Education symposium to focus on 21st century learning

This is why schools need to be teaching children to think critically rather than just memorize facts, he added.

Kay, currently CEO of the professional learning community EdLeader21, will share his vision of 21st century education in Springfield Monday, when he gives the keynote address to local teachers and school leaders at the Greater Springfield CareerConnectED’s first education symposium.

“National and regional experts and pioneering local educators are all right here for a very interactive day of learning,” said Susan McLaughlin, college and career coordinator for the Springfield City School District. “Local teachers will enhance their own instructional approach so they are better equipped to help students develop the skills they need for success in this 21st century global, technology-enabled world.”

SCSD and the rest of the local consortium that was awarded an $11.3 million Straight A grant last year are hosting the symposium.

“When the state decided to fund these grants to improve education, they wanted to make sure that successful practices were shared with other districts and partners. When we wrote our grant, we proposed using a symposium to help accomplish that,” said Kim Fish, communications consultant for the district and a leader on the grant.

In addition to Kay’s address, attendees will have the chance to take part in break-out sessions including: Experiential Learning Through Community Partnerships, College and Career Readiness Activities for the Classroom, and Blended Project-Based Learning.

Many of the sessions will be conducted by consortium members who have been part of bringing the CareerConnectED center to fruition. The center will open in August at the former South High School building, which is being renovated thanks to the Straight A grant.

Kay has dedicated more than a decade to helping school leaders around the country shift from an old learning model of straight content mastery to a 21st-century model. In this model, knowledge of facts is complimented by a broader set of skills like collaboration, creativity and real-world problem solving.

“It’s not whether you know the info, but whether you know how to problem solve with it,” Kay said.

In a world where you can look up the answer to any factual question in less than two seconds, employers are more interested in whether you can work with others and innovate, he said.

Kay says schools must determine a profile of the modern graduate they’d like to create, then implement a pedagogy, policies and programs to fit that goal.

The consortium of schools — SCSD, Clark-Shawnee Local Schools, the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center and the Global Impact STEM Academy —working together is an encouraging sign, Kay said.

“They are focused on these strategies,” he said. “There are not a lot of districts that have the resources to work on their vision for the future,” and the grant has afforded that.

In his experience, many states are still mandating things that don’t fit with the new learning models — like high stakes standardized tests that only assess rote knowledge.

The key for schools that want to affect changes, he said, is not waiting for policymakers to get it right.

“They’ll get it right when we get six to 12 Springfields,” he said.

Prior to his work with EdLeader21, Kay co-founded the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. He also spent 28 years in Washington, D.C., where he served as executive director of the CEO Forum on Education and Technology.

For more information about the consortium and the symposium, or to register, visit

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