SXSWedu: Smart Cities

Caroline and Carri led a Smart Cities discussion at SXSWedu. The premise of the discussion, like the book, was that every region needs to improve learning opportunities fast.

A number of contributors to the project were in the room. The panel included Katie Beck, 4.0 Schools; Katrina Stevens, US Department of Education; Don Burton, Kaplan TechStars; Christopher Nyren, Educated Ventures; and Andrea Hodge, Rice REEP.

Katie Beck said, “Ten years ago NOLA launched an innovative governance model but had few innovative schools–but that’s changing fast with the influence of New Schools New Orleans and 4.0 Schools. They are incubating new personalized learning models by remaining, “Obsessed with user feedback.”

Katrina Stevens discussed the 10 blended learning pilot schools in Baltimore County Schools as an example of moving a big system.

Good work takes time. Caroline noted historical progress in New York, Boston, and Chicago when there was sustained leadership resulted in measured progress. (See post on the disturbing trend to the contrary in state and district leaders.)

Houston was discussed as an example of regional talent development where districts and charters work together to recruit and develop teachers and leaders. Rice University Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) is an education leadership development program at the business school. At REEP competencies are mapped from education and best practices with a focus on entrepreneurship. Houston A+ Challenge was cited for supporting professional learning across the evolving Houston portfolio.

Smart Cities contributor Jason Weeby described the need to recruit and train leaders across the system, not just teachers and principals, noting efforts like Education Pioneers.

“Talent loves community,” said Beck, “A talent ecosystem can be created in every community.”

Carri described the need for aligned partnerships and the origin of the Collective Impact model in Cincinnati. Noting that collaboration isn’t easy, Andrea Hodge said, “Partnerships often require us to challenge our assumptions.” She warned, “Don’t assume you’re speaking the same language. Seek clarity in partnership agreements.”

Hodge and audience members cited the useful action research partnerships in metro Houston, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York.

The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School, developed Aurora University and local school districts, was cited as a great example of a HigherEd and K-12 partnership.

Other examples of productive partnerships included a Baltimore hackathon attacking transportation problem and the expansion of the Kaplan TechStarts to include sectors beyond EdTech.

Don Burton noted that it’s tough for little companies to sell to districts. He suggested creating test bed sites to validate outcomes. (See a post on short cycle trials.)

For more on Smart Cities, check out:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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