Just returned from an exciting two days at the BrightBytes Summit 2013. My head is spinning from all the ideas and thoughts shared by amazing educational leaders across the country. The leaders at this summer in total represented around one out of every ten students in our country. What does this mean? It means that those of us at that summit have an incredible opportunity to begin taking back those great ideas and thoughts to our district and begin sharing them with the teachers and students in our districts. It means that with the connections made and the ability to share and work together with other leaders from Hawaii to California to Iowa to Minnesota to New Jersey, we can begin to shape and impact the learning experiences for one out of every ten students in this country. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? This may sound daunting, and perhaps it is, knowing full well how education and learning is, unfortunately, being disrupted by “outside pressures” throughout our country. However, those disruptions cannot stand in the way of what every leader and teacher knows, or will soon come to know, that how and what we learn must begin to change.
Rob Mancabelli, the CEO of BrightBytes, shared a story with me about a conversation he had with an executive looking to hire an engineer for an open job position. The executive expressed with Rob his concern at what seems to be the overemphasis on STEM in education. What he was really looking for in the 1000 plus engineers that had recently applied for a position at company were people that were not simply engineers but good at design, creative and could think outside the box. If this isn’t a justification for putting the A (art) in STEM to make STEAM, I don’t know what is. The arts promote this a much or more than any subject I know.
While this one story may be anecdotal for the reason why we must change, I do think it is one of countless stories throughout the country I read and hear about daily. Daniel Pink wrote a book about it called, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the World. Employers are not looking left-brain functionality as much as people who have the ability to design, think creatively and outside the box, problem solve, communicate effectively with people of different languages and cultures, use resources and collaborate with one another. Will right brainers rule the world? There certainly is enough evidence out there to make the assertion that a vital part of a child’s educational and learning experience should be developing these skills. Are we preparing our students to develop those abilities? Are the “ed reforms” being put on teachers and administrators in New Jersey by those “outside pressures” going to lead to the changes necessary? If not, how log can we afford to wait to begin providing these learning experiences for our students despite the obstacles in front of us in education? There is no easy answer.
One thing for sure is the educational leaders at #bbsummit13 are better connected and ready to be the change so many of us are trying to create in our schools. I look forward to working with many of them in the future and seeing the dynamic and innovative learning experiences the students can have now as a result of the connections made and the sharing that will ensue in the coming months and years.