“I believe you and your team tapped into something extremely powerful which is often overlooked at other events. You involved a number of the US and Italian community members, in addition to the diaspora and those with Italian heritage, as leverage to drive the conversation way beyond education and innovation and into something much deeper and into discussions of a more existential nature about what it is we are actually trying to achieve right now.”
Welcome to a special CER Newswire, covering highlights of last week’s US- Italia Ed Innovation Festival in Ercolano, Italy. It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, we gathered for the first-ever global EdTech festival in Italy, to bring about the kind of Educational Renaissance that today’s challenges require. A few highlights showing the incredible convergence of the innovators gathered there, here and everywhere awaits you, as does an ever growing video gallerywhich is ready for your viewing pleasure!
ERCOLANO COMES ALIVE! VIRTUAL TRANSPORT TO A CITY ONCE BURIED UNDER THE ASHES OF MT. VESUVIUS. Our first session took us back almost 2,100 years to the eruption of Vesuvius. With the guidance of Marco Cappellini, co-founder & CEO of Centrica, we saw what digital technologies, AR, MR and VR can do to make history come alive. Earlier that week, educator and VR practitioner Michael McDonald, took students from Hawaii to Italy and beyond for a virtual reality simulation tour of Ercolano! Not only did these tours show students and teachers a new city, but it also illuminated the way technology can shape and broaden learning for all regardless of where you are located! You can view these videos here.
IMPOSSIBLE? Nope, we are intrepid! Just a few months ago, amidst all the complications surrounding COVID-19, there was no certainty that the event, which was intended to bring edtech innovators and education revolutionaries across the globe together to uncover and connect with technologies and innovative practices that will broaden the horizon of learning, teaching and career across the globe, could possibly happen. However, after many consulate calls and collaborative meetings with our partners in Bella Italia, we were able to pull this off after all and just weeks later, a small group of education pioneers and participants found themselves just steps away from Mt. Vesuvius in the beautiful town of Ercolano, while the rest of the speakers, participants, teachers and students joined in virtually from around the world.
As educator and VR practitioner Michael McDonald puts it: “The energy which surrounded the event really did make it feel like we were contributing to verbalizing what might spark that much-needed renaissance which you spoke so often about, and the inspiring talks and pertinent questions asked really added more fuel to my already burning desire to stamp a positive mark on the world.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
HOW LIVING IN A PANDEMIC IS CONNECTING MINDS ACROSS THE GLOBE. “A school is a place students learn, but they learn from the environment as much as the curriculum. Ours is a school that is globally connected, and students will have constant lessons,” Chris Whittle, Chairman and CEO of Whittle School and Studios says as he talked about re-imagining education as a global institution.
Italian-Americans were over-represented at the event, an intentional and natural consequence of the adventurous and entrepreneurial mindset that infects those of us with that heritage, especially! Take the amazing Carol D’Amico of Strada, Antonio Roca of Academica Virtual Education and Nate Davis, (Italian by passion!) the CEO of K12 Inc. whose leadership is driving boundless changes in education. Without their organizations, COVID’s impact would have been even more disastrous. “Technology transports learning. It makes our world smaller, it connects us. School does not have to end locally, it can expand.” This theme would be repeated and demonstrated over and over again.
Can a US edtech company solve Italy’s challenges? No matter where you are, said Newsela’s Lyman Missimer, you can and must establish equity and accessibility. That is the mission of education.
DUAL COUNTRY DIPLOMAS? Certo! By leveraging 21st century technology the Academica International Dual Diploma program makes it possible for thousands of students around the world to obtain a fully accredited U.S. high school diploma from their home country. Using technology
and its digital platform, over 12,000 students from 11 countries are acquiring skills for the workplace of the future. Richard Collins (pictured here) & Kay Scettro came down from Verona to share their novel program, and quickly gained new outlets.
THE EDUCATIONAL LANDSCAPE ON A GLOBAL SCALE. The disruption caused by COVID revealed the limits and weaknesses of education systems around the world. Schools in Italy had to adapt and rely on technology that wasn’t widely available and move fast to get teachers trained. A panel of Maieutical Labs Co-Founder Adriano Allora, Ingenium Education CEO Daniele Denti and computer science engineer and high school teacher Paolo Tealdi was moderated by Zanichelli Venture director Enrico Poli. Poli tells Italian educators and edtech leaders, “we are missing trust from our students — we need to give our students trust in the future and in our education system in Italy. Possibly then we can be competitive with the US.”
Because the Italian Ministry of Education accelerated their transition from paper to digital assessments some years ago, they were able to judge the effect of COVID19 on learning loss quicker than many of their global colleagues. INVALSI CEO Roberto Ricci and TAO Testing CEO Marc Oswald explored what measures the country has and is adopting for fall 2020 to track COVID19 learning loss. In the panel US & Italian Breakthroughs for Career Success, Jamey Heit, Co-Founder CEO of Ecree, Inc. explains that even before COVID, the way the United States was teaching [writing] wasn’t working and we must trust and embrace technology: “the opportunity to recognize the shortcomings gives us the opportunity to make education better.”
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE OF WORK? The pandemic has accelerated the need for students to have sets of business and digital skills.” The future of work has become the present of work”, says Matt Sigelman of CEO, Burning Glass Technologies (another paisano!). In a world where more jobs are hybrids, mixing and matching skills from different fields, students need not only the core academic foundations Italian and US universities have had for years, they need to acquire future skills. Moderated by Ulrik Christensen, CEO of Area9 Group, (pictured here), a group of cutting-edge pioneers reshape the way we think about higher education to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow and bridge the gap between university and career. “We will see if this (online education, global crisis) is a reset for education — or will this too pass?” asks Carol D’Amico, Executive VP of Strada Education Network.
COVID NECESSITATES INNOVATION. Most folks not wedded to the education establishment realize that innovation — while always essential for school success — is even more important now with the changes necessary to deal with COVID. Minerva founder and CEO Ben Nelson and GSV Founder and CEO Michael Moe emphasized, and re-emphasized, that innovation is absolutely necessary today — and into the future — and those concerned with providing cutting edge education must, not should but must, embrace it. Rewatch this powerful discussion.
SHE WALKS THE WALK, as well as talks the talk, is a fitting introduction to our speaker who closed out day two. Former Democrat U.S. Senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu shared with Donald Hense, founder of Friendship Public Charter Schools very frank and unfiltered opinions — formed by decades of experience in the political rough and tumble — on what it takes to enact meaningful educational change in places like D.C., Louisiana and elsewhere around the world. This is one strong lady.
PREPARING STUDENTS TO WORK. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige conducted an in depth discussion with business executive and workforce development expert — and his wife — Stephanie Nellons Paige, on the absolute necessity of collaborating with educators and industry to prepare the workforce of the future. We need to make certain that our education system is not graduating human equivalents of the eight track tape deck.
SHARK TANK! FISHING FOR INVESTMENT TREND INSIGHTS, INNOVATOR SECRETS AND START-UP PITCHES: A not to be missed recap of this event will be up on our website soon, and features EdTech giants like Isabelle Hau, and Andre Bennin who shared some of their investor secrets and insights on cross-generational solutions for online learning after listening to various start-up pitches the Festival-StartED Accelerator co-sponsored Shark Tank, followed by a review of investment trends. “At the end of the day, investment is about efficacy and whether solutions are designed to provide access, remove friction, and ultimately make students successful,” said George Straschnov, Managing Director of Bisk Ventures. Imaginable Futures Venture partner Vinice Davis looks for comprehensive solutions. For her, “helping children build networks & connections in school is equally important as academics.”
DESTINY IS NOT…WELL…DESTINY. In both Italy and the U.S. access to great education is still too much determined by zip code, gender, socioeconomic class and race. Moderated by Janine Walker-Caffrey, a high-powered panel of Scott Bess, Purdue Polytechnic High School Head of School; Lorenzo Cesaretti, CEO of Talent SRL; Nick Paradiso, VP of government relations and partner services for National Heritage Academies; Scott Barron, Founder and Chief Reinvention Officer for School Growth LLC; and Fiorenza Quercioli, language resource specialist at Stanford University – Bing Overseas Study Center in Florence took on the challenge of how to change that paradigm. The answer is innovation, innovation and more innovation…if the education bosses will let it happen.
WHY ITALY? As Jeanne Allen, CER’s visionary founder spoke about in her opening remarks, it’s the cradle of civilization, where the very first kind of technologies — in science, art and invention — converged to give us services, conveniences and beauty that still touch our lives (think plumbing, among other things). And it’s where the pursuit of knowledge gave way to the study of history, and ultimately the Renaissance.
We seek a new Education Renaissance that once again ensures knowledge is paramount, ensuring that all may access the future.
Leaders throughout Italy, including The Mayor of Naples, numerous and business leaders have thanked us for our “investment” in the education and career futures of the people of Italy, and were grateful we made the extra effort to convene despite the conditions and the discouragement of travel along the way!
We are incredibly grateful for our sponsors Academica, Area9 Lyceum, Minerva, Novotech, Strada Education Network, Texas Central, Majnoni Guicciardini Wines and partners Edmaven, Fondazione Ente Ville Vesuviane, Zanichelli Venture, StartEd, Edtech Week for making this all possible.
Articulating it better than we could ourselves, we share what this one partner said of the experience and look forward to the next time we can come together: “Years from now we will think back on this Covid-infested time and remind each other of this wonderful event, the on-line and unthinkable in-person presentations, we will remember our hosts running around the room checking and rechecking connections around the globe, the pizzette at the buffet table, the mysterious beauty of the venue location, the roller coaster excitement of the shuttle, the proximity of our accommodations to Castel dell’Ovo, the ubiquitous firecrackers, but above all we will remember the people we met, all these people who are dedicating their time and expertise to making the world a better place by employing digital technology in educational infrastructures of every sort.”