New York State School Boards Association

At 2030 summits, board members ponder preparing students for ever-changing world

by Cathy Woodruff

On Board Online • May 28, 2018

By Cathy Woodruff
Senior Writer

Clothing that never needs to touch laundry soap? Concrete that can mend its own cracks? How about tires that last forever?

Such products might be commonplace by the time today's kindergarteners become adults, according to technology trend-watchers. Even more profound developments could build on or eclipse innovations such as smartphones, social media and genetic mapping.

"We are preparing kids for a world we can hardly comprehend," said Bill Daggett, founder and chairman of the International Center for Leadership in Education, at an Education 2030 Summit at NYSSBA's Latham headquarters on May 17. About 80 school board members and other school leaders attended.

The event was the first of six summits organized by NYSSBA around the state this year. Others took place in Poughkeepsie and on Long Island on May 21 and May 22. Three more are scheduled for September in Erie County, Binghamton and Watertown.

The gatherings, which included small group discussions, are intended to encourage meaningful local conversations about what should change in today's schools to prepare students for life and careers in the year 2030 and beyond. NYSSBA's organizers hope the summits will arm school board members with context and questions to consider as they make decisions that will affect their educational programs.

"We want to model a conversation that can be had back home in your districts," NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer told those who gathered for the first session. Public education leaders need to be thinking about what skills students will need to be successful in a world that almost certainly will be quite different from the present day, he said.

In 2030, competence in academic fields such as computer science, technology and engineering will be essential, Daggett and other speakers predicted.

Education consultant Laurie Carey, founder of We Connect the Dots, also emphasized the importance of the social-emotional capabilities necessary to work collaboratively as part of a team, even though it's very possible that many of tomorrow's young adults will be working in jobs that aren't yet defined or anticipated.

"The future of learning, work and life is profoundly social," Carey said.

The Latham summit also featured a presentation by Hari Raghavan of IBM Citizenship, a philanthropic foundation affiliated with the tech company that created the Watson AI (augmented intelligence) system.

With help from Tanya Maxstadt, a first-grade teacher in East Greenbush schools, Raghavan demonstrated the "Teacher Advisor With Watson" free online search service, which helps elementary school teachers find and develop lesson plans for math. Maxstadt said the system saves her significant planning time and helps her develop new lesson plans that are well-matched to her students' needs.

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who opened the first summit and is scheduled to participate in all six, encouraged local school leaders to keep in mind the ubiquity of digital technology in global economics, commerce and individual careers while planning for the future.

Teachers and students throughout New York need to be comfortable using technology in their classrooms, she said, and providing technological tools and resources for all students needs to be part of achieving educational equity.

"It has to be like a pen or a pencil, and it has to be used by everybody," Elia said.

"The global economy is changing the nature of work and the kinds of careers our children will pursue," Elia added. She pointed to career and technical education programs as models for fostering important skills like critical thinking, problem solving and creativity, adding: "We've got to start marrying those with our academic programs."

For students to become proficient with technology, they need teachers who also know how to make the most of it, Elia said. She encouraged summit participants to support initiatives that help teachers become "literate" in technology, including creating opportunities for teachers who already are adept with technology to share their expertise and advice with colleagues.

"Let your really hotshot teachers be your leaders," she said.

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