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South Valley Journal

Jordan School District Board of Education alive with ideas for ‘Innovation Campus’

Aug 29, 2019 11:14AM ● By Jennifer J Johnson

The Jordan School District Board of Education is seeking to shore up its commitment to world-class learning through the establishment of an “Innovation Campus.” (Wikimedia Commons)

By Jennifer J. Johnson | [email protected]

Darrell Robinson is living a synergistic triangle—almost like the iconic, symbiotic “Recycle, Reduce Re-use” symbol of the 1970s.

Robinson’s technology insights gleaned from his day job as online curriculum designer seem to inform his role as a Jordan School Board member.

Both of those roles, in turn, are synergistically, informed by his doctoral degree in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences, completed in mid-August at Utah State University.

As such, Robinson seems custom-fit to help evangelize JSD’s “Innovation Committee for the 21st Century.” 

The key to such innovation, according to Robinson, is personalized learning. And Robinson’s “triangle” might include “Innovate-Experience-Perform.”

‘The Sandbox’—competency-based versus grade level-based learning, paired with experiential learning

Fans of Robinson’s Facebook page, yOUR VOICE on the Jordan School Board, have seen, over the months, his posts about the Real Academy’s moving to a four-day “bricks-and-mortar” in-school week, accompanied by a one-day “virtual” experience.

Robinson has been peppering teachers, parents and community members with the successes they are seeing at Real, as part of what he sees as a much bigger, bolder, broader innovation movement for JSD to infuse the latest learning techniques into a JSD-run “Innovation Campus.”

JSD’s association with the Real Academy is different, inasmuch that that campus is a charter school, whereas the sandbox-idea on the table is a more innovative school with its own staff that an elite team from JSD, the Teaching and Blended Learning Team, has already been at work brainstorming. “I may have had some of the ideas, but they are the ones to be credited with doing the work,” Robinson said.

Innovation Campus ‘inside’

An Innovation Campus would comprise “everything from traditional schools,” he said “but include competency-based versus grade-level” determinations of everything from classroom composition to individual student learning agendas.

The role of teachers would expand to become more collaborative in designing personalized learning plans for students and ensuring that they have all of the tools to be successful in maximizing their learning. 

Such “trail-blazing” teachers, he said, will receive performance-based compensation and help usher in the next-generation of teacher-coaches, helping not just students but their colleagues learn how to best blend technological innovation with traditional classroom aspects.

Experimental learning would be core to such an Innovative Campus.  

Experiential learning is research-based, hands-on learning. It bridges the gap between theory and practice. In its ideal application, it harnesses all the senses and emotions to create stronger memory structures.

While the concept of experiential learning has been around for decades, its time has now arrived, as high-tech companies such as Lehi’s Adobe have rebranded themselves as being all about “the user experience.”

The question becomes: When and where will an education campus “all about the student learning experience” arrive for JSD stakeholders interested in realizing the benefits of more innovative education?

When and where for the Innovation Campus? ‘It depends’

As is the answer to many questions, two words suffice: “It depends.”

“We want to do this with Utah State,” Robinson said. “However, we could do this without USU.” 

Robinson then hypothetically asks, “Could we start this today?”

While Robinson acknowledges that he and JSB Board colleagues are “dreaming pretty big,” he sees this concept as “an evolving project” but one that will, ultimately, hoist JSD to a national, if not international reputation. 

“Innovation is happening throughout the country but nothing like this,” he told the City Journals. 

“All school districts have one foot in the pool, but everyone’s afraid to commit,” he said, clearly champing at the bit to advance new learning concepts for his constituents at Jordan School District.

Sandboxing the idea with USU and the Bastian Agricultural Center

Robinson indicated that the JSD Board of Education presented the concept mid-May to the Bastian Foundation, the charitable entity which recently designated 100 acres in Southwest Quadrant for the forthcoming Bastian Agricultural Center, conducted in partnership with Utah State University.

The USU Bastian Agricultural Center is set to become a one-of-a-kind, world-class agricultural center. It is being pitched as a prize component of the 931-acre high-density, work-live-play Olympia Hills project, now under consideration in its second iteration, to the Salt Lake County Council. However, regardless of the status of that project, the center is greenlighted to be built, proximate to a Herriman housing project under development by the Suburban Land Reserve, the land-development arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

JSD’s proposal, according to Robinson, is for the school district to develop the innovative education campus right alongside the BAC, finding ultimate synergy for both projects. Experiential learning would be maximized, Robinson said, by providing children access to BAC’s planned resources.

The USU BAC resources are significant, and all the more so, in consideration of its application to preschool through high school students. BAC will offer youth exploration of everything from garden and animal production, to 20,000 square feet of “Maker Space,” including significant 3D printing resources, according to Vernon Parent, agriculture and 4-H youth programs agent for USU.

Worth the wait, but not wanting to wait

While JSD Board members are enthused about the prospect of siting the innovation center juxtaposed with the USU BAC, enthusiasm about the new learning concepts may not want to wait.

Late-July discussions had the board reaching out to land developer Doug Young (the same developer leading the Olympia Hills proposal) for property for a Herriman-based school. The JSD Board is also considering siting the innovation campus at an alternate Southwest-based school.

Either option, however, is seen as a short-term solution, with the eye on the prize being the ultimate co-location next to the USU Bastian Agricultural Center.

“We have talked about it early, but we still haven’t made a decision,” he said.