Future-Proofing Our Students: Practical Lessons for the Age of Agility Shared at the National Charter School Conference

In January 2019, America Succeeds capped off its nationwide Age of Agility tour with a summit in Washington, D.C. creating a tremendous sense of urgency for educators and business leaders to prepare lifelong learners for the future of work. But beyond this crucial call for action, the long-term value of this campaign is its commitment to highlighting practical solutions that real educators can use to make real change.

These practical, but powerful shifts were on full display at this year’s National Charter School Conference in Las Vegas, NV during the Future-Proofing Our Students: Expert Advice and Practical Strategies for Preparing Lifelong Learners for the Age of Agility. Colin Seale, Founder and CEO of thinkLaw and featured speaker from the Age of Agility Summit hosted a panel of expert charter school leaders who are doing game-changing work to ensure our students are “learning how to learn.” 

Strategies for Preparing Lifelong Learners for the Age of Agility

This highly-interactive workshop started by recapping practical strategies for preparing lifelong learners for the Age of Agility: 

  • First, Colin Seale highlighted the undeniable fact that we have become far too comfortable with leaving genius on the table by showcasing the shocking number of students across the country who test above grade level. By rethinking gifted education as a fundamental equity issue, schools can leverage their advanced academic programs to give all students the ability to be meaningfully challenged, every day. 
  • Future-proofing lifelong learners also requires that we end our STEM obsession. Seale shared that although he is a proud computer science graduate, education should be wise to avoid becoming so STEM-obsessed that we disregard the powerful critical thinking that comes from a rigorous education in the humanities. 

Expert Advice from Practitioners Leading the Work 

The session also included a panel featured leaders from Title I public charter school networks across the country. One by one, the expert panel shared how they are tackling each of these issues in their schools and lessons learned from previous missteps. 

  • Friendship Public Schools: Morrise Harbour, a leader of the PK3-8 Friendship Chamberlain campus shared that preparing lifelong learners for the Age of Agility requires intentional vertical alignment and that leveraging technology as a resource for the type of personalized learning needed to accomplish this did not go as expected the first time. Now, they are shifting to iPads that students can take home with them, paired with much more rigorous training. Faida Fuller, Friendship’s Chief Operating Officer, also noted that the need for lifelong learners to master the four C’s of collaboration, communication, creativity, and collaboration is a huge part of her network’s focus on the Fine Arts. As a matter of equity and as a practical tool for the Age of Agility, why wouldn’t we want to ensure that our students are able to communicate ideas, think beyond boxes, and work well with others?
  • Foundation for Hispanic Education: Dr. Segura, Chief Executive Officer, spoke passionately about the unique context of the Foundation for Hispanic Education’s three charter high schools in San Jose. These schools are specifically designed to encourage our emerging bilingual students to reach their full potential by helping students take advantage of compelling internship experiences offered through nearby technology and healthcare companies seeking to grow their employee pipeline. Opportunities in these high-growth fields help to fuel the “why” behind academic achievement. Again, the practical considerations matter here, as Dr. Segura advised attendees to ensure that meaningful internship experiences for students must consider challenges around transportation. 
  • Edison School of Innovation: Edison School of Innovation is housed within a church with very limited space. Cheryl Rose, Founder and Principal, used the session to highlight cost-effective strategies for future-proofing our students. The flexible nature of seating in her classroom spaces leverages the benefits of gifted education for all students and proving that limited resources do not need to be a barrier. And although her school has an explicit STEM focus, the humanities do not take a backseat. Once a week, Edison students spend half the day exploring their passions through clubs that operate during the school day, allowing students to experience a vast amount of exposure to the arts, social justice issues they care about, and other opportunities for collaboration and design-thinking that directly translate to the skills and mindsets they need to be successful lifelong learners in our rapidly changing workforce.

Conclusion

When it comes to the Age of Agility, the revolution that needs to happen in our classrooms may not be televised, but it will be practical. Sharing this workshop in front of committed education leaders at the National Charter School Conference was an important step in wrapping the fundamental shifts that must happen in our education system in a blanket of practicality. To keep in touch on what leaders are doing to prepare for the Age of Agility, visit the brand new Age of Agility Resource Bank.

Colin Seale is the founder and CEO of thinkLaw, an organization dedicated to helping educators teach critical thinking through standards-aligned lessons based on real-life legal cases. Read more about Colin and thinkLaw on their website HERE
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