AWS Public Sector Blog

What you missed at the IMAGINE 2022 conference for education, state, and local leaders

Three Champions joined Mike Hofherr (right) on stage to share more about their journeys in education. From left to right: Noora Siddiqui, Baylor College of Medicine, Human Genome Sequencing Center Scientist, cloud engineer; Dr. Andrew Williams, The Citadel College of Engineering Professor, dean; and Don Wolff, Portland Public Schools, chief information officer (CIO).

Three Champions joined Mike Hofherr (right) on stage to share more about their journeys in education. From left to right: Noora Siddiqui, Baylor College of Medicine, Human Genome Sequencing Center Scientist, cloud engineer; Dr. Andrew Williams, The Citadel College of Engineering Professor, dean; and Don Wolff, Portland Public Schools, chief information officer (CIO).

The IMAGINE conference from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in Seattle, Washington brought together education, state, and local leaders to learn, connect, and get inspired about how the latest innovations in cloud technology are transforming what’s possible for local communities. Over the course of the conference, attendees explored how the cloud helps to modernize and secure organizations, turn data into wisdom, enrich the community experience, develop the workforce of tomorrow, and make services and learning equitable and accessible for all.

During the keynote, Kim Majerus, vice president of US state and local government and education at AWS, and customer guest speakers shared with attendees how innovators in education, state, and local leadership use AWS to help deliver for their communities, expand digital equity, accelerate workforce development, and more. Later, in the closing general session and fireside chat, best-selling higher education author and thought leader Jeff Selingo joined Mike Hofherr, director of education business development and strategy at AWS, to discuss how we’re already living in the future of education.

Here’s what you missed at IMAGINE 2022:

Leading the way through emerging trends for governments

When State of Washington Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck joined the keynote stage, he discussed how the state uses AWS to actively shape the future of government services and why the state is dedicated to equipping learners with in-demand skills.

“The sky is not the limit when it comes to the future of cloud,” said Heck. He described how 94% of all enterprises currently use the cloud, and how “there are already countless applications” in the public sector. But Heck noted that there’s a shortage of workers with the skills to succeed in a rapidly transforming workforce environment. “What’s the state’s responsibility in all this?” Heck asked the audience. That’s why the need to train and educate more people to have success in the workplace is one of Washington state’s key areas of focus. Late 2021, Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and AWS announced a strategic collaboration to train and certify 2,500 K12 students in cloud computing skills within the next three years. Washington state is the first state to implement a statewide collaboration with AWS focused exclusively on training and educating K12 students to equip future workers with the technical foundational skills employers need. “The failure to step up would be a failure of imagination,” Heck said.

Creating new opportunities for next-generation global learning

Sarah Toms, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton Business School and executive director and co-founder of Wharton Interactive, discussed how her team developed a gaming platform to help modernize, transform, and democratize education.

“At the nexus of technology and pedagogy is a vast amount of untapped potential where we can rethink education and make it more effective,” Toms told the crowd. Most people acquire their skills by repeatedly rolling up their sleeves and gaining hands-on experience. That’s one of the reasons why Toms co-founded Wharton Interactive, which uses AWS to deliver experiential education to learners through alternate reality games. It’s a master of business administration (MBA) course in a game-like experience, in which learners play a starring role in their narrative of learning. Every step of the way, learners receive detailed feedback on their performance, get insights from experts, certificates of mastery, and more. Toms shares that students who use the gaming platform have a 98% completion rate and perform one standard deviation better on exams.

“It’s time to make learning more learner-centric, more engaging, and interactive,” Toms said.

Harnessing data to provide targeted services for communities

As community expectations are changing, pioneering leaders across state and local governments and educational institutions are leveraging technology to meet and exceed these expectations in new ways.

The Port of Long Beach in California is the second busiest port in the United States. When the Port began to contend with shipping delays and other supply chain issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port used AWS to create the “Supply Chain Information Highway” in the cloud. Their solution harnesses data to bridge a major gap in the complex and traditionally siloed supply chain environment by providing secure end-to-end visibility to the Port’s thousands of customers and stakeholders. Read more about how the Port of Long Beach addresses supply chain challenges with AWS.

Shaping the future by training the next generation of technology leaders

To continue innovating in the public sector, state and local governments and educational institutions must come together to support building a more skilled workforce that will invent and power the essential solutions and services of tomorrow.

Already, more than 14,000 K12 districts and nearly 4,000 higher education institutions have turned to AWS to harness cloud technology. Like the strategic collaboration with Washington, AWS is also working with the Nevada state government and education leaders to train, upskill, and certify 2,500 Nevadans in cloud computing in the next three years. Starting this fall, the College of Southern Nevada will begin offering an associate’s degree in Cloud Systems Administration, making it the first higher education institution in Nevada to provide AWS Academy courses in a program of study. In addition, Tennessee’s Colleges of Applied Technology will begin using AWS Cloud foundations as part of its Computer Information Technology diploma starting this fall. Plus, AWS is also working with Howard University in Washington, D.C. to give students access to a curriculum aligned with in-demand cloud careers and hands-on experiences built by AWS experts.

New AWS Education Champions program celebrates and supports education thought leaders

During the keynote, Kim and Mike announced the launch of the AWS Education Champions community and congratulated the 10 members of the program’s inaugural class; three Champions joined the stage to share more about their journeys in education. The AWS Education Champions community is a new program to celebrate and support influential individuals whose work accelerates the digital transformation of education with the AWS Cloud. The 10 inaugural Champions are nationally recognized speakers and authors who inspire the next generation of educational leaders. Read more about the AWS Education Champions program.

The future of education is here: Jeff Selingo on the art of the possible for higher education

The IMAGINE 2022 conference closed with a general session featuring best-selling author Jeff Selingo. Jeff, who has written about higher education for more than two decades, discussed how technology and the spirit of innovation are transforming the future of education.

“We have a diversity of learners, but not a diversity of institutions that can serve them right now,” Jeff told the audience. Learners want optionality in their education – what they want, when they want it – and the time to think about changing and elevating the learning experience is now. The prioritization of data over intuition, coupled with relentless focus on the student experience and meeting learners where they are, is the key to creating a better learning experience, Jeff said.

Then, Mike Hofherr, director of education business development and strategy at AWS, joined Jeff for a fireside chat. They discussed how data can help remove roadblocks to elevating the learner experience, and reiterated that higher education fundamentally has the right pieces in place already to help students succeed. Jeff and Mike shared how the institutions that have moved the needle for student success use data to identify where students are getting stuck in their courses, how students pick their majors, and other data around coursework to help students toward graduation. “Now I’d like to see the next step,” Jeff told Mike. “It’s not just helping students to graduation – it’s about getting them the first job, the second job.” Jeff posed: Can data be used to reverse engineer alumni’s path to their careers, to see what experiences in higher education led to successful careers and well-being?

 Learn more about AWS for education, state, and local leaders

Get more IMAGINE content with curated webinars from the IMAGINE: The New World of Education series and the IMAGINE: The Modern Citizen Experience series.

Learn more about how AWS supports customers in higher education and the needs of primary and secondary education, how AWS helps further research, supports next-generation education technology (EdTech) companies, and how AWS helps state and local governments transform for their constituents.

Do you have questions about how you can use cloud technology to digitally transform? Reach out to the AWS Public Sector Team to learn more.

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