Tuesday, July 21, 2020 - 04:10 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler today hosted the fourth annual Governor’s Summit on Innovative Education, highlighting the progress being made in North Dakota toward personalized, competency-based learning, the role that technology can play in those efforts, and the opportunity for innovation amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,300 educators, administrators, school board members, legislators, parents and other stakeholders registered to participate virtually in the summit, which was livestreamed from the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck with nationally recognized speakers joining from across the United States and Canada. Locally led breakout sessions also allowed participants to learn about best practices and innovation in the classroom, and engage in the conversation surrounding a safe restart to school this coming fall.

“As we face unprecedented challenges and disruption from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we also have an opportunity to lead in many ways – driving positive change and creating a system that leverages technology tools to meet students where they are,” Burgum said. “We’re grateful to everyone who joined us at this year’s summit as we continue the critically important work of transforming education in North Dakota to prepare our young people with the knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in the 21st century.”

Featured speakers at this year’s summit included Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, George Couros, author of “The Innovator’s Mindset,” Scott McNealy, co-founder of Curriki, and Dean Kamen, inventor and founder of FIRST. Burgum and Baesler hosted the series of keynotes and conversations, and participants also could choose from 20 locally led breakout sessions throughout the day.

Baesler expressed her gratitude to teachers, administrators and parents for quickly shifting to distance learning last spring, and emphasized the opportunity amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we work to reopen schools, let’s not only think about what it means to bring children back into school buildings. Let’s use this opportunity to reimagine the possibilities,” Baesler said. “With this strong foundation of community and cooperation and mutual respect in place, the time is now to work together and provide our young people with the best possible place and pace to achieve their peak learning potential.”

Burgum noted that while North Dakota is one of the most well-connected states in the nation for internet access, some households were identified as underserved when schools closed to in-person instruction in March and districts had to shift to distance learning in April. In gratitude and recognition of the collaborative efforts by local broadband providers to address the gap and ensure broadband internet access to more than 99 percent of the state’s K-12 students, Burgum proclaimed today as “Broadband Providers Appreciation Day” in North Dakota.

“Technology is just a piece. It’s a tool. We know that learning occurs between a teacher and a student, but if we can equip those teachers with the very best of technology, we can overcome a pandemic, we can overcome distance, we can overcome the idea that all students have to learn at the same rate, at the same time, at the same pace in the same room,” he said.

Burgum and Baesler also presented the #InnovativeND Awards during today’s summit. The awards and recipients are:

  • Frontline Innovation – Dan Spellerberg, agriculture instructor with the Southeast Region Career and Technology Center in Wahpeton. This award recognizes innovative approaches in the classroom.
  • Collaborative Culture – Bridget Hanlan, regional director of the Region III Adult Learning Center in Devils Lake. This award recognizes efforts that reach across subjects and classrooms.
  • System Transformation – Travis Jordan, superintendent of Beulah Public Schools. This award recognizes innovations in the educational system that will have a fundamental impact on how students learn.
  • Student Leadership – Blake Bernhardt, a junior at Wing High School. This award recognizes students who are advancing innovative education through leadership inside and outside the classroom.

For those unable to participate online or attend in person, recordings of the Governor’s Summit on Innovation Education will be shared in the coming weeks.