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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Four Big Ideas to Improve Education for Students

We just sent Alysse, a team member at Growing Leaders, to the South By Southwest EDU event in Austin, Texas. I know this sounds cliché, but it was life changing for her. Our team just met to decipher what she learned, and I want to share it here.

math teacher

Alysse heard reports on the latest trends and direction of education, both in colleges and in K-12 education. There is a pattern you should know.

Accessibility—There is a real push in both K-12 and higher education for courses to be made available to any student, regardless of socioeconomic background. Whether online or in more physical locations, school systems are attempting to figure out how to make curriculum accessible to any student. Research reveals that both rich and poor kids have the same time in front of screens, and it equals the hours they put in at school.

Relatability—There is concern that students don’t have the opportunity to both learn from relatable teachers and study relevant content. There is a move away from “one size fits all” or “flavor of the month” courses. The school-to-prison pipeline is a huge issue in urban settings among minorities. Relatability may mean offering blended learning environments for at-risk kids.

Sensibility—A third concern is for students to actually learn what they’ll need for life after graduation. Social Emotional Learning is a growing target, creating for kids a safe place to learn life skills and soft skills. Schools must provide safety when it comes to school culture and cyber bullying; the teacher must model social and emotional intelligence in order to equip students in them.

Gamification—A final push is for schools to offer education in a relavant format that engages today’s student: games. Gaming has taken over our smart phones and our tablets, and faculties now utilize ways to harness it for redemptive purposes: to teach subjects students normally shrink from or ignore. If a course can transform into a competition or collaboration between students that’s interactive, engaging and assigns points and prizes—many students may jump on board who wouldn’t in a typical classroom setting.

Obviously, I was elated at hearing these topics were a high priority as we attempt to identify solutions in these areas at Growing Leaders. In fact, we plan to wrestle with them at our National Leadership Forum on June 19-20th and offer solutions to attendees. Terry Barber and Larry Mohl will be joining us from Jubi, sharing how curriculum can be “gamified” in classes to engage students better.

We’d love to have you join us. Register here



  1. Kim T. on June 6, 2014 at 9:12 am

    As a junior high counselor who deals with the effects of cyberbullying every day, I am interested to hear ideas on how we can “provide safety” when it comes to cyberbullying. Our issue is that all of the problems are happening outside of school, and we have no control over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. We don’t want to suspend students and take them out of their education because of a mean comment over text. We are open to suggestions, and we do our best to educate students on the seriousness of cyberbullying, but when they don’t listen and don’t take our advice, it is difficult for us to do that. Bullying in school can be controlled and handled much easier than the online things. Plus when the media glorifies cyberbullying through gossip magazines and blogs, radio shows and television shows, our efforts are thwarted on a daily/hourly basis. As you can see, I feel strongly about this, and I resent it when the schools are held accountable for something we have absolutely no control over.

    • Tim Elmore on June 9, 2014 at 10:39 am

      I totally agree with you. Your concern about being held responsible for cyber-bullying when it happens somewhere outside of school is one of the most difficult challenges schools face. I don’t have a silver bullet for you to address this problem…but I do think the wisest response for schools is to communicate to and involve the parents as much as possible. Ultimately, if their child is a culprit, and is caught, it will ultimately fall back on their shoulders, and it won’t be pretty. While I would hope parents would care intrinsically about this issue, if nothing else maybe they would care about avoiding the legal and school battles their child creates if they bully on-line. Don’t lose heart. Do what you can be don’t sweat the rest.

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Four Big Ideas to Improve Education for Students