Agility Delegation Trip to Bay Area, CA Yields Ideas, Inspiration

Silicon Valley is America’s epicenter of innovation. That is why Colorado Succeeds organized a delegation of Colorado business leaders to travel there in late November to visit with education and tech entrepreneurs.

The goal: To inspire delegates, and to prompt creative thinking about how we can make fundamental changes to our education system so that it better prepares students for the fast-changing world of work into which they’ll emerge between now and 2030.

“We wanted to challenge our own thinking and long-term beliefs about what educations needs to look like,” said Scott Laband, President of Colorado Succeeds. “We wanted to spark a sense of creativity and inspiration, how we can dream big with a broader set of resources.”

At a debrief session on December 10 at DaVita World Headquarters, trip participants transferred some of their inspiration to the broader business membership of Colorado Succeeds. They then brainstormed together, using design thinking methods they learned on the trip, to come up with ideas for Colorado Succeeds to pursue over the next few years.

One key, common element of the Valley’s innovation in education is that they’re primarily driven by entrepreneurs and practitioners. In Colorado, education advocates frequently see state policy as the most effective driver of change.

Here at home, “we have great relationships ‘under the dome,’ thanks to Colorado Succeeds and all of you,” said Jesus Salazar, Colorado Succeeds board co-chair. “But on the innovation front, tackling large, systemic issues, we’re a little light. When you go to the Bay Area, you get a different take. We didn’t spend much time on policy. It was people applying the good old Silicon Valley mindset to hacking at the problem, trying to figure it out.”

Put another way, Salazar said, people in Silicon Valley realize that “great learning is messy,” and in Colorado “we are a little afraid of getting messy and making mistakes.”

That’s certainly not true of people fresh off the “Agility Delegation.” One consistent theme that emerged was giving students more control over their educational destiny.

For more than a century, education here and across the country has been based on a one-size-fits-all model. Colorado has begun moving away from the old model, at least in pockets. But in the San Francisco Bay Area, change is more pervasive and aggressive.

Based on what they saw on their three-day trip, delegates urged advocating for more Colorado schools to put students “in the driver’s seat of their educational experience; to have them advance through material based on mastery of learning rather than prescribed seat time, and to invest in technology that supports personalized learning.

Laband summed up what he sees as the task ahead for Colorado education advocates:

“We are at an important inflection point in Colorado when it comes to education work. The world is changing at an exponential pace. Our education system is trying to keep up but is struggling to keep up. How can we help support that adaptation with a faster pace of change? How do we infuse a sense of responsiveness in the education system, so that it has the autonomy and flexibility to respond and create agile learners?”

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Ashley Andersen