Wow! Has it been a long time since last we visited. As I sit here writing, we haven’t put out a blog post for over seven months….SEVEN! Ouch. So let me begin by apologizing. I should be doing a better job than that in keeping the content coming and letting you know what’s going on in the EAST World.
The silver lining here is that we have a great new Communications person who has promised to make sure that I keep myself on track when it comes to sharing some of the stories and happenings in the EASTverse. He’s also a former inky wretch (that’s newspaper speak for a newspaper person), so he has mad skills in getting content developed and published on deadline and on message. His name is Spencer Watson, and you’ll be hearing more from him and reading an awful lot more about EAST because he is focused on making sure we are telling our story. Everyone here at the Intergalactic Headquarters is glad to have Spencer here, because we’ve been missing the voice of communications in our planning and meetings. Several staff members have been working to keep content coming over the past few months while we were looking for Spencer, but it’s just not the same. If you’re curious as to why we needed Spencer, I’ll tease the new edition of EQ that will be published very soon. We’ve got a special note from Blake that tells the rest of the story, too.
So how do I catch everyone up on the last seven months? The simplest answer is that EAST has been on hyperdrive doing the things we do. We’re here at the beginning of a new school year with 15 new programs starting their EAST journey. They are:
- Gentry Public Schools (Gentry School District)
- Central Junior High School (Springdale School District)
- George Junior High School (Springdale School District)
- Greenbrier Middle School (Greenbrier School District)
- Hackler Intermediate School (Mountain Home School District)
- Heber Springs High School (Heber Springs School District)
- Hot Springs Intermediate School (Hot Springs School District)
- Kiamichi Technology Center – McAlester Campus (McAlester, Oklahoma)
- Lincoln Middle School (Lincoln School District)
- Nettleton 9/10 (Nettleton School District, Jonesboro)
- Quest Middle School of West Little Rock (Public Charter)
- Riverside High School (Riverside School District, Lake City)
- Southside Junior High School (Southside School District, Batesville)
- Southwest Junior High School (Springdale School District)
- Wynne Intermediate School (Wynne School District)
We have come off an incredible Conference and a Summer Seminar that was unlike any that we had ever had before. We have trained more than 250 facilitators this summer, either through Phase Training or at the Seminar. This training came in many forms: interactive hands-on technical training, previews of new and emerging trends in education and technology, sharing best practices, sharing common struggles and, on one damp evening, a train ride.
Additionally, we have unveiled a new set of trainings for non-EAST teachers called Education Unleashed. For years we have fielded calls from teachers that weren’t facilitating EAST classes who wanted to come to training, and we didn’t have much to offer them. Our Phase Training is incredible, don’t get me wrong, but its purpose is to prepare the classroom teacher to facilitate an EAST class. There’s a lot of good information and professional development that can be applied outside the EAST classroom, but at the end of the day, that component is dwarfed by the amount of professional development and training that is specific to an EAST class and, thus, not a good fit unless you were on the facilitation track. That has changed now.
We spent the better part of the 2014/2015 school year distilling the best parts of EAST professional development, adding in some technical training that can also be universally applied and stirring it gently with the EAST “touch” for how to deliver this training (very, hands on, very practical, very powerful…very EAST-like). We are developing four discrete trainings:
- Leveraging Soft Skills
- Engaging Community Collaborations
- Classroom Logistics
- Creating Authentic Projects
This work will be manifest in next summer’s eight course offerings, which will include include:
- Google Basics
- Google Intermediate I
- Google Intermediate II
- Google Classroom
- Experience Based Education
- Digital Mapping for Teachers
- 21st Century Skills
- Community Engagement
Since we started this new program, Education Unleashed has been offered to over 150 teachers from over 100 different schools. By the end of the current school year we anticipate more than 300 more teachers will participate.
If you’re keeping count, since last I posted in the blog we have offered training to more than 400 teachers in many of the very things that the educational system needs more and better professional development in. Put it all together, and the EAST Initiative has developed into one of the premier trainers of educators. What’s more, educators love participating. We got our strongest reviews this year and are proud to be helping prepare the modern educator to better equip their students to succeed.
So that’s what’s happened. Now let’s talk about what has yet to happen.
The 2015/2016 school year marks EAST’s 20th anniversary. This is cause to celebrate, and do we ever plan to. This year we will be looking back and sharing stories of the EAST alumni who are doing some pretty wonderful things. We will be looking to take the lessons of the last two decades and use them to build on the next two decades.
We estimate that this year we will have approximately 29,000 students participate in an EAST class. We estimate that over the course of our history more than 175,000 students have taken an EAST class at some point in their education. That’s a lot of power and a lot of innovation. It’s a lot of projects and more hours in STEM learning than I can count.
We started with a room of Pentium 1 class computers and some CAD and GIS software: 20 students with little expected of them and a teacher that believed in them more than they believed in themselves. Today we are proud to provide our students with access to technology in dozens of sophisticated and emerging fields. We’re 3D printing and developing in Virtual Reality. We’re coding and developing apps. We’re looking for solutions to problems and offering up an army of passionate and excited people that want to help themselves by helping others.
We call it EAST. And we’re back!