Recap of The Future of Education #2: Innovation in K-12 Learning

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On March 7th, members of the Be Social Change and Centre for Social Innovation communities gathered together at Avenues: The World School to discuss the Future of Education: Innovation in K-12 Learning, the second event in a three-part series on The Future of Education. On our panel were representatives from the Office of Innovation at the NYC Department of Education, Avenues, The Future Project, and The Academy for Software Engineering in NYC.

Breakout Session

To begin the evening’s discussion, Eli Malinsky (Executive Director, CSI) asked the audience to think of transformative classroom experiences from our K-12 formal education. We then gathered in small groups, shared our stories, and identified common threads throughout our experiences which included: stumbling upon and pursuing an unknown path to creative expression, supportive teachers, connections with other students, non-traditional experiences, student-centered learning, opportunities (and missed opportunities) to be an individual, and the realization that learning could be fun. 

With these common themes of transformative education experiences in mind, our moderator Lyel Resner, Co-Founder Startup Box: South Bronx & & Adjunct Professor, NYU Stern, introduced us to our panelists and their work shaping the future of education: Andrea Coleman, CEO of the Office of Innovation at the NYC DoE, Ivan Cestero, Teacher and Director of Community Engagement at Avenues: The World School, Tim Shriver, Dream Director at the The Future Project, and Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser, Computer Science Teacher & Consultant at The Academy for Software Engineering NYC.

Eli Malinsky Welcoming the Panel

The discussion was presented in a Q&A format with audience questions for the last 20 minutes. These are some of the key takeaways from the evening:

  • The purpose of school has changed. While school used to be about gaining knowledge, students, through technology, now have equal or more access to knowledge than their teachers. School needs to focus on preparing students to be literate citizens through 1) guidance in exploring and understanding their passions and purpose, 2) developing 21st century skills like language learning, technology, cross-cultural understanding, and social-emotional awareness and 3) defining explicitly how the world’s systems operate. The challenges of living in a global society in the technological age need to be the focus of the classroom experience, because it’s these students who are going to have to overcome these challenges.
  •  We need to rethink the purpose and implementation of standards.
    • Administrators and teachers see standards as restrictive checklists for student accomplishment, but that’s not what standards were first created to be. Originally, standards were meant to remind teachers of what was going on in the real world outside of textbooks. What if the purpose of standards was reinterpreted to be generative communication vehicles for preparing students for the real world? An example: what if science professionals wrote the science standards?
    • With Common Core standards, there is a struggle in balancing depth and breadth. Common Core focuses on depth of a handful of skills, but completely leaves out more qualitative, difficult to measure “soft” skills such as creativity, resilience, habits of mind, purpose, passion, and character. In addition, 21st century skills like computer programming and world language learning aren’t included.

Ivan Cestero Answering a Question

  • Tim from The Future Project noted that focusing on standards means valuing the benchmark above the person. The Future Project combats this by investing in students as the leverage for change, rather than using the standards to try to create change.
  • Students need to learn self-efficacy and how to fail.
    • When students shy away from difficult tasks because they feel the effort they expend would not be worth the result, they miss the opportunity to learn valuable cognitive and collaborative skills through trying and failing.
    • Computer science is different from most classes, in which the format is a question leads to an answer. Computer science is more like a jigsaw puzzle – you might try a lot of pieces before you find the right one; students try, fail, and try again using a different strategy until they get the result they want. This teaches students to solve problems in which the path isn’t delineated, and gives them the confidence to be innovators, which is all about iteration, failure, and trying many times before you get it right.
    • What if we standardized a failure meter and encouraged students to reflect on how and why they failed, thus teaching them how to create in iteration?
  • The educational eco-system involves more than the school. Bringing the outside world into the school – and the school into the outside world – is extremely valuable. Few schools are currently using experiential pedagogy approaches like service learning, but these approaches help students become aware of how they can build and work within communities. In addition to service learning, what if all businesses had a placement for a high school intern? The apprenticeship approach is a powerful and currently often neglected one.
  • In order to tap into the voices of the students who are the most marginalized we can take an assets-based approach. Often, it’s the same trait that causes kids to fail in school (for example: assertiveness, strong independence, and the inability to focus on one single subject) that can cause amazing achievement. If we can give students a self-directed project, we may give them a reason to stay in school and believe in themselves.

We know there is much room for improvement in our current K-12 educational system and after this discussion there is a sense of hopefulness that if students, educators, parents, innovators and government collaborate and stay engaged in its development, we can see positive change in our youth and their preparedness for the future.

 We look forward to continuing this discussion with you at the third event in the series The Future of Education with a focus on Technology and Education. In the meantime, feel free to join the conversations with a comment here, in our Google group, Facebook page, or Meetup. We look forward to engaging in this discussion with each of you.

More Information on the Panelists:

 Andrea Coleman, Office of Innovation at the NYC Department of Education
 Connect:  @NYCschools
 The Office of Innovation (iZone) is a community of 250 schools dedicated to personalizing learning for s    students, as well as a central innovation unit that supports iZone schools and promotes innovation capacity across the system.


Ivan Cestero,  Avenues: The World School
Connect: @avenues_org
Avenues is an international private N-9 school in Manhattan with a global orientation, innovative curriculum, and campuses opening around the world.


Tim Shriver, The Future Project
The Future Project transforms schools from the inside out by building movements in schools that revolutionize the passion and possibility of high school students.


Leigh Ann Sudol-DeLyser, The Academy for Software Engineering NYC
Connect: @AFSEnyc
AFSE is a new NYC high school that believes anything is possible through software, design, technology, and the human spirit.


 Moderator: Lyel Resner, Startup Box: South Bronx

 Connect: @lyelr
 Startup Box: South Bronx offers world class programs in technology, engineering, design and       entrepreneurship to local youth, delivers extensive community outreach services, and provides support to local early-stage companies in order to connect the promise and excitement of the Tech industry with the   extraordinary creativity of the South Bronx

Thank you to everyone who attended the event! We look forward to seeing you soon!

**Special thank you’s to Stehpanie Nudelman (@_anijoy_) and Jessica Epstein (@JessicaEpstein1) for writing and contributing to this post, Daina Grand and Jessica Grand for their  amazing photographs of the event, & Sarit Wishnevski for editing this post! ***See more photos from the event here ***

Connect with Be Social Change:
Twitter: @BeSocialChange

Connect with the Centre for Social Innovation:
Twitter:  @csisl

Three of Our Wonderful Volunteers!


This is the second event in a three-part series on the Future of Education hosted by Be Social Change & the Centre for Social Innovation. Our next discussion will focus on the Intersection of Education and Technology.


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On March 13, 2013
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