Education innovation: Our window of opportunity is here

Technology is an important tool, but it will take an ecosystem of educators, students, and caregivers to make the most of it.

  • The old adage that it "takes a village" has proven true for education in the time of coronavirus. What constitutes a "school" and who is considered an "educator" has changed out of necessity, but important opportunities for the future have come from these unexpected circumstances as communities have and continue to adapt.
  • "The greatest human superpower is empathy," says Kaya Henderson, "the ability to deeply connect with other people and to see yourself in them and to see them in you." She argues that "a part of the reason why we are so divided in this world today is because we see people as 'other' and we don't see them as extensions of ourselves."
  • While technology has become a big part of the education landscape, community is still the keystone. "I want technology to amplify and to scale excellence," Henderson says. "To amplify knowledge and to scale excellence all at the same time while paying deep attention to the human connections that are integral to education."
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Study analyzes the relationship between pets and their young LGBTQ owners

There are pros and cons to owning a pet as a marginalized individual.

Photo by Yekatseryna Netuk on Shutterstock
  • Since 2018, an ongoing study at the VCU School of Social Work has been analyzing the way pets impact the lives of young LGBTQ individuals.
  • From animal-assisted therapy practices to having therapy dogs in schools to reduce anxiety, there are many mental health benefits to animal-human interactions.
  • While the majority of current research is being focused on people who are not discriminated against or marginalized by society, this specific study could bring more clarity to how pets positively and negatively impact the lives of young LGBTQ people.
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Sex, condoms, and STDs: CDC warns about teen risk behaviors

The CDC's latest youth risk survey houses some scary numbers but shows that evidence-based sex education is working.

  • The CDC's 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that only 10 percent of sexually active youths pair a condom with birth control, as experts recommend.
  • Thirty years of survey data show sexually risky behavior trending downward among teens compared to their 1990s counterparts.
  • Evidence-based sex education makes sex safer for teens, and teens provided such an education tend to wait longer before becoming active.
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    How can we design schools to be anti-racist?

    From reassessing the way schools are funded to changing the curriculum, there are ways to fix the inequities in education.

    • Recognizing when something is overtly racist is easy, but when it comes to education in America there is often subtle and systemic racism at play that can put children at an early disadvantage. Chris Lehman of the Science Leadership Academy says that now is the time to have these important conversations and to design schools to be anti-racist.
    • Lehman says that in Philadelphia, the amount of money spent on one child's K-12 education can be $170,000 less than that of another child who lives in the suburb just a block away. These racist systems and structures are in place in cities across the country but are often not addressed.
    • Family income directly translates to the amount spent by the public to educate children. "That's one of the most anti-American things I can imagine," Lehman says about the racial and socioeconomic inequity. While funding is a major component, changes must also be made at the curriculum level.
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    Why school leadership and student critical thinking need a desperate do-over

    Educators have proven that they can "turn the aircraft carrier" when they need to, but the system needs to match their efforts.

    • For many people in the world, the idea that education is not changing at the same rate as the rest of the world became more apparent at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Grant Lichtman argues that the hierarchical systems that govern education and other organizations (military, political, business, etc.) don't work in times of rapid change, and thus need to be overhauled.
    • "What has started to replace that are vastly more distributed systems of leadership," Lichtman says. This results in more timely decision making and a more collaborative environment with more room to try new things, more freedom to fail, and the opportunity to take ownership of and learn from those failures.
    • Lichtman stresses that things like civil discourse and empathy should be made a priority in the curriculum. "We as educators and we as parents should be focusing enormous amounts of effort on helping our students to understand things like the nature of truth, objective reality, who to listen to, what is the difference between an expert and a person who just has a large social media feed?"
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