It’s safe to say that some of our nation’s best education minds can be found in the Denver, Colorado area. And at the Learning Counsel’s Denver Learning Leadership Symposium, they could be found at the Administrators Panel Discussion. Typically, these panel discussions are free-for-all discussions where the challenges of the day are discussed, and the solutions fly fast and furious.

This panel discussion was no exception.

On the Denver panel were Dan Morris, Executive Director of Colorado Digital Learning Solutions, Jennifer McCartney, Director of Learning Systems at St. Vrain Valley School District and Khale Charles, Assistant Superintendent of Assessment, Curriculum and Instruction at St. Vrain Valley School District.

According to Dan Morris, “One of the challenges coming into this, and a lot of districts are struggling with, is how online becomes an integral part of every instructional program at every high school or middle school without being something that's considered an alternative to that school. It's a paradigm shift for some districts to begin to think that way. That's one of the challenges I've heard across the country.”

What we know,” continued Morris, “is all kids learn differently. I think 20 percent of them will learn more effectively in an online setting than they would in just a unique brick and mortar setting. My granddaughter says she's going to be a zoo veterinarian. Now she's in first grade and, I believe her, believe me. She's already picked out a course on veterinary science that she wants to take at Erie High School when she's a sophomore.”

Khale Charles said, “When you walk into your room and you turn on a light switch, as adults, we don't think about it; that's part of what we do. The science that goes into getting that electricity to that light switch, I've been told by very smart people, could take part of a college class to explain. We as adults don't even think about it. That's the way our students think about technology and online learning. It's a part of their life. They don't see it as different. It's not the district's students that are struggling with that idea. It's adults. The adults in the district that are struggling with that idea. And that's where our efforts have to be in transforming some of those paradigms.

“Our children are not after the careers necessarily that we had, nor do they learn in the same ways. And we've got to adapt to that. And actually, we'll see greater gains than we've ever seen before if we do. Our students are demanding that. And that's what's going to be the paradigm and the change that we need, is with our adults in the building. They want to go back to what they're comfortable with. However, we need to think about what our students need.”

LeiLani Cauthen, Panel Moderator and CEO of the Learning Counsel News Media and Research, said, “I want to move on to another idea. This flexibility model, shifting attention on the students themselves. This is creating a friction and it's forcing a change in structure to online, to hybrid, to things that are core-centered. They're not teacher-centric only. The student needs choice. And altered pathways.”

There's a lot of talk about personalization,” said Charles. For us, personalization starts with student choice. How can we ignite the passions of students? We heard about a first grader who's going to be in veterinary science already. That was unheard of when I was a first grader. Our students have changed. We really need to all have those choices and offerings and be able to ignite passions with those choices.”

This is just a small portion of a very enlightening and obstacle-breaking discussion from our administrators panel discussion. As the discussion progressed, the ideas flowed, and solutions were forthcoming for every challenge. Attendees love these panel discussions, and you will too. And best of all, their challenges are probably your challenges, and the solutions discussed could easily work in your own district at home.