K-12 Educators from Across New Jersey Convene for Innovation Summit

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NJ Innovation Summit 2016
More than 300 attendees shared best practices for transforming education by using mobile devices and digital curriculum
By: 
Cebron Walker, Editor-in-Chief

(West Long Branch, NJ) — On May 20, education leaders from across the state convened at Monmouth University’s Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) for the New Jersey Innovation Summit. The annual event was sponsored by the state's innovateNJ office.

“It was a pleasure to co-host the second annual Innovation Summit, bringing together New Jersey educators to support the creative, innovative work they are doing daily in their schools and districts,” said Kimberley Harrington, the chief academic officer of the New Jersey Department of Education. “Our educators are working to implement a vast array of new tools, platforms, and instructional best practices. The Innovation Summit gave them an opportunity to collaborate through peer discussions and to hear from the Learning Counsel and other professionals on solutions during this time of transformation.”

More than 300 educators and leaders in the education space attended the summit, including more than 20 superintendents, as well as chief technology officers, innovation officers, academic and curriculum directors, principals, and teachers.

LeiLani Cauthen, the CEO of the Learning Counsel, delivered the Summit’s keynote. Her summary view of the national education space brought home to all that one of the key challenges for educators is keeping up with ever-changing technology. “Leaders today are more and more becoming knowledgeable in software and the equivalent of digital learning objects, standards, and assessment. They need to be czars of digital understanding. They need to know all aspects of what these different tools and platforms are and how they work, so they can support their instructors and administrators.”

Link to Photo Gallery of Summit

Mackey Pendergrast, the superintendent of Morris School District, spoke about his district’s steps to achieve transformation by using devices and digital curriculum. “You have to ask yourself, ‘How do you organize your data, select platforms, support teachers and students, integrate technology and curriculum?’ You must develop a system and culture that supports students to continually ascend within our school systems and demonstrate academic and emotional growth.”

Throughout the day, there were whole-group, boot-camp-style sessions from local New Jersey executives as well as breakout rooms for small-group discussions and exercises. These presentations included “Scaling Blended Learning for Success,” “Minecraft in Education,” and “Augmented/Virtual Reality.”

A student panel in the afternoon revealed what kids today need and want as far as technology, content, and the student/teacher relationship in a personalized and learner-centered classroom. “We live with these devices and our social networks every minute outside of school,” one of the students said (and all nodded in agreement). “It’s not like it’s something else, separate. It’s how we interact with the world and it will be part of how we work. So why take it away from us or limit it when we study and collaborate with each other and the teachers?”

The day ended with a leadership panel discussion, followed by final words of thanks and aspirations for an innovative and successful next year from Laurence Cocco, the director of education technology for the New Jersey Department of Education.

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