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Rebels, Rebooters, and Revolutionaries, oh my!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

by Tim Lougheed, Learning 2030 In-Camera Blogger

Images © WGSI/Brian Emery

It could be a history-making breakthrough or a recipe for disaster: Collect two dozen dynamic young people from around the world and throw them together in a room for three days to try and re-engineer their own education.  

During one of the summit’s get-to-know-you sessions, one participant – a recent high school graduate – expressed what many here are feeling: education at the secondary level needs some major fixing: “I just finished a 15-year course and I have no idea what the purpose of it was,” said the participant.

Rebooting the global high school experience

These participants make up the Forum – the youth portion of Learning 2030, the latest edition of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative’s Equinox Summit series.
They’re exceptional young people, sure, but more that that, they are among the top innovators in their fields the world-over:

  • while still in high school (in 2012) Sam Levin (now attending Oxford) founded The Independent Project – a school-within-a-school that lets students create and work through their own curriculum
  •  Gersande La Flèche is the co-founder of Kids Code Jeunesse, a Montreal based non-profit that resolves to introduce computer science, computational thinking and problem solving into Canadian elementary schools
  • after one year of conventional university education (this following three years of auditing university classes rather than his high school ones) Chris Olah is working in hacker spaces with the financial support of a Thiel Fellowship – a $100 000 grant given to 20 exceptional under-20's to pursue their own projects for two years

This diverse group of up-&-comers will be joined by a heavy-hitting array of mentors (referred to as the Quorum, along with a further group called Advisors) including some of the world’s top headline-makers in the field of next-generation education.

Images © WGSI/Brian Emery

The scene, so far...

Even before the behind-closed-door sessions get started (stay tuned tomorrow and in the coming days for reports on those), both sides offered up radically divergent views on how to fix the current state of education this morning.
They could easily spend the week just swapping classroom war stories or hashing out their differences on educational philosophy, without a concrete end-product...
But that won’t be allowed to happen here at Equinox Summit: Learning 2030, where complicated tasks are immediately dispatched…and impossible ones just take only slightly longer to solve.


Canada as a base for global innovation (again)

The Learning 2030 working sessions take place at Perimeter Institute. In just over 10 years, this world-renowned think-tank has become home to the largest concentration of theoretical physicists on Earth, playing host to titans like Sir Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking.

Within sight of Perimeter Institute is Waterloo Global Science Intiative's other founding partner, the University of Waterloo, who's campus has produced the innovators behind Desire2Learn, Thalmic Labs and is home to futuristic research facilities like the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology.

While here in Waterloo, this never-before-assembled group say they’ll turn their ideas into a practical, working proposal for policymakers to pilot in real high schools over the next 17 years.
It’s something I’m looking forward to sinking my teeth into in the coming days. First, though, this group has to actually define what they’d like to accomplish. And that all has to be nailed down before we leave this evening for dinner…

Tim Lougheed – Ottawa, Canada-based science journalist – will be blogging from WGSI throughout the summit. His reports from inside the summit's behind-closed-door in-camera sessions will appear on Sept 30, Oct 1 and Oct 2