San Jose, Calif. — About 100 Silicon Valley thought leaders, policymakers and K-12 educators filled SJSU’s Diaz Compean Student Union Theater November 13 at the inaugural Future of Learning Summit, hosted by the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. The event included five keynote speakers and talks by five SJSU community members, all of whom addressed the question, “What is the future of learning?”
“We’re at a time of significant change in education and across society,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. “We have changing job markets, demographic shifts and new understandings around what learning and cognition mean and look like. It’s a time of rapid change that can be really scary. But it’s also an opportunity for all of us to challenge the way that we think of education and schooling to find new ways to support stronger, more equitable and more relevant outcomes.” Lattimer described SJSU’s upcoming Future of Learning Initiative, a cross-disciplinary program to spur innovation on campus, serve as a hub for transforming education in the region, generate new knowledge that will elevate the importance of the scholarship of teaching and learning, and position SJSU as a thought leader in the field of educational innovation.
San Jose State President Mary Papazian introduced the event by reminding the audience that the university was founded in 1857 as Minns Normal School with the express purpose of educating teachers. Keynote speakers included Christopher Cabaldon, the Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair and professor of public policy and administration at Sacramento State University and mayor of West Sacramento; Valerie Lundy-Wagner, senior research analyst at California Competes; Kent McGuire, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners; and Laura Quintana, vice president of Corporate Affairs at Cisco.
Speakers discussed how advances in technology, changing job markets, demographic shifts and new research have created unique opportunities to re-imagine learning.
“In the future, students will need to think like employees, and employees will have to think like students,” said Quintana, who shared how Cisco’s Networking Academy is helping current SJSU students gain hands-on experience in industrial technology and cybersecurity.
“What if we question the fundamentals of the education system before assessing a student with disabilities?” asked Ramanthan, who worked in special education in San Francisco Unified for many years. “What if we actually look to see whether they had been given the resources to succeed? What if we diagnose the school and the classroom, instead of diagnosing the child?”
Five SJSU community members also spoke throughout the evening: Irene Castillon, ’17 MA Education, assistant principal and history teacher at Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School; SJSU Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Ellen Middaugh; Shar Naidu, ’21 MS Occupational Therapy; Vivian Vu, ’23 Business Administration; and Sabrina Dao, seventh grader at Ocala STEAM academy.
“Democracy requires more than heroes or role models,” said Middaugh, referring to Parkland High School survivor Emma Gonzalez as an example of the new generation of thought leaders ready to provoke conversation. “I see the next generation of leaders who are going to recreate this environment and create a better online public sphere. Our job as educators is to be very intentional in creating opportunities for them to experiment and practice.”
“Do I feel prepared for my future?” asked Dao, who shared how upset she was by hearing stereotypes of East Side families as being “poor” or “living in bad neighborhoods.” “Everyone at my school is motivating. We have so many role models and defy those bad opinions. So yes, I do feel prepared for my future.”
A number of SJSU students, teacher candidates and aspiring educators attended Wednesday’s event. Henry Fan, ’22 Computer Science, worked in hospitality and tech before discovering a passion for education in junior college. He said he walked away from the evening inspired and reflective.
“I not only learned a lot, but I realized just how beautifully diverse the people who are in this room are, and how much vulnerability they were willing to have about their own stories,” said Fan. “I can’t wait to work with our students to uncover some amazing stories.”