NSBA Looks Ahead to Future of Education
“Advancing the Education of America’s Children” was the theme for the 2014 National School Boards Association (NSBA) conference in New Orleans. As a K-12 designer, I play a role in shaping learning environments that can advance education, so I found this theme both timely and personally inspiring. In fact, I invited DLR Group’s national K-12 leadership team to attend the conference with me to participate in keynote sessions and professional development seminars, and to catch up with K-12 clients from across the country.
What I observed during the three-day event was encouraging. Districts have come to the realization that students today are different than previous generations. Our world is one where students are competing in a true global society, and districts must respond by adapting learning environments and delivery methods to keep up with the ever increasing demands on today’s students.
Of course the conference included typical seminars for Board members about Board policies, but I noticed the conversation at this year’s event was more focused on the future of education. For instance, multiple sessions promoted the use of social media to reach stakeholders; more conversations about global learning were occurring; and the impact technology has on teaching, learning and communication were all hot topics. Gone are the days when common core is the primary topic on everyone’s mind. We are now discussing how app design or game design can be applied in the learning environment. Now that’s cool.
NSBA selected two of the most insightful keynote speakers who supported the conference theme by presenting ideas about how the relationship side of education can advance learning opportunities for students. Thomas Friedman, a bestselling author of the World is Flat and columnist for The New York Times, talked about complex issues facing the modern world. He reminded us to think like parents as we look toward education in the future. The world is at our fingertips with current technology, but only the human side of education can teach judgement….an absolutely critical skill for our children as they mature. Educators no longer need to teach facts because these facts can be searched for on smart phones or devices at any time. The key to the education of our students is teaching them how to use that information to be contributors to society, which cannot be done online or by watching a video….it must be nurtured through personal relationships.
Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity, and innovation, reminded us of the world of education outside the realm of standardized tests. All people, including the students who enter our school facilities every day, have numerous talents and passions. Current school systems sometimes squelch those talents by forcing everyone down the same path of standardized education. The educational path that we have developed and maintained for decades works well for some students but does not work uniformly. Instead of promoting and nourishing the numerous talents of our young people, Robinson believes that the system is actually killing those passions. Adults in school buildings need to know the students they are working with and they need to be able to understand student passions to foster lifelong success. The relationship between staff and students is a critical step toward a future of individualized learning.
My take away from the conference is that DLR Group must continue to validate our efforts to define what the learning environment of the future looks like, and to apply this knowledge to our school designs. Research and fact-based design will be a significant driver for professionals in our firm. Together, all DLR Group studios must continue to push for innovation and design that makes a difference and advances education for students.