Ohio Superintendent Gives an A+ to AASA’s Digital Consortium Spring Meeting in St. Louis

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Ohio Superintendent Gives an A+ to AASA’s Digital Consortium Spring Meeting in St. Louis

By Superintendent Marlon Styles

marlon styles - dig consortiumThe AASA Digital Consortium gathered recently at Mehlville School District in St. Louis, Mo., to engage digital thought leaders from across the country. In my first blog ever, I hope you will find my reflections from the professional learning experience as an inspiration for the work you are leading in your districts.

One of the essential questions driving our discussion asked, “How can opportunities to innovate strengthen the local economy?” This group of 40 digital thought leaders explored just that during our time together.

The site visits to Mehlville High School, MOSAIC (Mehlville-Oakville Students Achieve, Imagine and Create) Elementary School, and the Cortex Innovation Community provided the perfect fusion of united efforts to impact not just the economy, but the dreams of people. Opportunities to bring passion to life were evident to everyone.

Mehlville School District, led by superintendent Chris Gaines, has students in all grades investing daily in “passion projects.” Two students at MOSAIC Elementary shared their passion project on the Pacific Ocean. Across the street at Mehlville High School, a group of four students were investigating a crime scene looking at forensics evidence and the psychological state of the suspects.

dig consortium spring 18-blog1It was clear that teachers are facilitators of learning, providing students the opportunity to own and discover their own learning. Almost every student expressed appreciation for opportunities to engage in passion projects. They were truly inspired to pursue their dreams as they credited passion projects as a positive influence in their school community. Students were often heard saying “I can choose from” or “I know that I can” as they responded to questions about their passions.

What if every student across the country could enthusiastically express their life dreams and how their school is giving them opportunities to make those dreams come true? This is happening at Mehlville School District every single day.

The Cortex Innovation Community is an open, flexible incubator for innovators from across the city. It serves as a 24/7 innovation think tank center, giving dreamers a place to accelerate innovation. Entrepreneurial spirits flock to the center to participate in conversations at the Venture Cafe. A sign at the entrance reads “Venture Cafe, St. Louis accelerates the innovation process through spaces, programs and conversations for individuals and organizations to gather and build relationships.” This innovative concept is significantly impacting the revitalization efforts in St. Louis.

Through the AASA Digital Consortium, I became engaged in developing accessible opportunities for students to invest in their passions and dreams. It will be vital to develop synergy among pedagogy, technology and learning spaces to allow these opportunities to inspire students. The Mehlville and MOSAIC students experienced complete ownership of choice in their learning.

This visit inspired me to continue reimagining education. It has challenged me to rethink how we give students access to learning opportunities to engage in their passion projects. I left the experience asking myself, “What would a blend of the Cortex Innovation Community and Mehlville High Schools’ passion projects look like in my district?”

dig consortium spring 18-blog2So, forget everything you know about how we educate students, walk up to a white board and reimagine education in a space such as the Cortex Innovation Community. I know I am immersed in that thinking as a result of my experience with the AASA Digital Consortium.

The conclusion of the professional learning was focused on two IGNITE presentations by Brian Troop (superintendent, Ephrata, Pa., Area School District) and Carol Kelley (superintendent, Oak Park, Ill., Elementary School District 97). Dr. Kelley’s IGNITE presentation was titled Equity4All, and it was inspirational. I close this post with a commitment to help provide all students opportunities to invest in their passions. The time is now to take on this transformative idea for all students. Are you ready to reimagine?

I want to thank Chris Gaines for hosting, Mike Lubelfeld (superintendent, Deerfield, Ill., Public Schools) and Nick Polyak (superintendent, Leyden High School District, Franklin, Ill.) for facilitating, and AASA for supporting the great work of the AASA Digital Consortium.  

I would encourage all AASA members to take the time to read about the various certification and consortia groups offered by AASA.

For more information about the AASA Digital Consortium, visit the AASA website.

Marlon Styles Jr. is the superintendent of Middletown City Schools in Middletown, Ohio.