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Building Education’s Future

First, a little about me.  This isn’t a story about me, it’s about something much bigger- but I think setting the stage for where a community grew out from might just make it more real.

When I moved to DC in 2013 to join EAB, I was excited to contribute to a growing movement focused on student success, enabling advising at institutions like MTSU with predictive data and organizing institutional efforts around the use of data and technology to help students succeed. With this broadening perspective around the forces at work within higher education around enrollment, alternative pathways, and evolving relationship we have with learning in the context of work, I began to watch and explore the emerging trends.

Doing so, I decided to pursue a next step leading the DC Campus of The Iron Yard, a coding bootcamp, to see one expression of these trends first-hand. Now, a month into my work at the Education Design Lab, the macro-view across pathways had me thinking about how valuable it is to step into that view and perspective of education to ask fundamental questions, and reframe our thinking about the goals and values of education.

Enter Grant. Grant is a friend and former colleague from EAB. Every time he and I get together, there’s an energy that’s created around the momentum and promise that education has today, talking about:

  • the way that technology influences it’s direction and evolution,
  • the way that new delivery models are changing the way that people fundamentally approach learning and ongoing development;
  • the way that technology is fundamentally changing the economy and labor market, forcing us to reevaluate the skills people need to thrive in the 21st century, forcing education to adapt.

There are so many forces moving at such an incredible rate- there’s a lot to keep tabs on, get excited about (and adapt to) if you’re making a career out of the education space. He and I can hardly keep up with one another.

And since Grant and I have enjoyed these conversations, we wondered if there might be other people who might be interested in joining in as well. So we launched Education Experience Design DC to fill in a hole for discussions somewhere at the intersection of edtech, education policy, education administration, design thinking, user experience, and service design.

In short, we wanted to figured out how we can bring forward more discussions around the way we design policies, ecosystems, and technologies around the student, and what that shift might mean for the future of the future design, features, and function of education?

Further, what if we had a space to bring together people who were deliberately thinking about this leading edge of education design and innovation, and are building practices into their work? Grant and I decided that was a place that we wanted to be…and that it didn’t already exist. So we set it up. As our meetup espouses:

We’re bringing together education innovators working in every segment of education: educators, policy makers, administrators, design, and edtech pros for conversation, skill building, and sharing best practices around preparing students for success in the future of education and beyond. Expect a little bit of show + tell, a little bit of book club, and great connections.

With nearly a hundred members coming together in just a few days, with the vision, now comes the execution; and I’m hoping that it might inspire and provoke those who see themselves invested in being part of this movement to stand up and raise their hand in one way or another. If that’s you, Grant and I have a few favors to ask (after you go and join the Meetup group, that is).

  • We need a space (ideally, free) to bring together this bunch of education innovators.
  • We want to build the network of folks involved, and find presenters and facilitators who are interested in provoking a conversation, leading a workshop, or presenting their vision for the future of education.
  • We’d love to find creative ways to document the conversations that take place to share them beyond the limitations of space and time at our events.
  • We’d love a sponsor to help keep the lights on to list our Meetup page, to support our speaker’s (in-kind buys of books, gear, or the like), supplies, and to help feed the (hopeful) masses as people join us on the journey.  We’ll likely ask for a couple of bucks to hold your seat as a show of good faith and a commitment to the community, but unfortunately it will take more than that to feed the crowd.

We know they’re big asks, but to chase after work that can bring such an important group together to have big discussions around the future of education, Grant and I are willing to step up and be the advocates for that space.

So, with that:

Have a space you’re willing to offer up? Know a presenter who would be compelling in front of this group of education innovators? Think your company might be willing to pitch in and sponsor an event or a series? Want to give your time and talents?

Send Grant or I a message, and let’s get started!

Designing education toward the future of work

Pressed on the question, I’ve never been sure what my journey in higher education would look like. When I was entering grad school I described it as working directly with students, at EAB it was about influencing higher education from the private sector through technology, and when I joined The Iron Yard I was most excited about the breadth of influence and the exploration of a new education model.  

Regardless of where I was working, one thing always eventually became clear: my interest in the field of higher education expanded beyond any one application. What’s more, my strengths in defining and executing strategy over operational goals consistently influence my energy and engagement.  That said, each step was important. Each step continued to light a pathway that would have otherwise been foreign and unknown, unlocked new ways to approach my career, my work, and my goals, and my perspective.  

Thankfully (and painstakingly), I’ve since discovered that my work will always land somewhere in the intersection of education, technology, student success, and leadership. They summarize the themes, goals, and driving forces behind every move I’ve made so far…with the right reserved to change my mind as I see fit (realistic, right?).

With that, the next path in that journey has presented itself. This month I’m joining the Education Design Lab team to work with traditional and non-traditional higher education institutions, entrepreneurs in edtech, nonprofits serving the space, and foundations attempting to scale impact to create human-centered solutions using design thinking (which I’ve mentioned a little about, as have others; wink wink nudge nudge Dustin Ramsdell, and I’ll be sharing lots more on in the weeks and months ahead) to design education for the future of work. The work they’re doing is just impressive. I’ve watched their work from afar, and when paths cross fortuitously (a story for another time), it’s hard to ignore.

So presented with the opportunity to serve as a designer, facilitator, trainer, and strategic advisor, it’s humbling to consider the ways in which my role might help to encourage and guide changes to assist students successfully through their educational pursuits, and be prepared for their careers and life afterwards.

My work will start by exploring alternate conceptions of the bootcamp space, engaging change management for the implementations of edtechs, and beyond– I’m so excited to get started!