Reinventing Education

I spent the day on Tues­day at the kick­off of Emi­nence, Kentucky’s Frame­work of Inno­va­tion for Rein­vent­ing Edu­ca­tion (F.I.R.E.) ini­tia­tive.  School com­mu­ni­ties often unite behind ath­letic or other extra-curricular activ­i­ties, but are less enthu­si­as­tic about sup­port­ing learn­ing ini­tia­tives. It was awe­some to see the excite­ment gen­er­ated for Emi­nences School on F.I.R.E. ini­tia­tive.  Not only were stu­dents, board mem­bers, and school staff mem­bers at the kick­off event, but also many other indi­vid­u­als who had been involved with the launch of their pro­gram.  Many things from the day were inspir­ing, but the mes­sage from Terry Hol­i­day, who is the Ken­tucky Com­mis­sioner of Edu­ca­tion, was very pow­er­ful.  Com­mis­sioner Hol­i­day may have bor­rowed a line from a pop­u­lar speech with his “Yes we can” theme, and it was enthu­si­as­ti­cally received by the crowd. He noted how many schools said that that they were unable to go 1:1 dur­ing such a dif­fi­cult bud­get time, but Emi­nence said, “yes we can”.  He noted how many schools banned cell phones and social media, but Emi­nence embraced it.  For me, his mes­sage was rel­e­vant to a vast range of top­ics or issues.  In schools, and in life, we often let rules or obsta­cles get in our way of chang­ing our behav­iors or reach­ing a goal.  In schools those obsta­cles may be 45-minute peri­ods, stan­dard­ized test­ing, the bud­get, facil­i­ties, or a host of other things.  Those chal­lenges, how­ever real they are, often become excuses to not make major changes.  I say excuses because in most cases there are exam­ples of schools that have over­come those obsta­cles to improve their learn­ing envi­ron­ment for stu­dents.  One exam­ple of this would be the bud­get chal­lenges that most schools are fac­ing.  I’ve worked with numer­ous schools in Iowa who have gone 1:1, and many oth­ers who have said that they just can’t afford to do it.  Those schools that have gone 1:1 in Iowa don’t have any unique resources that other schools do not have.  In fact, most of them have declin­ing enroll­ments, which is an essen­tial part of bud­gets that are cre­ated on a per pupil basis.  They were able to go 1:1 because they thought it was impor­tant for their stu­dents and they were com­mit­ted to mak­ing it hap­pen.  On Tues­day, there were many exam­ples of how Emi­nence was over­com­ing numer­ous obsta­cles to improve stu­dent learn­ing.  Some exam­ples include:

  • They have embraced a “sur­prise and delight” approach to school, and even have included that as some­thing they look for in their walk-throughs. For more infor­ma­tion about sur­prise and delight, con­tact John Nash or visit his dLab web­site.
  • Build­ing on the last point, they have thought of cre­ative ways to have pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment. A 9-year old led one train­ing!  On another day, they had their train­ing at a local shop­ping mall.  Another was held at a Starbucks.
  • They worked closely with an archi­tect to cre­ate a great envi­ron­ment for stu­dents. In the ele­men­tary, the hall­ways were designed to look like a road and the out­side of each class­room looked like a busi­ness or other com­mu­nity build­ing.  I can imag­ine that the ele­men­tary stu­dents were pretty excited about their school! (This was done at min­i­mal costs.)
  • They are imple­ment­ing a 1:1 pro­gram in the high school called ACES.
  • One of their school buses has been equipped with Wi-Fi!
  • Their class sched­ule includes an amaz­ing list of elec­tives that should be extremely rel­e­vant to stu­dents.  I’m excited to learn more about their syl­labi for each course and will likely post about them in the future.  One of those courses involves stu­dents help­ing to solve prob­lems their com­mu­nity is fac­ing.  Another course, the one that I’m most excited about, will have stu­dents try­ing to cre­ate a large dig­i­tal foot­print around a char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion.  They will use social media to spread their mes­sage around the world.
  • Stu­dents will col­lab­o­rate with stu­dents from a promi­nent high school in the UK.

These are just some exam­ples of the excit­ing things that they have done.  They also high­light how schools CAN rein­vent them­selves if they truly want to do so!  I hope to fol­low their school closely and write about some of the chal­lenges and suc­cesses that they encounter on their jour­ney.  It is extremely excit­ing to be involved with a school that is very aggres­sively think­ing of cre­ative ways to improve their schools. Emi­nence closed their cel­e­bra­tion with a rap from stu­dent Bran­don Mitchell, and part of his wrap is below.  If you’d like to see the entire set of lyrics, you can find them here.

You know I love those ACES
I ain’t talkin bout the card
But with all these Apple prod­ucts
Got me feel­ing like Steve Jobs

With all these advances
a new era is now enter­ing
Schools are mak­ing progress
time to move into this century

B. E. Ready, B. E. Ready
B. E. Ready… For fire
B. E. Ready, B. E. Ready
B. E. Ready… For fire

Accom­plish the impos­si­ble
Were liv­ing by this code
No bet­ter way to start it
Then with Mac­Book Pros

Assign­ing them to stu­dents
Each and every indi­vid­ual
We take the school and flip it
You can call it the reciprocal

Nick Sauers


  1. […] Dr. Nick Sauers, a 1 to 1 guru and blog­ger from the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky com­mented here. […]

  2. Sherman says:

    Pretty! This was an extremely won­der­ful arti­cle. Many
    thanks for pro­vid­ing this info.

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