Darryl Adams, DOE’s Ted Mitchell, and more share groundbreaking thoughts

“These are not infomercials,” is perhaps the best way to describe the reinvented interview lineup recently part of ASU GSV 2016’s Innovation Summit held in San Diego April 18-20, according to Casey Green, host of the interactive interviews and founding director of Campus Computing.

In what could be considered a remodel of the education conference to reflect the disruptive change occurring throughout education, ASU GSV’s Innovation Summit hosted a diverse mix of educators, corporate executives, public officials, education entrepreneurs, and foundation officials—and Green, in partnership with eSchool News, was there to capture the invaluable advice and thought leadership from some of the most notable attendees.

Here, you’ll find a sample of the interviews recently conducted during the innovation Summit, as well as a brief description of some of the topics discussed. For even more interviews (more will be added to the current list as we receive the archived versions), visit our ASU GSV page.

Why community buy-in is crucial

Darryl Adams, superintendent of California’s Coachella Valley School District, spoke with Green about his district’s approach to preparing students for their future in a district spread across an area larger than Rhode Island that also experiences a high poverty rate, large numbers of English language learners, and historically low rates of college graduation.

Adams is changing all that through innovative programs, which have included putting wi-fi on school buses (for students’ long commutes to and from school) and a one-to-one iPad program, which works closely with Apple to train teachers and provide structured supports for students. Adams is also digitizing his curriculum — and he’s doing it all with buy-in and support from the community, which regularly uses the ballot box to vote in funding for the district’s goals.

“The real key is having true collaboration and true inclusion of everyone in this effort,” he said. “Our parents believed in this. They knew that the system was not performing as it should be; they knew there were some students getting it — more not. So they were willing to make that sacrifice and they trusted us…. That’s the difference for us.”

 

Why education’s perceived problems aren’t like paving a new highway

As Green cites recent policy briefs that chide education for not improving quickly enough for the general public’s approval, Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education, discusses why systemic change and improving student learning outcomes aren’t quick fixes—and where the real solutions might lie.

“These are systemic systems you’re talking about with huge numbers of moving parts, things like family dynamics, social systems, etc. So looking  at broad reform in education within a linear model is tough. It’s not just, give us your money and we can repave this highway and then the problem is fixed; though, many in education seem to think the solution does lie within a single point solution on a linear path (e.g. professional development). The problem is, however, that when you focus on a single point, every other aspect tends to drop away! Also, there’s the mentality that a problem addressed means that it’s forever solved. I think there’s real hope in the change management model, where the focus is not on ‘fixing,’ but keeping eyes on what’s going on around you. This model focuses on agility, iteration, evidence, gathering data, and refining practice, and I believe it has real promise.”

Green goes on to ask Mitchell whether or not education is really using data to its full advantage.

 

Next page: Scaling up from pilots to real projects

Why it’s critical for institutions to get away from the “just a project” mentality

In his interview with Dan Greenstein, director postsecondary success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Green delves into how education can successful transition from pilot and small programs and projects to large-scale implementations. He also asks Greenstein what makes some projects successful and sustainable versus those that don’t make it past a year or two.

“What we’ve found in working with institutions that are at-scale with innovative and successful programs is that those who find the most success are those that realize these aren’t ‘projects,’ but critical components to the institution’s and students’ success—the ‘project’ or ‘projects’ aren’t one-offs or scattered pieces outside of a whole, but rather part of the overall strategic institutional objective to improve outcomes and retention,” said Greenstein. “We’ve also noticed that institutions that have been trying to implement innovation for 5 to 10 years have staff at the ground-level speak in terms leadership often uses; and that’s a great indicator of sustainability and a deep infrastructure in place for innovation-based successes.”

 

The role of today’s conference as a catalyst for innovation

Ron Reed, founder of SXSWEDU, says most of SXSWEDU’s success comes from the ability to converge a diverse audience that’s passionate about teaching and learning.

“SXSW is about creativity, innovation and cultural drivers. SXSWEDU just completed its sixth event and we aspire to be an international convergence zone of those passionate about teaching and learning, both in K-12 and higher education. The more diverse the community we convene, the more impactful the conversations.”

Green also asks Reed some audience questions, including “what’s a ‘big wow’ you’ve witnessed during SXSW events?” And though there are some big names Reed could drop, it’s an organization’s name that has exploded within educational technology that he says he’s most excited to discuss, thanks to its recent traction in the education realm.

 

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury is the Managing Editor of eCampus News, and was formerly the Associate Editor of eSchool News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated cum laude from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.