The (Next) Greatest Generation

  • Story and Photo by Kerri McDermid

Across all schools in the St. Vrain Valley, our students are advancing excellence and will be the future leaders who will change our world. We are St. Vrain Valley Schools. We are the future of America. We are public education proud. #SoundOn #StVrainStorm

Preparing students for success in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Think back to society ten, fifteen...twenty years ago. What was your life like? What were your hopes and fears? How did you engage with the world around you?

Just as the Greatest Generation, born in the 1900s-1920s, experienced economic turmoil, rising civic and community engagement, and the acceleration of new technologies (radio and telephone), today’s students are developing in a time of rapid global transformation.

Schools today must be ready to meet the pace of industry to prepare students for jobs that do not even exist. We no longer ask students what they want to be when they grow up, but what problem they want to solve in the world.

“I truly believe that we are seeing the greatest generation coming of age,” shared Frannie Matthews, President and CEO of the Colorado Technology Association. “As these digital natives come into positions of leadership for our world, they will be faced with enormous challenges and also supported by amazing technological advances.”

One significant shift from the education model of the early 20th century is that rigorous learning no longer just emphasizes memorization and recitation, but fosters skills that students will need to be successful in the new era. Students today are learning how to continuously learn and iterate, problem solve, communicate, and advance innovative design and grow new ideas.

“Past generations have had to adapt to technology integrating with society, but for PK-12 students, it’s as normal as walking to the bus,” shared Paige Massey, a sophomore at Silver Creek High School and a member of the Innovation Center’s Artificial Intelligence Leadership Team. “Opportunities offered across St. Vrain Valley Schools do an exceptional job of preparing students for careers, postsecondary education, and daily life. Classes offered in school and an abundance of clubs will help students gain an edge when entering new and exponentially growing fields.”

Our nation’s unwavering focus on innovation and the advancement of society has served to build the United States’ economy into one of the strongest in the world. From the introduction of steam power and mechanical production in the First Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, to the Second Industrial Revolution’s establishment of the assembly line in the late 19th century, and then the rise of computers in the Third Industrial Revolution of the late 20th century, embracing technological change are values as American as apple pie, Monday Night Football, and Bruce Springsteen.

By the Numbers: National Impact

K-12 aged children in the United States – approximately 90 percent of our nation’s children – attend a public school1.
When calculating the public benefits of education in terms of high school graduation rates, the net economic benefit to the public is $127,000 per high school graduate2.
industry, community, and nonprofit district-level partners.

“With approximately 90 percent of our nation’s children attending a public school, we in St. Vrain believe public education is a catalyst to our nation’s economy, local and national security, the quality of our service industry, the value of homes, workforce development, and the protection of our democracy.”

Don Haddad, Ed.D., Superintendent

Building and Securing Our Data-Driven Future

Every day, our interactions with technology and the world around us create a footprint of data about who we are, what drives our interests, and even how often our individual heart rate rises and falls over time. As the “Internet of Things” takes greater hold of automating tasks, tracking our health, and improving the quality of our lives, an entirely new industry of jobs is being created. Recognizing the power that data will hold in the future direction of our society, St. Vrain Valley Schools is launching an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cybersecurity Hub at the Innovation Center that will cultivate skills for students to pursue new careers and champion the power of our data-driven future.

With a focus on technical skills, analysis, leadership, ethics, and innovation, the Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity Hub will partner with leading industry experts to design curriculum pathways that will give students a competitive advantage in this emerging field.

“Natural language processing, visual recognition, data analysis, machine learning, and complex neural models are all important areas of study for students to start engaging in now,” said Axel Reitzig, innovation coordinator at the Innovation Center. “Moving forward, our whole society will be centered on the use of those types of data and also how we keep that information secure.”

Over the next three years, the Artificial Intelligence Leadership Team, comprised of students, educators, and industry leaders, will pilot AI learning in classrooms across St. Vrain. Building on strong cybersecurity programs already in place at secondary schools in the district, the Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity Hub will develop even more engineering and design opportunities for students to enhance their career and postsecondary preparation to make a big impact in the future.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, advanced manufacturing, automation, data integration, cybersecurity, and creative innovation will be central to success as the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution drives exponential change to the way we live and experience the world. In describing this new era, the World Economic Forum predicts disruption to every industry in every country, heralding the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

“We are seeing rapid acceleration of change at a pace we have never experienced before,” said Don Haddad, Ed.D., superintendent of St. Vrain Valley Schools. “With approximately 90 percent of our nation’s children attending a public school, we in St. Vrain believe public education is a catalyst to our nation’s economy, local and national security, the quality of our service industry, the value of homes, workforce development, and the protection of our democracy. It is essential that our systems are giving our students – and our society – a strong competitive advantage to foster success in a complex, globalized world.”

In today’s classrooms, access to advanced technologies takes students beyond space and time to accelerate their learning and connection to the globe around them. St. Vrain Valley Schools has strategically focused on the development and implementation of programming that will propel students forward as they graduate and become engaged citizens and thought leaders who will champion a stronger future for all.

“It has been a privilege to see St. Vrain students in action – they are engaged and inquisitive. The experience-based learning that I’ve witnessed in St. Vrain is setting students up for success,” added Matthews. “I see a generation of purpose-driven leaders who leverage their resources to work efficiently to find creative solutions to enormous challenges.”

When we look ahead to our world ten, fifteen...twenty years from now, it is hard to imagine how our lives will be transformed by the innovative ideas taking shape in today’s classrooms. As we prepare for what is coming next, our students represent the next Greatest Generation that will shape our future and inspire a new vision of wonder and possibility for generations ahead.

Advancing Our Economic Future

The First Industrial Revolution
Steam power fueled the First Industrial Revolution. Goods that were once produced by hand could now be created in mass quantities due to mechanization, particularly in iron work and textiles.
The Second Industrial Revolution
Mass production and the assembly line reshaped the factory environment across the United States. Similar to the First Industrial Revolution, production rates saw a dramatic increase due to efficiency improvements in manufacturing.
The Third Industrial Revolution
Electronics, such as the transistor and microprocessor, telecommunications, and computers allowed for production to be automated and was no longer restricted to the limits of human capacity.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Exponentially increasing computing power has led to artificial intelligence, the “Internet of Things”, biotechnology, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing. These technologies are projected to disrupt nearly every industry.


1National Center for Education Statistics (2019), Back to School Fast Facts. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372.

2Levin, H.M., et al. (2007). The costs and benefits of an excellent education for all of America’s children. Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education (CBCSE), Teachers College, Columbia University, New York.

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ST. VRAINNOVATION was produced in-house by the St. Vrain Department of Communications.
ST. VRAINNOVATION and other district initiatives are generously supported by these and many other community sponsors.

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