Chicago Innovation Blog

From kids to adults, innovation is transforming education in Chicago

by | Sep 21, 2016

By Luke Tanen and Emma Griffiths, Chicago Innovation Awards

Students reported back to school earlier this month amidst big changes that are happening within the Chicago Public Schools. Over 1,000 teachers and faculty were let go this past August, and heavy borrowing was needed to maintain funding for construction projects to fix the problematic amounts of lead in the water of some buildings.

However, it is not the budget alterations nor changes in staffing that are news to Chicago and its schools. The real news is the hidden innovations produced by people outside of the CPS that are making strides in new ways of learning and interacting in the classrooms of Chicago.

Out of 640 total nominees, the 2016 Chicago Innovation Awards reveals that 84 organizations nominated education innovations that are blossoming in Chicago right now. More than 1 in every 8 of this year’s nominees are focused on changing the way people learn how to… learn.

It’s no surprise that the people of Chicago are trying to improve the education system with the constant distresses that CPS faces. What is surprising is that these improvements are mainly coming from outside businesses and leaders, not the school system itself.

Here are just a few examples. Bringing innovation inside the classroom, ThinkCERCA, a web-based personalized literacy platform for teachers, is raising the bar for classroom curriculum. Outside the classroom, Kids Science Labs offers year-long discovery labs for kids to create and innovate. Other organizations realize that “the classroom” must go out even further into the community. The Adler Planetarium is bringing astronomy to low-income Chicago neighborhoods through its “Scopes in the City” program, which brings telescopes into Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods and hosts events for inner-city residents to learn about the universe.

This multifaceted focus on education delivery shows that people are realizing the potential for technology to create much greater accessibility to the students and people of Chicago.

But innovators are focusing on more than just educating Chicago’s youth. Companies are approaching adult education differently as well.

Advancements in the education of the workforce range from inspiring employees through increasing their knowledge of innovation, like Apollo Education Group’s Innovator’s Accelerator, to management education through the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy.

This also reveals that people desire more continuous learning opportunities, which likely stems from the evolving structure of careers. Today, the average person change jobs every 2-3 years. Training today’s workforce is needed more often than ever before, and Chicago-based education innovators are responding with solutions to meet the growing demand.

The people of Chicago are making a statement. Changes in education are far deeper than what appears on the general news.

Education is being reinvented and implemented in new ways all around Chicago. There may be budget cuts and layoffs, but the innovations within education are creating hope within the city.

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