Keaton Wadzinski, a third-year student at the University of Virginia, wants to improve the education system. The catch, however, is that he doesn’t think it’s broken.
Rather, the 20-year-old social innovation major from Franklin, Tennessee, wants to integrate an entrepreneurial mindset into the educational problem-solving process in an attempt to enhance the classroom experience for all learners.
“We want to see what it looks like to put a UVa professor next to a Charlottesville High School student next to a parent next to a local middle school student next to a seasoned entrepreneur,” Wadzinski said.
“If we embrace the mindset that everyone has something of passion to learn and that everyone has something of value to teach or share with the world, that’s what we’re really trying to hone in on with our events and vision,” he said.
Before a crowd of about 50 students, educators and community members last week, Wadzinski launched ReinventEd Lab — a nonprofit organization aimed at building and supporting a community of education problem-solving.
To do this, the ReinventEd Lab team plans to host meet-ups and programs for anyone interested in bringing visionary ideas to life.
“What we’re trying to do isn’t to be innovative for innovation’s sake,” Wadzinski said. “What we are trying to do is learn from the mindsets of the open-source movement, tech field and startup world.”
Chad Ratliff, director of instructional programs for Albemarle County Public Schools, is an active participant in recent Start-Up Weekends — short programs that see community members bring an idea from concept to product in two days. He said blending entrepreneurial thinking into education is a positive step.
“We’re really trying to bring the community around education at the hyperlocal level through a series of programs for teachers and students, practicing educators or community members in which they can come to the table with their ideas and enhance the schooling experience for everyone,” Ratliff said.
Inclusion, Wadzinski added, is pivotal to this process.
“We’re trying to collaboratively come together and design something that adds value to the whole system and puts people side by side, because that is our theory of change,” Wadzinski said, noting that if there is a problem he sees, it’s how to unite people to solve educational problems creatively.
“If you’re able to bring people together in this community approach,” Wadzinski said, “that’s where really powerful user-driven experiences happen, and where powerful value-adds are designed and engineered for the whole education system.”
An example of the type of idea Wadzinski hopes spring from ReinventEd is the World Peace Game — a game developed by local educator John Hunter that asks elementary students to deal with global crises. Students win when peace is achieved.
With respect to the level of education ReinventEd Lab is aiming to address, Wadzinski said he is keeping the scope intentionally broad.
“We believe that every different definition and interpretation of education adds significant value to the problem-solving process, and it adds a different perspective from which you can leverage different resources,” he said.
Looking ahead, Ratliff sees a new movement.
“The goal is for this not to be a one-off thing, but to be something that keeps moving, that keeps growing and that keeps spreading to get more people interested in making the public education experience better for everybody,” he said.
More information can be found at www.reinventedlab.org.