New Learning Ventures' CEO Andrew Collins recently sat down with Kelly Smith, host of the Prenda Podcast, to talk about the current and future landscape for education innovation in Arizona, including some of the most exciting trends emerging. The interview also gives a little insight to the story of our CEO, from Teach For America to school incubation to now leading the effort to support innovative educators. We hope you enjoy the conversation!
The Phoenix Business Journal’s recent cover story “Catering to Soft Skills” highlights how our state colleges and universities have adapted programs to better support students for today’s workforce.
Quote after quote underscores how employers demand more than just baseline academic and technical skills, but are seeking student leaders with skills in communication, adaptability, critical thinking, problem-solving, and the ability to work in diverse teams.
Although the article did not intend to encompass our full education system in this challenge, we fall short of filling the soft skills deficit if we don’t address the learning experiences prior to entering our colleges and universities.
Last September, I officially embarked on a journey to help Arizona educators reimagine learning experiences for children as CEO of New Learning Ventures (NLV). Two months later, my own daughter was born. Alina Rose is now almost six months old, and NLV is in the second half of our first year of work. As I watch Alina grow and explore, even as an infant, I am reminded that learning is a natural human characteristic. I never want Alina to lose her desire and ability to learn through exploration, curiosity, and, yes, even failure. I recently had an opportunity to give a TED talk at a student-led TEDx conference at Grand Canyon University. I am most thankful for the opportunity to share a vision for how we might think about the design of school differently.
We tend to agree that our youth today must learn much more than a foundational level of academic knowledge. Rather, students must develop skills like critical thinking and problem solving, and even more so the ability to communicate effectively, take initiative, be creative, demonstrate grit, etc. Yet, when we look at most of our schools today, we see students sitting in desks, passively receiving a standard set of information without questioning it, often told not to talk, leave their technology at home, and obey the rules. We invite all educators, parents, and community members to join us in creating the future of learning for Arizona.
While openness to school choice in Arizona has provided the opportunity for innovation, the intense demand of operating schools and the lack of resources for building capacity often leads educators to continue doing what is known. Nearly two decades into the 21st century, “school” is still commonly referenced as a building where a batch set of students organized by age progress through finite periods focused on academic subjects in isolation, and are directly led by a teacher for a majority of the day. New designs for the use of time, people, and physical space will dramatically change the way we think about the learning experience of students.
For decades, Arizona has championed school choice and has passed many reforms focused on improving outcomes in our state’s education system. It is true that we have seen some improvements based on standardized test scores; however, the clear majority of our youth continue to struggle in gaining the reading and math skills necessary for college and career success. Further, the 21st century demands a much broader range of skills and attributes in future employees than our schools are designed to meet. To get to a world class education - one that is relevant for a complex and changing world - it’s worth looking deeper into our current models for learning.
The following is taken from an article appearing at forbes.com and authored by Angela Swallow.
America’s last competitive advantage — its ability to innovate — is at risk as a result of the country’s lackluster education system, according to research by Harvard Innovation Education Fellow Tony Wagner.
Taking the stage at Skillshare’s Penny Conference, Wagner pointed out the skills it takes to become an innovator, the downfalls of America’s current education system, and how parents, teachers, mentors, and employers can band together to create innovators.