When we began planning the INSPIRE 2013 Conference, we dreamed that this inaugural event would generate great energy and enthusiasm. With approximately 300 people attending, from across New England and as far away as New York and Canada, it is clear that our vision about the need for a new kind of conversation about the future of education is one that many people share.
We formed the National Institute for Student-Centered Education (NISCE) in 2012 with a simple premise: that centering on understanding the needs of the individual student, first and foremost, fosters better quality education and a more rewarding experience for students and educators alike. Today’s public debate too often centers on how to meet the demands of globalism through standards-based education, testing and accountability. Schools are under pressure to provide equal access to all students while still attending to the variability reflected in the enrolled students. The pure size of the challenge often results in applications of more layers of rigid, standardized approaches. This is not a criticism – it is a reflection of the challenges large public institutions face in adapting to our diverse population.
What many education institutions and discussions fail to account for are three critical considerations, which render a one-size-fits-all approach to education less than effective:
- Research, such as that described by our keynote speaker Todd Rose, that shows variability in brain development is best supported by more custom-tailored approaches to education;
- The varying levels of emotional development and life circumstance of our children and youth and their impact on student’s resilience within the classroom environment; and
- The explosion of technology requiring ‘teachers’ to be more brokers of ideas and information, rather than content experts, who invite young people into the world of knowledge, citizenship and rewarding work.
With the formation of NISCE and the launch of the INSPIRE Conference series, we are simply seeking to create a dialogue around these important issues as we seek common ground on a way to more effectively educate our children in the 21st century. We are not presumptuous enough to believe that ours is the only way or that by hosting one conference, we have radically changed the direction of education. What we hope is that our first conference helped to initiate and foster an ongoing discussion that will generate consensus on new approaches that can be offered as future standards for our own and other institutions.
Honorary Conference Chair, Dr. Larry Myatt, helped to set the thematic spirit for INSPIRE 2013 and for the future discussions we hope to have when in an earlier post he spoke of a future where “We’d want smaller more inviting settings in our schools, yet at the same time, more opportunity to be out of them, purposefully out in the world, connecting to places and people, getting back to the multi-generational authentic learning contexts that served us well prior to “industrial” notions of school. I would want and expect schools to look very different given the local context, physical and human resources, the values and goals of each community, and very permeable to the outside world, from governance to learning to developing real accountability, the kind that eludes policy makers –students showing what they know and can do to folks who know and care about them.”
We understand that to achieve this reality, particularly within the complexities of the nation’s varied geographies, economies and funding sources, let alone global pressures, is not easy. Only through sustained conversation and willingness to challenge conventional thinking can we hope to advance this discussion and vision. My hope is that NISCE can be a catalyst for this, providing data and venues for discussion. Over the coming months we will continue to host our monthly Conversation series, aimed at continuing dialogue around the important themes touched on at this conference. We will also provide robust data and the opportunity to connect with us through our flagship web site. Finally, we are committed to hosting another INSPIRE Conference in 2014 that promises to build on the energy and enthusiasm of this year’s first ever. Please continue to visit www.nisce.org for a continuing stream of information.
As we move forward with our mission, I want to extend special thanks to our hard working organizing committee, our financial underwriters, the excellent speakers and workshop leaders and the enthusiastic and broad range of professionals who came together to spend a day getting energized about our work with young people.
I look forward to being a member of this important agenda in 2013 and beyond.
Dr. Ted Wilson
Executive Director, National Institute for Student-Centered Education
President, Schools for Children, Inc