An Eye on the Future

May 15, 2011

College hosts iNet International Conference on Education Reform

Educators from around the world gathered at Michigan State University in February for the 7th iNet International Conference, an event focused on transforming education.

Showcasing the best strategies and technology in schools, the “Navigators of Learning” conference gave Michigan teachers and school administrators an unusual opportunity to interact with global educational leaders and peers without leaving the state. They also heard from Michigan of?cials, including new Gov. Rick Snyder, about taking education into the future.

International Networking for Educational Transformation, better known as iNet—the world’s largest network for sharing school reform—selected MSU to help create this year’s conference in honor of the university’s continuing efforts to improve k–12 teaching and learning through global perspectives.

Recent iNet international conferences have been held in South Africa, China and Mauritius, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa.

“This is truly a worldwide network, so to have it focus on MSU is quite signi?cant,” said Barbara Markle, assistant dean for k–12 outreach in the College of Education. “As a world-grant university, we appreciate that education is changing around the world. We have been learning from one another in order to rethink what it means to create high-performing schools in the U.S.”

Markle’s of?ce established MSU as the ?rst United States–based hub for iNet in 2009. Since then, nearly 200 Michigan schools have become iNet members with shared access to information about effective school improvement through various events and online resources.

Seeing reform in action

The international conference focused on issues of global competence and curriculum, meeting the needs of all students, leadership and change management, new technologies and global entrepreneurship.

Along with presentations from prominent academics and leaders of iNet’s parent organization, the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (ssat), participants learned about school transformations occurring in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, the Netherlands, England and Wales—often through direct interactions with educators and students.

Up to 40 delegates attending from outside the U.S. also had an opportunity to visit schools in the Lansing area.

“Globalization means that it is vital that schools give their students the knowledge and skills they will need to thrive in our rapidly changing world, as well as helping them to become global citizens,” said Elizabeth Reid, chief executive of ssat. “More than ever before schools are looking right round the world for examples of classroom practice that will give all young people the very best possible start in life.”

In one presentation, students from Utica Academy for International Studies, a new International Baccalaureate school in Utica, Mich., spoke to conference attendees about their experiences learning in an environment that holds “student voice” and personalization among the most critical ingredients for success.

School director Tom Lietz said he ?rst learned about the concepts of giving students more authority—an approach becoming well established in the United Kingdom—at an international iNet conference in Beijing, China. He and his colleagues later relied on resources provided by iNet, such as published research literature and webinars with London-based peers, to make the vision a reality in their school district.

“Rethinking high schools, in particular, is an international challenge,” said Lietz, also an MSU doctoral student in k–12 educational administration. “For us, iNet has been more than talking about school reform; it’s seeing that reform in action and making an impact on student learning.”

After three years in operation, Utica Academy for International Studies is now attracting interest from peers across Michigan. Lisa Diaz, for example, hopes to interest more charter high school leaders in the student voice model. She is vice president of strategy and planning for the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (mapsa).

“Exposure is the ?rst step toward change,” she said of attending the iNet conference. “We want to be globally competitive, so we need to ask what that looks like and what ideas we can glean from others to help us get there.”

A continuing commitment

The College of Education at MSU is committed to helping schools incorporate global perspectives into their curriculum and teaching, through its connection to iNet as well as through faculty research, globally infused coursework and programs for learning Chinese language and culture.

The Of?ce of k–12 Outreach holds a conference on internationalizing education every year which, thanks to iNet, expanded into a major international event this year.

“(MSU) is truly one of our world-class assets,” Gov. Snyder said. “The dialogue you are having is great for our state. Let’s keep the dialogue going and help us help Michigan with its reinvention.”

Office of K-12 Outreach: