At the end of November, some of us here at the Institute @ CESA #1 had the pleasure of participating and facilitating the State Superintendent’s Youth Summit: A Dialogue on Learning and Education in the Future. About 100 students from Wisconsin Education Opportunities Program sites from Green Bay, Eau Claire, Madison and Wausau attended this invitation-only event. Since we’re not in schools every day, events such as these are refreshing and energizing for us to be able to connect with students.

The morning began with remarks from State Superintendent Tony Evers, who indicated that we cannot move forward as a state without students’ input on education and learning. The State Superintendent hosted this event to bring high school students from across the state to share their ideas on what education and learning should be like in Wisconsin. Following, Jim Rickabaugh, Executive Director of CESA #1 provided a brief orientation to students about the current education system and the faulty assumptions that it is based on, indicating that it’s time to redesign the system to better meet the needs of today’s society. The opportunity we have is to create a student-centered, customized approach — to make learning personalized for every student. Jim then moved into an interactive clicker session with the students, asking about their current educational experience, what personalized learning may look like for them, and what the most effective learning style is for them. The results were clear; one student said “everyone learns differently.” In the late morning, Jean Garrity, Associate Director, facilitated a panel discussion of students attending programs in the CESA 1 area that are more personalized. They shared their experiences with the attendees via video chat.

After lunch, the students were asked to work with their tables collaboratively to create their ideal personalized learning environment. The energy in the room was palpable as students were on task and engaged in thinking and discussing their recommendations. Each table then shared their ideas with the others in the room as the students participated in a gallery walk to ask each other questions, probe, and learn from each other. They then had an opportunity to come back together as a table to share what they learned and make revisions to their own ideas. Before closing, students were asked about their experience of the day and also participated in another clicker activity. One of the questions asked was: “Do you believe you are capable of achieving more than your current grades reflect if you were given the opportunity to learn in the way you learn best?” 97% of students said yes.

The Summit closed with remarks from Scott Jones, Special Assistant to the State Superintendent who thanked the students for their time and ideas. The information gathered during the event will be compiled into a report that will be shared with the State Superintendent.

In addition, we’ll take the insights we found from the day to our Youth Advisory Council. Planning will be underway shortly for the CESA 1 Youth Summit in March – we hope to design a new program with the help of the students on the Council. Coming from this event, we can’t wait to start planning for the next event!