Conferences/Events Ed Reform/Policy

Outrageous to Ambitious

I’m always so impressed by the quality of the fully student organized Stanford GSB Education Symposium and last night’s event was no exception. I was honored to co-lead a roundtable discussion on how to apply design thinking principles to help empower global learners, specifically around re-thinking distribution models for digital content. ┬áThis is directly related to the course I am contributing to through the Stanford Ed School this spring, Ed333B: Envisioning the Future of Learning, and it was so beneficial for me to practice some of my instructional approaches with this attentive and energetic audience.

The roundtables were followed by some additional networking and a lovely dinner. The highlight of the evening was the charming and inspiring keynote address from Don Shalvey, Founder of Aspire Public Schools who is currently Director of US Ed Programs for the Gates Foundation. As the godfather of the charter school movement, he shared some entertaining stories about his first time teaching kindergarten and how his teaching craft has evolved over time, with a focus on ‘doing the common thing uncommonly well.’ While I’m not particularly bullish on charter schools as the silver bullet for ed reform, what was most fascinating is his perspective on the ~20 year old charter school movement itself and his key message that what used to be seen as outrageous is now viewed as ambitious. What was previously dismissed as impossible is actually now attainable, once you apply enough energy and investment. While charters are still such a small percentage of schools (~5-7%) they play the important role as a testing ground for piloting programs and iterating before integrating broadly into traditional schools. The innovative and fast-paced culture of some charter schools allow them to experiment with tools and programs that larger, and often more bureaucratic districts, struggle with. The most inspiring part of his address was his call to action for everyone in the room to remember that ‘education is a broad field and there is room and need for talent from all types of backgrounds.’

In a space that is often dominated by negative rhetoric about how the system is failing and in crisis mode, Dean Steele’s opening remarks and Dr. Shalvey’s keynote were refreshingly optimistic and I hope everyone else left with the same reinvigorating feeling that I did!