SparkHouse: Unleashing the Learner-Centered Future For All

Insights  10 November 2016

On November 3rd and 4th, 2016, Education Reimagined took our first true step toward a future we have been striving for since the launch of our vision in 2015—“In this future, the education system is structured with the learner at its center.”

After spending the last year convening pioneers from across the nation to explore the mindset shift needed to transform the education system, we are thrilled to have unleashed the true core of our community. Enter SparkHouse—42 learners from 13 states and 15 learning environments sharing their unique learner-centered experiences.

Over the course of the two days, learners took the wheel and drove the learner-centered conversation to new heights. There wasn’t any questioning on whether the movement should or shouldn’t happen—the question was “how quickly can we get this to all learners?” Every learner immediately began exchanging contact information, discovering the unique strengths everyone brought to the table, and formulating ideas on how to introduce and expand the movement in their communities. They came to the event as leaders of their environments and left as leaders of a movement. Their voices were so powerful that we could do little more than simply have you read about their ideas and excitement yourself.

What do you wish to see in this movement?

First and foremost, instead of student, we should say learner. Learners can teach, learn, they can do anything. We can break away from the segments of teacher, student, and school, and just have a community of learners. Everyone’s focused on learning and helping each other learn.” —Michael, Manchester, NH

“I think it’s important for us to develop this common language we’re building on. We’re all calling the same thing different things which can be confusing to us and traditional schools. So if we stick together, they will do it, too.” —Hannah, Cedar Rapids, IA

“A lot of people claim they have the ‘right’ model. Replacing the system with another one won’t work and is dangerous. There needs to be infinite models. The key is variety and options.” —Alexander, Floyd, VA

“There are still systems at play in a learner-centered environment. The SAT is a barrier for me. I can publicly speak and create business plans, but then the ivy leagues say my skills are good but my SAT scores are too low. How do you take those barriers away? How do you restructure the system? There’s no correlation between the score on your SAT’s and your success in college.” —Naseem, Bronx, NY

“In a traditional environment, if you miss one day, you don’t get that day back. You’re on chapter 2.6, but missed 2.5, so you don’t understand 2.6, and then you realize you don’t even understand 1.9, so you can never move on. That needs to go away.” —Corinne, Grand Junction, CO

“I think it’s important for students to be self-directed. In a traditional environment, people are just listening to the teachers and following teachers. That’s not what real life is like. Out of school if that’s your expectation, you won’t know what to do.” —Gabby, Floyd, VA

What is the leadership you want to contribute to the movement?

“One of the things about believing in yourself and believing in others is taking the empowerment to move it forward. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be scary. It’s taking the baby steps forward to not just find your own empowerment, but bring it out in others. They might not be able to see it, but you can bring it out. Bring the empowered person you’ve been these last few days back to where you’ve came from. We’re all learners. Anyone you see, anyone you meet, treat them like human beings and spread what you know.” —K.J., Atlanta, GA 

What would you want to say to our readers about learner-centered education, learners in general, and/or your experience at SparkHouse?

“SparkHouse was a great experience for me because it broke the stereotype that adults know everything and that youth voices don’t matter or that we cannot make a change. Now I know that student voices matter as much as the adults and I believe we are really the future of our community. We can make a change and give everybody a chance to be successful at school and outside of school.” —Krishna Jean, Boston, MA

“It was inspiring to see so many passionate individuals dedicated to influencing national educational change. Experiencing the energy in the room made me believe in the possibility that the learner-centered shift is going to happen, and that learners will play a critical role in leading the way! Can’t wait to see what we’ll accomplish together :)” —Neel, San Diego, CA

“My experience at SparkHouse was one of a kind. It brought to my attention how much learner-centered environments are already affecting schools around the country and how important it is that we continue to strive to make our communities aware of this topic. There are many reasons why we need to continue this movement, but the main answer is that learner-centered environments give all learners the chance to fully succeed and build themselves.” —Jemar, Cedar Rapids, IA

“My experience at SparkHouse was one that will go down in the books. It has completely changed my mindset on education. I met great people and felt blessed to have been invited to SparkHouse. I can’t wait to see where we all can go with learner-centered education!” —Angel, Camden, NJ

“Attending SparkHouse allowed for me to be surrounded by learners and educators passionate about knowledge and united in a common goal: to revolutionize education. Learner-centered education allows for the learner to feel appreciated within the classroom and gives them the opportunity to learn in a manner that highlights their strengths and interests. If learner-centered education was implemented worldwide, learners would become more excited to learn and would develop the skills necessary for their personal success.” —Lexi, Campbellsville, KY

“When teachers talk about learner-centered education people ask, ‘Where’s the evidence of this working?’ But, when students talk about learner-centered education, we are the evidence. It is working. Everyday I feel like I know myself a little bit better. I am constantly improving my skills as a learner a little bit more due to the opportunities to take ownership of my learning and blur the lines between school and the real world. SparkHouse solidified for me that students are ready for education to change, and this new community of learners is done waiting for others to change it for us.” —Anya, Atlanta, GA

“Students are special because they are the future—filled with the creativity to have new ideas, the optimism to challenge the status quo, and the drive to make the world a better place. SparkHouse reminded us of that, showing us that the real leaders of this movement are already doing their part to change their schools and communities. Now it’s our job to work to make their dreams for today a reality for tomorrow.” —Kushal, Durham, NC

“What an amazing privilege to be in the midst of such inspiring teenage leaders! #SparkHouse facilitated conversations that created a deep sense of empathy for the experience of young learners across our country—their educational needs, desires, and dreams. The sense that a profound movement is galvanizing around these young leaders becoming agents of change was palpable.” —Emily (chaperone), Atlanta, GA

“Learner-centered education is an exciting initiative that truly helps to make teaching and education about the most important part of it: the learner. SparkHouse allowed me to see learner-centered environments from across the country, and it made me excited for the possibilities that can come from this initiative. I can’t wait to see where education goes from here!” —Danielle (chaperone), Pittsburgh, PA

Learn More From Abigail

Sign up for Pioneering


Pioneering is the publication for all things learner-centered. This free digital magazine is a great way to stay up-to-date on this growing field, discover pioneering work, engage practitioners on the ground making it happen, and join the conversation.