ReinventED^2 —Relaunching Charlottesville’s Education Innovation Community

First things first — why we chose to reinvent ReinventED

After piloting ReinventED Lab in Fall 2015 through three events (our Kickoff Party, our 24 Hour Challenge, and Project ReinventED), a student club at UVA, and a set of community partnership initiatives (such as Co-create UVA), we were thrilled with our momentum, but recognized (through a healthy dose of reality) that there was something missing.

We weren’t quite sure what it was, but we dedicated ourselves to figure it out.

And so, we took a step back to better understand our users, our partners, and ourselves. That process drove us to examine what our college peers need, what the Charlottesville-Albemarle education community needs, what we should focus on, and who we are. This post explores those questions and explains where we’re headed now.

The University of Virginia’s famous Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson. Image courtesy Patrickneil on Wikimedia.

What our college peers need

Our community is a small college town. In talking to our peers, we realized that UVA students interested in education innovation needed a way to get involved in the greater Charlottesville-Albemarle community. Many of our entrepreneurial and innovative friends are fed up with lectures and academia, and ready to have a real impact in the real world.

So we launched an experiential, student-taught “class” called Rethink through HackCville, UVA’s student entrepreneurship clubhouse. Rethink students are placed on community projects in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community, paired with an individual mentor in the field of education innovation, and coached through a curriculum of design thinking workshops.

Rethink has been a great success so far, thanks to the passionate students participating in the program, and the generous support of our many mentors and collaborators.

Rethink students gather at HackCville to speak with Matt Candler, CEO of 4.0 Schools, over Google Hangout

We’ve equipped 22 students interested in education innovation with the skills, opportunities, and resources to solve problems in education, and are training them to grow the reach and impact of ReinventED Lab.

What our community needs

In talking with members of the Charlottesville-Albemarle community and school systems, we realized that there was a need for non-traditional volunteering beyond semester long tutoring or mentoring programs. For example, Albemarle County Public Schools recently applied to the $50 million XQ Super School Challenge to “rethink high school.” Through that application, ACPS needed help to better understand and capture the voices of students in Albemarle County.

ReinventED team members volunteered to conduct interviews, focus groups, and design thinking workshops with 150+ elementary, middle, and high school students. The YouTube video below describes these efforts.

The result was mind-boggling. Students had powerful insights about the future of education — ideas that directly impacted and shaped the XQ application.

Recently, we heard word that the Albemarle County XQ application has made it to the final round of the competition, and we are thrilled to be involved.

What we should focus on

In our pilot semester, we realized a few things.

  1. We are not the world’s best event planners (yet!)
  2. We are not seasoned educators who know what it’s like to teach day in and day out (but we are seasoned students who know what it’s like to learn day in and day out!)
  3. We are not brilliant marketers (actually, this post is the first piece of media we’ve created and shared in 4 months!).

As a result, we have started to focus more on what we’re good at, and create collaborative community partnerships to fill the gaps in our knowledge and ability.

Tom Tom Founders Festival (April 11–17, 2017) is Charlottesville’s signature weeklong celebration of music, art, and innovation.

A great example of this is our major Spring event, the first ever Tom Tom Youth Summit on Thursday, April 14th at Tom Tom Founders Festival.

Tom Tom is an incredible community partner for ReinventED. Tom Tom coordinates hundreds of events each year, is a strong and trusted community leader, and is known across the state for its brand and marketing.

The Tom Tom Youth Summit will convene over 500 local high students and 150 community members to celebrate and empower youth creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The event will feature:

In working on the Youth Summit, we focused on what we’re good at — working with students and using the user-centered design process. As a result, the Youth Summit is an event planned by and for the youth of our community. We brought together 31 high school students from across six city, county, and private schools in the area to form the Youth Summit Student Advisory Council, and recruited 14 college student supporters as Council Facilitators.

The Student Advisory Council has designed, promoted, and directed this event. They’ve held pop-up pitch competitions at their schools, created video announcements, coordinated travel logistics with their school administration, and more. The energy, ideas, and passion of these students has inspired us to begin recruiting High School Changemakers.

Who we are

We have directly applied what we’ve learned from the past four months to establish our vision, mission, values, strategy, and theory of change. We now feel more excited and prepared than ever to support and grow the future of education in Charlottesville, VA.

Here’s a taste of what we’re about, pulled from reinventedlab.org/about.

Vision:

We all see problems in education — let’s talk solutions. Rather, let’s create solutions, and together we can build the future of education. Our vision — the energy driving ReinventED — is the belief that we are all capable of making a change in education, and consequently, the world.

Mission:

We are building a community of passionate people to design and create the future of education in Charlottesville, VA.

Strategy:

We bring together and activate students, entrepreneurs, educators, and community members in the Charlottesville community to develop prototypes of the future of education — new k-12 learning environments, innovative higher education paradigms, educational initiatives for the public, and more.

Our Leadership Team

We’re a group of college students passionate about the future of education, advised by education and entrepreneurship experts.

Keaton Wadzinski (Executive Director) sets the strategic vision for ReinventED, manages partnerships, and oversees operations.

Jared Jones (Director of Operations) is in charge of running and planning events and day-to-day logistical affairs.

Blair McAvoy (Director of Impact Evaluation) designs and analyzes ReinventED’s impact assessments for individual programs and events as well as the organization at large.

Jacob Hardin (Manager of Internal Operations) maintains upkeep on the ReinventED website and overall communications and organization within ReinventED.

Finally — where we’re headed

Moving forward, we’re determined to keep our user focus in how we host events, run programs, and launch projects with our community.

We’re thrilled to share the launch of our new website at reinventedlab.org!

We’re excited to announce that we will be working in the iLab at the University of Virginia this summer in their yearlong innovation incubation program. There, we’ll receive legal, fiscal, and mentorship support to grow ReinventED.

Additionally, we’ll continue to run Rethink, our experiential “class” at HackCville, for years to come. Our second cohort will be selected in Fall 2016.

We’ll continue to launch prototypes of the future of school through our education innovation projects.

We’ll release new events, programs, and projects in Fall 2016.

And lastly, we’ll always have an open ear and open inbox for your ideas and support! Contact us at info(at)reinventedlab(dot)org.

Thanks for reading.

Keaton and the ReinventED team (Jared Jones, Blair McAvoy, and Jacob Hardin)

Keaton Wadzinski, Executive Director (left); Jared Jones, Director of Operations (right)
Jacob Hardin, Manager of Internal Operations (left); Blair McAv0y, Director of Impact Evaluation (right)