Albert Einstein’s discovery of E = mc2 is without a doubt one of the world’s most famous equations. When Keith Wilson and Monte Westfall, successful administrators of the Lawrence Virtual School, and I began working on our workshop about equity for Education Elements’ Personalized Learning Summit (May 10-12, 2017), we chose this very equation as the title but added a new twist. For our purposes E = mc2 is transformed to Equity = Meaningful Change for Children.”
Our workshop’s connection with Albert Einstein does not stop with his famous equation. Einstein represents the students we serve, who are often misunderstood, less than excited to be in school, yet have great potential. According to some accounts, teachers found Einstein lazy, felt he was not bright, and were frustrated by his disdain for the protocols of school. He is said to have been dyslexic, ADHD, and on the spectrum for Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, despite these childhood labels, he is remembered for his contributions to science, and his brilliance.
Many of today’s children who attend our schools are misunderstood, much like Einstein. The Lawrence Virtual School works with a diverse group of students who identify themselves as: LGBTQ+ students, English Language Learners, special needs students, talented and gifted students, semi-pro athletes, professional actors and actresses, students with physical and mental illnesses, and students of color, to name a few. Successfully educating this diverse group of students requires personalization of the school experience, the creation of positive relationships, a rigorous curriculum, and staff flexibility.
In preparing our “E = mc2” workshop, we were adamant about creating an experience for workshop participants that mirrored the personalized experiences we ask our teachers to provide their students daily. None of us had attended a totally personalized workshop, and the notion of presenting this kind of experience at a national-level was seductive yet risky.
After many long conversations about the workshop, we realized we had to “up our game” and become more prepared than we would have in a traditional presentation. During the ideation process for this event, we questioned and dissected every activity and choice to ensure audience personalization. After hours of discussion we had our “eureka” moment that the ingredients to this “secret sauce” are: participant voice and choice in the topics, meaningful connections, practical ideas, student-centered conversations, fun, inspiration and a bit of chocolate.
Personalization requires giving up control, becoming a guide - not an expert, and acknowledging the desires of the participants. I won’t deny that we are a bit nervous and apprehensive about this kind of workshop, yet we know we can depend on each other and together we will provide a successful experience. We are excited to put in the extra effort to take the risk, and to deliver our first totally personalized workshop, where the audience is the driver. Keith, Monte and I hope you will join us for “Equity = Meaningful Change for Children” Friday May 12th 9:30am at the Personalized Learning Summit in San Francisco.About the workshop presenters:
Keith Wilson and Monte Westfall are the administrators of a virtual school that serves 1200 Kindergarten through 12th grade students in Kansas. The program they provide could be a model for virtual schools across our country. Personalization, creativity, rigor and relationships are the key components to the Lawrence Virtual School’s many successes.
Jerri Kemble is the Assistant Superintendent of Innovation and Technology, the department that houses the Lawrence Virtual School. @Techsavvysupt