at Tom Vander Ark and John Bailey’s “Digital Learning Now! 2.0” session Monday said seat time is bad policy that needs to go. See iNACOL’s online community CompetencyWorks for more.

Personalized learning backed by big data is around the corner with the help of  adaptive systems, background assessments, and easy-to-use tracking systems.  Benefits will include increased student agency, higher engagement and improve outcomes.

School choice was a big ticket item, especially for Louisiana Superintendant John White who said by putting the decision making power in the hands of those who work closest to students can drive a more student-centric learning system. Digital learning is redefining stale debates on choice and replacing it with conversations about customization.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a growing solution for schools looking to turn the budget crisis into a budget opportunity. More than 30 percent of attendees at the session “You’re Already BYOD” featuring Riverside Unified School District Monday afternoon said they were using BYOD policies in their school or district.

Rethinking systems and reimagining what schools and classrooms look like in the future when you put this list together. Keynote speakers Monday morning shared some effective ideas for education innovation.

For more, view Tom Vander Ark’s “Trends, Opportunities & Worries About Blended Learning.” We look forward to the tenth anniversary of VSS next year. Check out the buzz on Twitter at #VSS12.

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