Director Ryan Wise: Education, business: Together adapting to a whole new world
My kids and I recently watched the 1983 movie War Games, in which a young Matthew Broderick accidentally hacks into the United States’ nuclear missile system and nearly launches World War III. While the film seemed wildly futuristic when I saw it in the theater as an 8-year-old, the technology central to the storyline (a home computing system complete with giant floppy discs, an old school dot-matrix printer, a robotic computer voice, and a phone modem) is obsolete today. As we sat in our living room streaming the movie via high-speed internet, I was again reminded of the pace of change in today’s world.
I’m encouraged about Iowa’s ability to adapt to change when I see schools preparing students to lead in an environment that can barely be imagined today. A powerful example of this was on display at the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit, which was held on April 3 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. For me, the highlight of the day was a showcase of student work-based learning projects. The student projects demonstrated both the power of new technology and the evolving skill sets our students need to be successful beyond high school graduation.
For example, students from the Waukee APEX program eagerly explained their participation in a project with Accumold, an Iowa-based company that creates micro injection molded components for electronics, medical devices and other emerging technologies. These students had the opportunity to solve a real-world design challenge faced on the company’s production line.
Cutting-edge projects like this are not just limited to urban and suburban communities. Creston Community School District partnered with local radio station KSIB to live stream school and community events on their YouTube channel, Panther TV. I enjoyed hearing high school students and community members jointly describe their enthusiasm for the project.
In addition, other rural schools are working to provide more students additional learning opportunities. For example, students from Iowa BIG North (which is a partnership between the Osage, Charles City, New Hampton, and Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Community School Districts) partnered with a local business to create an innovative certified nursing assistant program designed to fit the busy schedules of high school students.
And in Danville, students designed a museum exhibit on Anne Frank’s pen pal relationship with two local sisters. The end goal of this work is to raise funds to ship a World War II era railroad car from the country of Macedonia to Iowa, restore it, and fill it with 1.5 million postcards to represent the 1.5 million children who were victims of the Holocaust.
As I travel the state, I see examples like these every week, in which students are actively engaging with businesses to incorporate new technologies and make a difference in their communities. The Governor’s STEM BEST Program and the Iowa Work-Based Learning Intermediary Network have helped facilitate many of these opportunities. And in the year ahead, the Department of Education will partner with the Area Education Agency system and Iowa Workforce Development to develop and implement Governor Reynolds’ Executive Order 1. This initiative will create the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning, which will facilitate distance K-12 school-business partnerships and create an inventory of established and newly created work-based learning opportunities.
While we are now decades beyond War Games era technology, we face many of the same global challenges. There is no limit to the opportunities Iowa schools can create for their students to harness the power of technology and tackle these challenges. In addition, Iowa business and industry leaders are becoming engaged partners in this effort. As Brandon Busteed, the executive director for Education and Workforce Development for Gallup, said at the Future Ready Summit, “Iowa is easily the best ecosystem of K-12 educators and business leaders in the country.”
I look forward to the work, and partnerships, ahead.