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If you’re on the cusp of a major school- or district-wide transformation effort – or would like to get one started – an Innovation Academy is an excellent way to move a large group (30 to 75+ people) forward all at once. The Innovation Academy format is intended to facilitate shared understanding, capacity-building, AND commitment across multiple stakeholders.

Innovation Academies are most impactful with school leaders who have formal authority and are in charge of building- or district-level systems. A typical 7-day sequence looks something like this:

  • Day 1, Our World is Changing Rapidly. Are We Future Ready? Starting with the why, school relevance gaps, college and career readiness, educator and non-educator workforce concerns, robots and automation, new literacies, meaning making and urgency building.
  • Day 2, What Does It Mean to Be a Connected Learner? Personal connected learning audits, connectedness ‘outside’ of school, connectedness ‘inside’ of school, digital citizenship, information literacy, crowdsourcing.
  • Day 3, Student Agency and Deeper Learning. The basics of project- and inquiry-based learning, PBL lesson analysis, statewide PBL showcase, going deeper with PBL, the research on deeper learning, school models that foster deeper learning.
  • Day 4, Instructional Redesign and Technology Integration. Instructional design for deeper learning and authentic work using the 4 Shifts Protocol, statewide technology integration showcase, strategic organizational implementation of instructional redesign.
  • Day 5, Blended Learning and Authentic Work. Blended learning models, personalized learning, authentic real-world work, modern learning audits, bravery.
  • Day 6, Action Planning Day 1. Initiation of detailed, actionable plans, with an emphasis on several key initiatives that can be implemented the following school year. External environmental scan (our changing world), new learning experiences and environments we are trying to foster for students, brainstorming possibilities, finalizing our initiatives, sharing out, getting permission from district-level approvers.
  • Day 7, Action Planning Day 2. Finalization of detailed, actionable plans, with an emphasis on several key initiatives that can be implemented the following school year. Operationalizing our action plans, internal environmental scan (stress testing and refining our plan), sharing out and check-in points for next school year, appreciation wall and wrap-up.

I’ve also done 5-day sequences with districts. We design these together!

So far I have facilitated five different Innovation Academies on my own. Each one has been customized and co-designed with the sponsoring school district (or state entity) and each has been an incredible success. Each Innovation Academy typically has met once every four to six weeks, spread out over the course of a school year so that participants have time in between sessions to reflect and share with others. Each session is rich in activity, discussion, and meaning-making; these are not days of sit-and-get!

Evaluations and testimonials are below. Please contact me if you’re interested in a 5- to 7-day Innovation Academy in your state or school organization.

Academy 1 – CCSD 59, Arlington Heights, Illinois

Academy 2 – Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools, Prior Lake, Minnesota

Academy 3 – Johnston Community Schools, Johnston, Iowa

Academy 4 – Emmetsburg Community Schools, Emmetsburg, Iowa

Academy 5 – North Dakota (Statewide), Bismarck, North Dakota

Other Academies

  • I also facilitated three years of regional academies (3 or 4 locations each year) across the state of Iowa with the support of the School Administrators of Iowa. Those academies helped launch the nation’s largest grass roots 1:1 computing movement to address issues of rural digital equity!
  • I also helped launch the statewide Next Generation Leadership Academies in Kentucky. They still are going strong thanks to the phenomenal facilitation of my colleagues at the University of Kentucky!
  • I also was a co-facilitator of the inaugural Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network (VaLIN), in partnership with Advanced Learning Partnerships, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia School Consortium for Learning, and James Madison University. The 156 school leaders across 31 districts meet together 6 times in 2019. The VaLIN network is now on Cohort 4 and I am working with them again this year.


  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for the Innovation Academy. It has been the best days of my school year. Creating an environment that fosters both deep learning and high levels of student engagement for all students is at the core of what education should be all about. The Innovation Academy opened our eyes to how schools across the world are making this a reality for students in a technologically rich 21st century. With expert facilitation by Dr. McLeod, we were immersed into topics including global connectedness, exponential change, project-based learning, and technology-infused instruction. Through the Innovation Academy our team was able to clarify our focus as a district, think more intentionally about our resources, and ultimately formulate plans for how THIS can be a reality for our students. – Kate Panek, Special Education Teacher, Johnston (IA) Community Schools
  • Over 50 members on our School District 59 leadership team had the privilege of working with Scott over the course of a full school year to examine 21st century leadership and to develop a shared understanding of effective leadership practices and tools. The collaboration and partnership was amazing, inspirational, and provided significant leadership growth. We learned that building a shared understanding among a leadership team is vital to organizational growth and developing a culture for learning.  During a period of historic change in school reform and as districts reimagine and retool their approach to educate students to be successful in life, it becomes even more critical to develop effective leadership. Scott’s sessions allowed time for discussion, dialogue, and reflection. Scott modeled and shared effective tools and practices for modern leading and learning. Our district is a better place as a result of working with Scott McLeod. – Art Fessler, Superintendent, Community Consolidated School District 59 (IL)
  • The Innovation Academy gave our district the tools we needed to develop our understanding around project-based learning, strategies to promote high levels of student engagement, and develop the next steps in our journey to prepare our students to be future ready. The Innovation Academy has been an outstanding experience! The Academy model offered high levels of collaboration and inspired teachers and administrators. Most importantly, high student achievement and engagement in the learning process were at the center of this highly rewarding process. Dr. McLeod has helped our district set the stage with in our development of site action plans focused on innovative instructional practices, professional development plans and measurable outcomes for student learning. – Jeff Holmberg, Assistant Superintendent, Prior Lake-Savage (MN) Community Schools
  • Dr. Scott McLeod’s Innovation Academy has brought innovative ideas to the Emmetsburg Community School District. The Innovation Academy has allowed for our Teacher Leaders to collaborate with each other around 21st Century learning strategies and styles. The information presented by Dr. McLeod has opened up a world of possibilities for our teachers and students. Teachers are having conversations around the concepts of preparing our students not only for the world that we currently live in, but the world that we can’t even imagine yet. Through the Innovation Academy, our district is preparing the learners of today for the world of tomorrow. – Amanda Schmidt, Superintendent, Emmetsburg (IA) Community Schools
  • Scott’s work with our district was instrumental in developing a foundation for our leaders to lead in the current context of learning. Scott was deeply thoughtful in how he engaged our leadership team, and every learning experience he lead us through strengthened our capacity and understanding not only of the modern, digital landscape of learning, but in what it takes to be a leader in this new and constantly changing space. Any opportunity to work with Scott would greatly benefit a staff, leadership team, or district. – Ben Grey, Assistant Superintendent for Innovative Learning and Communications, Community Consolidated School District 59 (IL)
  • In the Johnston Community School District we were looking to learn more about involving our students, being innovative, and exposing teachers to new ideas around teaching and learning. During this Innovation Academy experience our teachers were engaged, challenged, and had fun… modeling the experiences we wanted for our students! Working with Scott we found a great fit, bringing his ideas and global expertise around instructional technology, school design, and paradigm shifts to our staff. – Dr. Corey Lunn, Superintendent, Johnston (IA) Community Schools
  • By bringing the Innovation Academy to Emmetsburg CSD, Dr. McLeod has helped to start a mindset within our Teacher Leaders of the importance of preparing our children, not for the world that they currently live in, but the very complex and changing world that they will be going into. As a District, we have started to ask ourselves what can we change within our system to provide our teachers the opportunities to develop innovative ways of instruction that will create deeper learner for our students as well as how do we create experiences for our students to not only be consumers of information, but also to be the ever important producers of information. – Joe Carter, Principal, Emmetsburg (IA) Community Schools
  • Scott offered an Innovation Academy in North Dakota that was inspiring, impactful, and masterfully facilitated. Because of Scott’s help in building capacity, the Academy will be replicated without outside financial or consultant assistance next year. Scott is a font of knowledge, resources, and first-hand accounts about schools that are leading the way. The last two sessions of the Academy supported our educators in crafting and testing action plans for their own local contexts. During his facilitation of all of these sessions, Scott effectively modeled and demonstrated the type of learning environment he advocates for schools and classrooms: personalization/agency; authentic, relevant activities; engagement and presentation by learners; and purposeful technology infusion. – Dr. David Flowers, Consultant and former Superintendent, West Fargo (ND) Schools

Blog posts about the Innovation Academies