State business leaders, educators and legislative officials gathered Monday in Charleston to talk about the future of education in today’s constantly changing technology world.
The West Virginia Education Summit sponsored by the The Education Alliance offered opportunities for leaders to begin discussions on how to keep education in West Virginia on pace with the rapidly changing world technology has created.
“We need to look at how we can create a future forward program in West Virginia,” said Dr. Amelia Courts, president and CEO of The Education Alliance.
The day’s events began with Katherine Prince, senior director of strategic foresight at Knowledge Works, an Ohio-based nonprofit “social enterprise that works to foster meaningful personalized learning that enables every student to thrive in college, career and civic life.”
“Exponential advancements in technology are changing our world,” Prince said. “Now, we have opportunities on how these shifts in technology have an effect on education.”
Prince highlighted five areas where education can be molded to fit in today’s rapidly changing world: work and career readiness; customization and contribution; elastic structures; optimization of self and experience and navigating change.
She stated that with today’s advances in technology and artificial intelligence being incorporated into the workforce at higher frequencies, 47 percent of today’s workforce will eventually be looking at a period of unemployment.
“One of the key uncertainties is the replacement of physical workers with artificial intelligence,” Prince said. “But that will open the doors for people to do more meaningful, thoughtful work, but how do we get people ready for this shift?”
Prince said discussions and “deep thinking” about the current educational climate will have to be examined to help learners adapt to the changing world.
Another aspect of education in constant flux, Prince noted, is that there are so many different ways for students to learn, they can almost customize their education to maximize their opportunity for success.
“With the rise in homeschooling, opting out of testing and the lashback against Common Core standards are creating various education systems,” Prince said. “There is so much choice in the education landscape.”
In this new world of education, more opportunities for students to learn would be available than just the traditional class, Prince said, “Learners are going to be architects of their own learning.”
Prince also discussed the school systems and administrators needed to create educational structures that are elastic and malleable in today’s constantly evolving world. She stated that new technologies are creating opportunities for fresh approaches to education.
The education expert further stated that by allowing students to thrive with new learning tools, like augmented reality programs (like Pokemon Go) they have greater chances for success and teachers have more responsive learning environments.
With all the changes coming, Prince said that there are going to be a lot of people displaced as a result.
“We’re going to have to help those people navigate those changes as they struggle to adapt,” she said, stating that the more everyone works together, the better off everyone will be. “Organizations working together to create a resilient education learning system.”
Further, state leaders heard from Elizabeth Slavitt, vice president of strategy and operations from the Khan Academy, an nonprofit organization providing a “free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.”
Many in attendance raised their hand as having utilized Khan Academy in the classroom or with their own children.
The Education Alliance presented Slavitt, the keynote speaker, as an example of the future of personalized education.
“Every student has their own learning needs,” Slavitt said. “By helping them learn at their own pace, we can help them achieve their potential. Khan Academy exists to unblock barriers for students.”
Slavitt spoke about how education has become more ubiquitous and has become a process that’s more than just K-12 or even higher education, acknowledging that everyone will develop into lifelong learners as advances in technology grow.
The free educational materials available through Khan Academy help students enhance their grasp of subjects they learn in the classroom.
“It really helps students and educators close the gaps in learning, making learning accessible and good for everyone,” Slavitt said.
West Virginia State Board of Education President Michael Green said that the state board has been focused on creating policies that “encourage innovating education.”
“We all have to work together in a collaborative way to make education work better in West Virginia,” Green said.
Green highlighted that the board encourages more personalized learning across the state through STEM schools, explorer academies and other programs.
“We need to stop saying ‘we need to think outside the box,’” Green said. “We just need to throw that old box away and create new boxes. Creativity and innovation can work in West Virginia. The purpose of all this is to get kids workforce ready. Ready for that ugly word spelled J-O-B.”
However, Green said that perhaps the board has had it backwards, getting students college and career ready.
“Maybe we need to focus on getting them career ready then college ready,” Green said. “Just because they get through school doesn’t mean they’ll thrive in college. The career and technical schools are very important to students success.”
The day concluded with a five-person panel that included education officials from Ohio.
Buddy Harris, director of innovation at the Ohio Department of Education, and Diane Mankins, superintendent of the Marysville School District in Ohio, spoke about how policies in that state are creating new opportunities for students and showing signs of success.
Harris stated that a pilot program has created an environment for competence-based learning. Schools are beginning to participate in the program and officials at all levels are getting a chance to see how it works without the pains overhauling a whole education system.
“We’re taking a lot of time to look at our pilot to see what our next box is,” Harris said of the program.
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