Last week, 225 personalized learning leaders descended on Silicon Valley for the Education Elements PL Summit, which included visits to schools and businesses, and dynamic discussions about personalized learning at the San Jose TECH museum. Keynote speakers and company tours left participants inspired to create school environments where educators take risks and collaborate, and ultimately help today’s kindergarteners grow up ready for team-centric and innovative workplaces of tomorrow.
Keynote speaker Jaime Casap, Chief Learning Evangelist at Google, kicked off the PL Summit by reminding participants that we have the potential to disrupt poverty in a single generation by preparing students for the realities they will face. He urged school leaders to create a culture of innovation, collaboration and iteration to more closely model the job responsibilities students will graduate into. “As a manager, I would be appalled if an employee brought me a strategy that he developed alone in 45 minutes, during which he didn’t access outside resources or the internet!”
Adam Pisoni, co-founder of Yammer LMS, followed on day two and emphasized the “Safe to Try” motto. Pisoni argued that rapid access to information and technology has changed what’s expected of students beyond K-12, and that students must be prepared to participate in “responsive organizations”. Watch Adam’s TED talk to understand how hierarchical organizations move too slowly for today’s market needs, and how responsive organizations can adapt much more effectively. Adam advocated that schools should encourage thoughtful risk-taking and an iterative creative process.
Seth Andrew, Senior Advisor to the US Chief Technology Officer, then encouraged participants to persevere in their hard work, with the appreciation and support from the president and senior cabinet.
Summit participants broke into smaller groups for inspiring company tours at Google, Facebook, Coursera, Yahoo, Shutterfly, EdSurge, and Udacity, all of which showcased cultures of innovation. We experienced everything from open floor plans built for collaboration to employee policies that encouraged bold, 10x innovations rather than small incremental improvements, and systems to reward employees that identify solutions to bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Schools like Milpitas Burnett Elementary School have taken Jaime Casap and Adam Pisoni’s lessons to heart by instilling a focus on the 4 C’s – Collaboration, Critical-Thinking, Creativity and Communication – via cross-disciplinary learning projects. For example, we observed a STEM focused maker-space lab where five year olds independently created model cities, giving teachers time to collaborate together. We also observed students collaborating on a challenging math project, and a Khan Academy chart used daily to encourage “master students” to practice their critical thinking skills.
An array of workshops ranging from the design-thinking process to supporting school leaders in new ways rounded out the event’s program. Workshop leaders represented districts from:
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, CA
Enlarged City School District of Middletown, NY
Horry County School District, SC
Milpitas School District, CA
Newark Public Schools, New Jersey
Piedmont City School District, AL
Riverside Unified School District, CA
Uinta County School District #1, WY
Middletown, NY, for example, presented on their processes for selecting and implementing digital content with a heavy emphasis on content alignment with curriculum and blended learning priorities. With over 100 educators in their blended opt-in teacher training program, Middletown has been extremely thoughtful in their selection, communication, and processes for sharing best practices.
And finally, Anthony Kim, CEO and Founder of Education Elements, unveiled his playbook for PL, which emphasizes moving from a teaching model to a learning model, and the mindshift changes that come with that.
The PL Summit also brought together a group of 10 innovative district leaders on the cusp of implementing personalized learning in their own districts. This group, supported by the Lexington Institute think tank in Washington DC, will be supported by Education Elements to to bring their visions for personalized learning to life this summer. A special shout out to Cindy Ambrose of Horry County, SC, Amy Creeden and Ken Eastwood of Middletown, NY and Dr. James Bailey of Uinta, Wyoming who will act as mentors to these budding personalized learning leaders. We’ll share more about the LELA Fellows, their work and their impact in the coming months.
A final thank you to our wonderful content partners that support and facilitate personalized learning! And now...after soaking in the spirit of innovation and the wisdom of peers, let us go forward and create schools where it’s “Safe to Try”!