“We need to think beyond the current idea that there must be a one-size-fits-all model of education and focus on developing an education system that will cultivate independent learners and leaders. ” Elizabeth Anthony, USA

In today’s Daily Edventures I am pleased to share with you my interview with Elizabeth Anthony, young education leader and student passionate about innovative education. She graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in South Bend, Indiana in 2012 and recently finished her first year at Notre Dame. She is also one of the recipients of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, class of 2016. Selected from a total applicant pool of more than 800 applicants, these Scholars embody the The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program’s vision of leadership, scholarship, personal integrity and social responsibility.

I am looking forward to highlighting on Daily Edventures great students from all around the world sharing their insights and hopes in education.

I love ideas from inspiring students with an innovative vision for education.  What is your vision for students thrive in the 21st century?

I believe we should think about how we can create an education system that will address the diverse needs of students in the future. One of the worst things we can do is assume that there is one answer or cure for education today. In reality, there is not a single model of education that we can point to as “the future of education.”  We need to think beyond the current idea that there must be a one-size-fits-all model of education and focus on developing an education system that will cultivate independent learners and leaders.

What drew you to the field of education? Why is it important to you?

When I was in 8th grade, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Cambodia with an organization called PEPY, Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself.  My family spent two weeks with the founder, Daniela Papi, another female leader from Notre Dame.  We learned about Cambodia’s culture and volunteered at two rural schools that PEPY founded and funds.

The Cambodian Genocide is fascinating because the Khmer Rouge targeted educated and professional citizens, leaving the nation stripped of all citizens that had received education or found it valuable. One of the country’s major challenges has been to convince its citizens that an education is important for the children in their country, and to find enough teachers to have highly functioning schools. Daniela constantly fights this battle in her schools as parents want to pull their children out of school to work in the fields beginning as early as first or second grade.

In addition to being one of the least educated societies today, Cambodia is also one of the most impoverished, and without a culture that values education, it will be impossible to reverse the cycle. Being exposed to this cycle of poverty almost entirely dependent upon education opened my eyes to the power of innovation in education.

I admire young leaders in high schools and college.  How have you advanced innovation in education?

When I was a senior in high school, I conducted a book drive at my high school that benefitted “Better World Books,” an organization that was started by Notre Dame alums. In only one week, my community contributed over 3,000 books to support literacy across the world. After this amazing effort, I felt empowered and even more eager to continue to work in education in a meaningful way.

At Notre Dame, I am humbled to be a part of the Glynn Family Honors Program and the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, which focuses on transformational leadership and social impact.  I am also a leader Notre Dame’s Education Club, which facilitates discussion about education on campus and gives back to the community’s education system as well.  I have also found a tremendous faculty mentor in TJ D’Agostino from ACE, the Alliance for Catholic Education.

Since October, I have spent extensive time researching Blended Learning. After reading obsessively about it for a few months, I ran a small pilot after-school program using Khan Academy at a local Catholic grade school. I met with about ten students grades 4-7 twice a week for 60 minutes each time. The students pursued independent learning paths on Khan, and I found it incredibly effective for filling in learning gaps that teachers had no idea were even present. My experience with this program actually presented many challenges to my original ideas about blended learning, which helped me refine my vision for my work in Seattle.

For yourself as you look towards the future, what gets you most excited?

In Seattle, I spent two weeks observing a Catholic blended learning school (the first of its kind) and then four weeks working at another Catholic school, St. Paul School,  implementing blended learning next year. At St. Paul, I was able to use the knowledge I acquired from my pilot program and my observations to help them develop an effective BL model.

I am VERY excited about the possibilities that blended learning has created for students.

The use of technology to allow students to work rigorously at their own pace under the guide of a teacher, and then to work in groups or with an instructor to develop critical-thinking and analytical skills, offers phenomenal opportunities for growth in education.  And more simply, I am ecstatic about the global focus on rethinking education and using innovation to improve education for all.

I believe that blended learning, as well as other innovations, and partnerships through organizations like the Alliance for Catholic Education, the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning will redefine a true education and unleash brilliance in students across the world in the 21st century.

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