Students Share Vision for the Future Education at Iowa Student Learning Institute Conference

Waukee High School hosted the first Iowa Student Learning Institute Conference (ISLI) on October 5. More than 190 students, educators and community leaders from 35 school districts across the state attended the event.

The theme of the conference was “How should schools be redesigned for learning in the 21st century?” The conference enabled Iowa students to discuss education, learning and preparation for future jobs in a setting with some of Iowa’s top education professionals, including Angela Maiers, educator, author and speaker at Maiers Educational Services, Duane Magee, Executive Director at Iowa Board of Educational Examiners and Scott McLeod, Director of Innovation at Prairie Lakes AEA.

The event was created for and by students Ian Coon, sophomore at Waukee High School, and Jack Hostager, junior at Dubuque Hempstead High School, whose goal was to give students a voice in the future of their education system. For Ian and Jack, planning ISLI has been an exciting journey that started last spring. They met at EdCampIowa, a one-day “unconference” held at five different locations across Iowa where educators, students, policy makers and other stakeholders were able to engage in discussions and create problem-solving techniques for education issues.

“The idea for ISLI started after a tweet during the spring EdCampIowa on why there were so few students present at the conference. It prompted us to take action and involve students in education reform,” Ian said.

After sharing their idea on Twitter, several educators at the EdCampIowa conference jumped at the chance to be a part of what is now the Iowa Student Learning Institute.

“It’s incredible to try something totally new and have so much support and enthusiasm from across the state. Sometimes we, as students, don’t realize how powerful our voice is,” Jack said.

ISLI day sessions focused on how technology, school structures and policies and the actions of educators could all work towards the goal of allowing students a voice in the future of their education system.

A student survey of the event revealed the favorite part of the day was getting to talk to like-minded students from around the state with a similar passion for education. Ninety percent of the students attending also said they would come back again next year. Popular topics discussed through break-out sessions varied from TED Talks in the classroom to using games like Minecraft for projects, to the discussion of whether or not homework is beneficial to student learning.

The event ended with the creation of An Education Proclamation from the Students of Iowa. The proclamation, created by students who attended ISLI, explains how students view the state of today’s educational system and provides a clear plan for how students feel things should be changed to better meet their needs. It demands that adults leading our schools, communities and local and state governments put students at the forefront of all educational decisions and states students should be expected to meet certain standards and competencies, but at their own pace and when we learn it we would continue to move on. To read the full proclamation click here.

“ISLI gives students a chance to speak directly to the adults who make decisions about their schools. It is a chance for students to come together and articulate a vision for the future of their education. We hope Iowa students will take full advantage of this,” Jack said.

For Ian and Jack, this first conference was just a starting point. ISLI is now working with StudentVoice and partnering with students in Bettendorf to help expand next year’s event to more schools across the state.


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