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A year of #NEOchats - Your Top 7 picks from 2021

December 21, 2021

2021 is over! Or just about. 48 #NEOchats later and here we are, reflecting back on a year of enriching conversation with a broad array of people who care deeply about education, and about the people who are involved with it. Whether you watched some of the videos, or listened to the audio on Spotify, we are glad you were there with us.

So why do we do it? Well, we already wrote about that this year in detail, but here it is in a nutshell. NEO is not just an education marketing consultancy, but also a community. We believe that education has to change and move forward, that it needs to adapt to a fluid world and new challenges that transcend the old industrial era model of education with lockstep learning and a focus on employability in jobs we can't even predict yet anyway!

That can be a difficult path. Most people we find are quite open to the possibility of change, but few are actually doing something about it. We find ourselves drawn to the people, organisations and movements who are out there pushing for change. Life is short, the world is changing fast, and we need to be around those from whom we can draw inspiration and to whom we can provide support.

And that's it. We are guided always by passion, purpose and values, and they haven't led us wrong yet. We think this is reflected in the conversations we have every week, and it seems you feel the same way. Though some of our latest #NEOchats haven't had much time to rack up the view count, we have rounded up the top 7 most popular #NEOchats this year.

Why 7? Well, you are tired, and seven pieces of information is about the magic number in terms of what the working memory can hold, before your brain turns to (Christmas) pudding. Actually, the research says it's 7 "plus or minus 2" but that's not very catchy, so here we are.

If you joined us later on in 2021, this is a good way to see what you missed. Oh, and where were you?! Just kidding- you got here in the end, and that's what counts. If you have been with us all the way but missed some of the content, then you might enjoy starting with these as well. We are so incredibly grateful for all our guests this year, and for the shared sense of journey we felt in speaking with them. Ok, here we go.

1. Kimmo Kuortti

Kimmo is many degrees warmer than the place he lives! A compassionate and committed professional, who is Head of Global Education Solutions at Oulu University of Applied Sciences, Kimmo just loves a good chat about all things education.

We could have picked several topics and Kimmo would have much to offer on any of them. In fact, Kimmo just won the EAIE President's Award for "remarkable work and dedication to international higher education", so you can imagine that he is involved in many different areas of the sector.

But this was back at the very start of the year, where the sun rarely shone, and both teachers and learners were fatigued and overwhelmed in adapting to a new reality. If you were (or still are) adapting to the new hybrid or remote learning environment, this is a good one to pick, as Kimmo takes us through how his team have coped.

2. Alex More

You know how you sometimes meet someone and then see their job role and think "hmmm...that's a weird fit"? We didn't think that with Alex. In fact, as Lead Teacher of Innovation in Teaching and Learning at Shaftesbury School, Alex could not be in a more perfect role.

Follow him on LinkedIn and you will see for yourself. Each and every week, Alex is gobbling up all things revelatory in EdTech and learning design, and is as committed to research and innovation as he is to each and every learner under his care.

We talked over how to lead innovation from within an institution, but also dug in deep to some of the specific projects he is involved in. We could actually do a #NEOchats with him every week, and it would always be new and refreshing, as that's the speed he seems to operate at. Need a bit of energy and inspiration at K-12? You know what to do.

3. Loni Berqkvist

We've been following Loni for ages. Her authenticity and sincerity shine through everything she does, and this #NEOchats was no different. Loni is Co-Founder of Imagine If in Denmark, but they work well beyond the Danish borders. Loni's expertise is in Project Based Learning, and if you have any interest or curiosity in this whatsoever, you need to go follow what Loni is up to.

In this chat, we look at how Loni's disillusionment with more traditional and static approaches to education sparked a journey that has taken her to the forefront of a movement to bring PBL and purposeful, inclusive learning into as many learning environments as possible. Is this a "Trojan Horse" for wider systemic change? Find out below!

4. Filip Kachnic


This is one of those chats when it felt like we put the world to rights. Filip is an academic, but also an activist, campaigner, consultant and a dedicated lifelong learner. We ranged all over the map in this #NEOchats, reflecting on where education is going, and how information literacy and access affects the way in which we develop as humans.

Filip is a guy who knocks on doors and breaks down barriers by simply getting people together to ask why we do what we do, and what we might do better.

5. Avigail Abarbanel

This is an interesting one! The thing is that this is our least "educationy" #NEOchats. That said, it came at a time when people were ground down the rolling lockdowns and the shifting sands of education as the world reverberated in response to closed campuses, reduced mobility and remote learning.

Avigail is a psychotherapist, and the more you dig into her interests and expertise, the more you realise that this is a person who has found her calling and is on a mission to get the word out. That word is integration. Avigail takes us on a journey through our own brains to figure out what is happening through fear, anxiety and self-doubt, and how the answer to moving out of this limbic state lies in another part of our brain- the prefrontal cortex.

Sound unattainable? We would not have had so much positive feedback on this if that were true. In this chat, Avigail takes us through how we integrate these two parts of the brain, and embrace (not suppress) our natural and healthy responses to adversity. Empowering stuff. Take a look!

6. Bertrand Laborde

Bertrand is soft-spoken, understated and considered. He would quite happily talk about yoga, Buddhism and personal reflection and growth, but he was also Chief Commercial Officer at Studyportals for many years and now chairs the European Association for International Education's Marketing and Recruitment Steering Group. Our conversation somehow bridged these disparate topic areas, and opened even more. That tells you something about Bertrand, but do click to find out the rest.

7. Alejandra Otero

It's rigged! Surely the Founder of NEO Academy can't be in the top ten #NEOchats of 2021? Well yes, actually, and here is why. Alejandra has an unwavering sense of purpose that has led her in a different direction to so many of her peers in the world of education marketing.

In starting NEO and growing it to what it has become today, Alejandra has done a few things that have had others scratching their heads; saying NO to big contracts, refusing to work as a "marketing agency" and generally just doing things from a sense of purpose and not listening to the noise. Whatever role or sector you work in, this #NEOchats is for you, as it is all about listening to that innate sense of direction and staying true to it, no matter what.

Oh, and there were so many more. We invite you to check them out on our website, and reach out to them to connect. Again, THANK YOU to every single person who took part, watched, shared, liked or just lurked.

This is a growing community of passionate individuals and organisations, and sharing is what we do. Would you like to share your story with us in 2022? Reach out, say hello and let's get something in that new 2022 diary of yours.

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