In March, NJIT staged the first-ever “CLEAR: Cradle to Career” (C3 2018) Summit, aimed at “fostering a larger networked community of innovative and dedicated teachers, leaders, faculty researchers and students of all ages”.

The summit — co-hosted by NJIT’s statewide K-20 Collaborative for Leadership, Education, and Assessment Research (CLEAR) — brought together an expansive audience of NJIT students, faculty and staff; K-12 educators and leaders; and public and private organizations throughout the state.  

The event featured a day of presentations and networking events to help attendees learn and share the latest teaching technologies and opportunities available across New Jersey. It also offered the chance for educators to better coordinate their efforts in digital learning, curriculum design, student assessment and development, and administration.

Education is the key to the success of change, and I applaud everyone here today for taking on the challenge of starting this collaboration between our K-12 and higher education people, alongside our businesses and broader community,” said the summit’s keynote speaker, Mark Biedron, immediate past president of the New Jersey State Board of Education. “This conversation is going to solve so many problems that we have…we have been in silos for too long.”

Mark Biedron addresses New Jersey educators in NJIT’s Campus Center Atrium.

Things change, teaching technologies change…we are understanding more about how students learn and sometimes colleges can be the last to learn about these methods,” said Dr. Kevin Belfield, Dean of the College of Science and Liberal Arts at NJIT. “Our collaboration with the K-12 system is so important both in helping our K-12 educators understand what student skills we feel are necessary here at the university level, as well as helping us learn what has worked from the K-12 educators who have students in their system for a lot longer than we do.”

Three of New Jersey’s key collaborative projects in education were represented at the summit for attendees to learn about and participate in: Future Ready Schools – New Jersey (FRS-NJ), the state-sponsored certification program for assessing digital education throughout New Jersey; higher education faculty researchers interested in collaborating with K-12 educators; and teachers and leaders in iSTEAM education, where STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math are integrated with the arts.

Each CLEAR community, or “strand”, featured their own special presentations and events in the afternoon. Educators sitting in for the “FRS-NJ Strand” learned how their schools could become certified as “Future Ready” from certified exemplars in the Middletown Township School District. Presentations and activities from the “K-20 Research and Collaboration Strand” offered the chance to network with NJIT faculty researchers and learn about current NJIT-K-12 collaborative opportunities.

The “iSTEAM Strand” featured talks from leaders of New Jersey’s Maker movement, which encourages do-it-yourself spaces for K-20 student-inventors interested in creating everything from robotics to fine craftwork. Attendees also learned about the U.S. Army’s K-12 STEAM programs and popular iSTEAM events throughout New Jersey like“STEAM Tank”— an entrepreneurial K-12 design competition based on the popular television show, “Shark Tank”, where contestants pitch their educational product ideas before a panel of judges. 

“The strands here at this C3 Summit were selected to represent the work of our collaborative,” said James Lipuma, director of CLEAR at NJIT. “I believe we can build CLEAR into a hub for interaction that prepares all of our students for success as college students, career workers and digital citizens.”

By the end of the day, all three of the summit’s strands convened to participate in a flash STEAM Tank competition led by the New Jersey School Boards Association’s STEAM and Sustainable Schools Specialist, John Henry. NJ school districts competed by presenting proof-of-concept product ideas ranging from smart device-friendly student desks to sleep and productivity apps designed for K-12 students and teachers.

Bayshore Middle School STEM Specialist Jason Clarkson and Monmouth Elementary Educational Technology Integration Specialist Alyssa Miller present a wireless charging desk prototype.

“Kids are always bringing their Chromebooks and tablets back and forth to school and forgetting to charge their devices,” said Jason Clarkson, who helped present Middletown Township district’s concept for a smart device-charging desk. “For our design, we would have portable battery packs that can fit to a port inside the desk, which would eliminate cords everywhere and provide portable wireless power where they need it.”

In the end, Middletown Township district’s presentation impressed judges most.

“The STEAM Tank competition offers a great integrated approach to problem-based learning that applies to almost every area of our lives as students, teachers and citizens in the digital age,” said Lipuma. “By bringing together the strands at the C3 summit and having them engage in these types of events as we did today, we are helping to foster awareness of cutting-edge trends not only in the world of STEM education, but all arenas of education.”