#76 Rethinking Education – Lessons from WISE Awards Winning Innovators

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Featuring Susan Mtana of Kenya-based Kidogo, Tyler Samstag of Pittsburgh-based Remake Learning, and Janhvi Kanoria of Qatar-based Education Above All.

In today’s rapidly changing world, the traditional model of education is being challenged like never before. New technologies, changing social and economic conditions, and a multitude of other factors are reshaping the way we learn and teach.

With these changes come novel initiatives and solutions that are tackling pressing challenges of learning in unconventional ways. But what sets a great solution apart and leads to real impact? What can we learn from those who have succeeded where others struggled?

In this two-part episode, we’ll be speaking with six innovators behind the 2022 WISE Awards winning projects to learn what it takes to make a great idea a reality and delve deeper into some of the things they wish they knew when they set out to change education.

Together with Susan Mtana, Tyler Samstag, and Janhvi Kanoria, we discussed topics including:

– The ‘eureka’ moment when creating their projects

– Balancing important stakeholders from beneficiaries to partnerships

– Key challenges they faced and how they overcame them

– And key lessons for other innovators looking to make change in the

education space.

Conversation transcript: 


I’d like to start off this conversation by just getting to know each other a little more and introducing yourselves to the audience. So maybe we can just start off with a brief introduction from each of you telling us what’s your story and what inspired you to get involved in education and ultimately to the projects that you’re leading today?


Thank you for having me, Bassim and Aurelio. It’s so lovely to be here representing Education Above All at the WISE Awards. My name is Jahnvi Kanoria and I am the director of Innovation at Education Above All. What led me into education really was my love for education. Unlike a lot of other people in this world, I had an amazing education experience.

I enjoyed school, I enjoyed college, and just recognizing that that’s not the norm for most children around the world was a very horrifying reality to me. And therefore it became my life’s mission to think about how I can make sure the privileges I had was afforded to everyone. And what got us to this project, which is the Internet Free Education Resource Bank or IFERB for short, was really the COVID 19 pandemic. So when the pandemic started, the world moved towards digital education. But we recognized that most of the beneficiaries that we work with as education above all, did not have access to technology of any kind, no connectivity, very limited resources, and often did not have educators or even parents to support their learning from home. 

So the question was how do we ensure that these children have some learning continuity because otherwise we’re going to have a huge dropout crisis. So in an attempt to create more meaningful learning for them. We started actually scouring the Internet to see what is out there and how can they actually continue learning. We found very little. So my team and I, we started developing project based learning resources for these low resource contexts and the idea was that children should and can be able to learn from their surroundings and whatever’s around them.

And even if it is very limited resources, that is low key and we can still create Gibby interesting, exciting and engaging dining experiences. But then from there it has shown to be a learning solution that is adapted to in school context, improve quality of engagement as well as quality of education. It’s also was an emergency context. For example, in Ukraine and Afghanistan, and of course it continues to be was for our schoolchildren. So it really is a repository of open source content which was developed, keeping in mind the children with the lowest resources.


Thank you very much. Jahnvi, if we can jump to you, Tyler.


My name is Tyler Samstag. I am the director of Remake Learning. We are a learning ecosystem based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We are located along the East coast of the United States. I, by training, am a practitioner. I was a secondary English teacher, special education teacher. My first experience in education was doing a year of service with AmeriCorps in the United States.

My first experience was teaching at an alternative school and after that, I formerly was trained as a secondary English teacher in New York City and taught in alternative education settings in New York City for close to a decade and being trained as a special education teacher. I think that’s really shaped my views on education. As a special educator, you go into environments asking how you can constantly shape your instruction to support young people in learning, and so you’re constantly innovating.

I think by nature, special educators are incredibly innovative. And so over the years that piqued my interest. And how are we continuously innovating with an education? After about ten years of, since I left Pittsburgh, I did what we often called boomeranging. So I returned back home to Pittsburgh with an interest in learning innovation and that’s when I first was introduced to the Remake Learning Network in the city of Pittsburgh.

And as an ecosystem, Remake Learning has built this culture in the city of Pittsburgh that no one organization alone can transform teaching and learning. And so as a network, they strive to bring different organizations together. Just quite naturally, I felt like I had a home there. I found kindred spirits within the network. And then about two years ago, I was brought on as the director of Remake Learning, which has been just an incredible last two years.


Amazing. Thank you, Tyler. And last but not least, Susan.


Kidogo’s story begins a decade ago whereby one of the founders, Sabrina, was doing a research in a low income community called La Longo. So she went into a room. It was poorly lit. It was so dark and the children were just lying down there. And she asked the colleague, like, what is this? She was told this is a baby care center.

So children were not stimulated. The hygiene was poor. And she asked are parents paying for these surveys? She was told, yes, they pay a dollar a day. And she asked herself, how might we offer quality and affordable child care services to the low income communities at the same price of a dollar a day? Because you find working mothers in low income communities have three options.

If they’re supposed to go to work, one, it’s either they lock the baby at home or pull an older sibling from school or leave the baby in these informal baby care centers. So we decided to professionalize the sector by recruiting the women as women entrepreneurs, we call them Mamapreneurs. They’re running the informal baby care centers into the Kidogo network, taking them through a quality improvement program so that they can improve the quality and ensure that they offer a space whereby the child can reach their full potential.


So just listening to all of you guys, and I think you’ve touched upon a couple of times in your introductions, I want to know what was your eureka moment where you realized that you were faced with a challenge, an issue in education, and you had to do something and you found that moment where you realized, this is what I’m going to do, this is the solution. But is there a specific moment that you could recall, a memory that you could tell us about?


For me, it was a moment of desperation, really. Because it was recognition that if we don’t do something for these children, we are going to have such a big problem coming back to work after two years with the crisis of out of school. And I think I was watching my own children play, who are now five and seven both at that time, five and three, and they were playing an imaginary game of pretend play house, house.

And while they were kind of serving each other a meal and one was mommy and one was baby, I recognized how much value that potentially had and how many things I was infusing into that conversation. So sort of like, no, give her one cup, no two cups. And we’re suddenly talking about numeracy. We were discussing how you know, they could pretend, read stories to each other as mommy baby and we were discussing literacy. It came from that moment of watching my children play. To think any experience really can be converted into a learning experience. All we really need to do is design it in a way where it’s accessible for everyone and it’s not contingent on resources. And it’s also not contingent on some very chained facilitator because they’re not available.

So how can children themselves experiment, discover, practice? How can illiterate mothers, grandmothers, fathers share some of their life wisdom? How do we create a one simple learning object that can have multiple learning mechanisms? So for example, just the history of your family and that family tree? How can that be converted into math by doing mean, median, mode averages?

How can that be converted into literacy? By doing essays on your role model? How can that be converted into geography by thinking about migration patterns? And so how can you take a single learning object and convert it into many things? That was really the attempt, but it came from my children playing and me probably getting angry with them for disturbing me.


Two quick ones. My first one happened in 2010. It was my first year teaching. I was a high school teacher in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and we had a small group of Arabic speaking students at our school who really just struggled with access of content. And as I got to know these students, I was struggling as a first year teacher, but I grew these connections, and I remember one student saying, sometimes I’m spoken to like I’m stupid, but I’m not. I just am struggling with access and the content. And that stuck with me. That resonated with me. That was 2010. So three years after the first iPhone came out and then a second memory is the TED talk of Professor Hugh Herr, who runs the bio mechatronics lab at MIT Media Lab.

And they’re just doing incredible work in creating neurally controlled prosthetics. And in that he says a quote that I think about all the time. That people cannot be disabled, technology is disabled. And so those two memories together constantly have pushed me – how can we leverage technology which has this incredible power to remove these barriers to learning for young people, no matter what those barriers are.

And so that really fuels the work that I do in innovation. And Pittsburgh, our goal was to how can we bring together many, many parties to constantly be pushing what innovation looks like in K-12 education.


Okay, for Kidogo I’ll say it was more of like looking at the innocent life of this child who did not choose to be born in the informal settlements and looking at their future. And looking at the privilege maybe that you have this time. And it was like, if the first thousand days are the most important, how about acting quick so that the future can be saved for these children.


If I may, it’s really interesting to hear the aha moments when you realized that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. But I’m sure these eureka moments, as you said Bassim, they come to many people in many occasions, not always however, can people successfully make those ideas come to life. So one thing that we would love to hear from you is for any person who has interesting ideas on how to solve problems in education, how can they make those innovations happen? What is the ingredient to actually, secret ingredients? Well, we’ll reveal the secret now. So to make those ideas come to life.


Sure. I’m happy to jump in. I don’t know if this explicitly answers your question, but remake learning. We started, as I shared in 2007, so we celebrated our 15th birthday this year, which was an incredible milestone for us. I’m incredibly grateful for that. The thousands of people who have contributed to this ecosystem in Pittsburgh and beyond. This year we put out a publication called the Pittsburgh Principles that shares some of our learnings from our 15 years, and I can share three of those principles that always resonate with me. The first is learning happens everywhere. And so the success of our ecosystem has been built around that premise that learning happens everywhere and we need to uplift, we need to celebrate all of those many places that learning takes place.

The network has really benefited from the principle of making little bets, and so we really kind of adopt that. I heard the phrase earlier today fail forward, and so we make lots of little bets and some of them are successful, some of them aren’t. We have tried to create this culture where we can make those little bets, We can try those, you know, things that might seem like outlandish ideas.

And if they aren’t successful, we could potentially learn from it. And then the third is tell our story. And so we’ve invested a lot across the Pittsburgh region in identifying what has been successful, distilling it down into actionable items and telling those stories to hopefully inspire other people to replicate or scale their successes.


Maybe to just build off of what Tyler was just saying, taking on an innovator hat outside of the project that I’m working on, if you really resonate with what the challenges and deeply understand it and the context, then it’s just about trusting your instinct with what you do. I think building that confidence in yourself to trust your instinct is very tough because there is a lot of narrative around how we’re risking a child’s life with innovation.

And the reality is in the context that we work, these children have nothing. So any risk that we’re taking is a good risk and it is a path forward. Just so I think what we did was we listened carefully, we started small, we listened some more, and we were really, really open to change. There were times when we threw out whatever we were innovating on because it wasn’t resonating.

And I think having that confidence to say this is working or this is not working is a hard one. I actually think awards like this help a lot because it helps build the confidence of an innovator to believe in themselves. And I think that it all comes from that self-belief.


I could just add about self-belief. Since you’ve identified the needs the problem, you are not just creating a solution to something that doesn’t exist. It means it exists, which means it’s affecting the community. And that the context that you come from in Africa, you find like you can’t just wait for the government to do some things.

But funny thing is, once you take the step forward, you’ll get the backing and they’ll be like, Whoa, you guys are doing a great thing. That’s when they’ll start now coming in to chip in and to help you out. So I’ll say believe in yourself, if you are supposed to maybe do a rapid test or a prototype to test your idea to prove it, go ahead and do it.

Who knows? You might be the first mover and people will rally behind you.


Thank you all for your incredible insights. I want to take it a step back and really just ask you to take us through sort of the user experience of your beneficiaries. Really put us through the shoes of the people that your projects benefit and give us a sense of what they experience through your projects. I think that would help the listeners. I mean, you have Mamapreneurs for example, maybe we can go right to left this time.


So the Mamapreneurs, so Mama then Preneur, so a woman in business. First of all, in Kenya you find like ECD is deemed to be a profession for failures. These Mamapreneurs, even if they received children at their centers, it’s deemed as a menial job. In this case, bringing them to the Kidogo program, training them, teaching them like in one topic about confidence and personality, just self-awareness.

Teaching them about play based learning, for example. Because they have not gone through formal ECD education. So you are there, you empower them. After that, you also want to show them like, this is a business. Maybe you did it out of passion or out of desperation, but this is a business. So how can we professionalize your business and bringing that entrepreneur mindset to them?

And to find that is what most of them they speak about in their success stories, like when Kidogo came. And also one thing I’m forgetting in Africa, you find like we do cane because apparently like that is how I was raised up and so they pinch you, cane you and that is how they discipline the child and in this case now you showed them like there’s something called positive discipline.

This is how you need to discipline the child. So it’s more of a process of unlearning and relearning for them. The good thing is, at the end of the day, they’re seen as professionals like, Wow, so you are a teacher, so you are now a dignified entrepreneur in the community with them. Lots of information about child care and how to offer quality services and also at this point, you find like truth be told, there’s been issues with their collection rates, a parent will come drop their child, they don’t pay.

So teaching them how to follow these difficult conversations with their parents are now being in a position like to speak for their business and even to track finances. Knowing that this is part of this is a personal model, maybe expense, and this is a business expense. So at the end of the day, they can run a thriving business and even the quality of child care service that they offer goes high and also their children.

The children in the centers also benefit from it. And also we encourage them to talk to the parents to extend the learning and play at home. So also parental engagement. So we are shipping the community through them and that’s the success story that they tell when they talk about the before and after joining Kidogo.


Amazing. Thank you, Susan. We’ll jump to you, Tyler.


So first and foremost, I have an incredible team who works with me around remake learning. So huge shout out to my team in Pittsburgh and we see ourselves as stewards of the network. We work in service of the ecosystem. What that actually looks like for us, as we call it. Our our network support strategies are five C’s as we call them.

You know, I was a teacher for close to a decade and it can be a really isolating profession. You might have great ideas on how to innovate in education, but not sure where to go outside of your classroom. And so from the eco systemic lens, we as I shared, we call them our five C’s, and I’ll go through them really quickly and each one of these five C’s are a way that anybody in the region can connect with remake learning.

And so the first is communicate. We offer kind of a unified hub across the region that breaks down silos in communication. And so as a teacher you might not know where to turn. Our website, our mailing list, our social media all aim to offer a resource to point people in the direction of all the incredible opportunities that are taking place across southwestern Pennsylvania.

We convene, we bring people together around the table who otherwise might not be together around the table. And so we do things like lunch and learns. And so the topic is maker spaces. We might have somebody from Carnegie Mellon University, Elizabeth Forward School District from prototype all different approaches to the same topic around the same table, sharing to give people insights on what this looks like in different environments.

Quite naturally, as you bring people together, you start to recognize that there are topics of shared interest and these surface has been shared quite organically. And as that happens, we start to bring together people to coordinate around these, and we do so through working groups. We currently offer four active working groups. We have the STEM ecosystem, which is part of the national STEM ecosystem work.

We have CS for PGH, which is a focus on computer science. We have one that is focused on maker learning, our maker learning collaborative, looking at hands on pedagogies around maker education, and then our fourth and most recent one is our personalized learning network focused on what personalized learning looks like in this area of education. So we communicate we convene, we coordinate.

As we coordinate, great ideas start to come together. You know, people start to think about what if we can work together, what could that look like? And so we catalyze, we offer various grant opportunities. Some of these are mini grants of just around a couple hundred dollars to take an idea and make it a reality. Some of these are larger kind of systemic grant opportunities like our current one, the Moonshot grants.

And then lastly, as we start to see transformation take place across the region in our libraries and our museums and our classrooms, we celebrate and we champion. And so we shine a light on their successes. We do so through things like publications, and then we have our Remake Learning Days Festival, which invites organizations to open their doors in the same two weeks in May every year and showcase what hands on, engaging learning looks like in your environments.

And so what started in Pittsburgh in 2016, has expanded to regions across the United States and in 2023 we are going global with three international festivals, which we’re super excited about.


Amazing. So can you give me a specific example of how those grants turn into something tangible? Yeah, I mean, you mentioned publication, but does it go beyond written work or does it actually lead to full on projects in the field?


So a small grant might be a teacher who goes to one of our computer science events and hears about what robotics looks like in Carnegie Mellon University, has an idea of how they can integrate robotics into their elementary classroom. And so a small grant might provide them the resources to buy a classroom set of robotics. That’s a kind of localized one.

Our Moonshot grants, we’re inviting organizations to think really boldly about what they want teaching and learning to look like in ten years, and to propose an idea of something they could pilot today that will accelerate movement in that direction and so an example of that is the California Area School District, a small rural district, about 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh.

They were inspired by IEPs, individualized education programs oftentimes used for special education. And their idea was what if all students could have an IP? And so they did a small pilot with about 25 students where they got rid of grade levels and they got rid of grades as a form of assessment and just piloted this with a small group of students.

And since that pilot that has scaled to, I think they’re close to 100 students, really remarkable work.


So as I mentioned to you, we have an open repository of content that we’ve developed for quality resource all low resource contexts. And what typically happens is our partners come to us who are typically NGO’s on the ground and they come to us and they give us context that they operate in. They sometimes operate in schools, they sometimes operate in places where there are no schools and the children our school. They’re sometimes operating in emergency contexts. And what we do is we ask them specifically, what are the needs of the children in your geography? What are you trying to solve for? It could be social, emotional learning. It could be literacy and numeracy, it could be engagement, it could be 21st century skills. So they give us that problem statement.

We sort of evolve it with them and then based on that, we help them select resources from our bank. We then train them on how to contextualize it for wherever they operate. We then give them training on how to implement it and we give them monitoring and evaluation to us and then we support them on that whole journey when we get feedback from the community.

This is working. This is not working. How do you talk to parents? What do you do with teachers? How do you train facilitators? So we support them along that entire journey. And for a child experience could be very varied. It really depends on where we’re using it and for what. So there are villages in India where during the COVID 19 pandemic they used the loudspeakers which are outside of religious institutions, broadcast instructions so that certain could actually access them.

There are places in Zambia where they used radio or sometimes when they had nothing, they painted the instructions on the village wall. And then there are schools in Kenya where it’s being used to ensure that kids come back to schools. And then there are refugee camps in the U.S. where we’re working with Afghan children, which are typically military bases. So it really depends on where the context is and how the instruction is delivered.

Sometimes it’s incorporated into the curriculum, and so it just sort of reflects what they’re learning. And it’s conceptual understanding and sometimes it doesn’t. But what we do is we really focus on getting feedback from the ground of what their needs are, but also what’s working and what’s not. And very often we then develop resources to respond to them.

One example of that was when there was a large flood that happened in a particular area in India, which we were working in. We were sort of told by our partners and prompted to say, Can you think about something related to floods? And we said, Absolutely. So we created a whole project which is focused on why floods happen, through experiments children understand human actions, which cause flooding.

They then created evacuation plans for their own village in case there are floods, including understanding what are essential items that they should carry with them and why. And then they learned density by creating life jackets which were designed from discarded plastic bottles. So it was a project which incorporated geography and science, but it was focused on something that they were facing.


You mentioned the role of partners, Jahnvi, you as well Tyler and you as well, Susan:. So maybe if you could tell a bit more how you engage with the partners, how you identify them and how they help advance the impact and prove that the work that you’re doing is impactful in a way.


So we have been very fortunate in the sense that partners have constantly been approaching us since the beginning of our journey, perhaps because of how timely the solution was and how needed it was for the COVID context. And then soon after, what we really realized from the ground was that our partners fully understand the context that they operate in.

They know these communities, they know how to mobilize them, they know how to support them. They know how to meet the government systems, work for their benefit. What they don’t necessarily have time and space for is to develop that content. So we’re playing that role, which they, frankly, just don’t have the mental space for. So we give them that content, we give them that training, we give them that support.

But really reading that, we need to know about why, what and how this is going to be done comes from them. So they’ve come up with ideas on this is how we can implement it. We should do this as an after school program because we want to use the community or we should do this in school because we want to illustrate this to the government that comes from them.

The resources and the needs of the donors comes from them. We just try and tell them then this is the content you require. This is what we will develop and design for you. This is how we would train you. And what we’ve seen with our partners is the first few projects, because it is the pedagogical shift setting of project based learning and suddenly have student voice and choice and have teachers not having a very set scripted set of instructions, no textbooks, because it’s such a big leap, the first few projects is very unnerving and everyone is a little bit nervous about how it’s going to go. And they’re also not confident at all that they’ll be able to do it. And they keep asking us for more scripted lessons. But there’s a magic that happens. So after the first five projects, suddenly you see that children are more engaged.

You see that the teachers are just very confident. You’ll see that the partners are sort of, you know, in control. And what they’ve done for us is they’ve expanded and scaled it themselves. So after we do usually pilot projects of proof of concept with them, the partners take it on. Now they’ve adopted the mechanism, the methodology, the pedagogical approach, and then they continue doing it, they lobby for it, the advocate for it.

And that’s hugely meaningful because that really means we’re creating systemic change through them in different parts of the world and empowering them then to become their own champions.


That’s very encouraging to hear. I’m curious, you know, when you do initiate these projects and you face their resistance early on, how do you go about that? You know, what takes you from Point A where they’re still getting over their hurdle to point B where, you know, they’re finally getting their heads wrapped around this new format and they’re just expanding it from their own end?


A lot of tears. No, I’m joking. I don’t need a lot of tears. Actually. What happens is that resistance is different from different pockets. For the teacher, the facilitator, and sometimes the parent because we don’t have a teacher, similarly to what Susan was saying, we’ve always exalted our teachers to the extent where a parent who is not that literate is afraid to take on a role of educating their own child.

So it’s sometimes breaking that down to say learning, similar to what Tyler was saying, happens everywhere all the time. And it does not matter if you do not have a very trained teacher to do that. You have a lot of wisdom, you have a lot of life lessons, and you can absolutely help your children. That’s also a lot of fear with parents, when they see their children having fun and experimenting to say where are the worksheets, how are they going to pass exams, Is this really going to help them advance in schooling?

Because, you know, at the end of the day, there’s a job to be had and money to be made. So for each of these different demographics we’ve tried very different things. For the parents, we often don’t talk about 21st century skills, but what we do tell them is, look, ok so your child is in your mind jumping around on a mud line outside your home.

Actually, that’s a number line that they’re practicing math on. But, you know, let’s just assume that that’s what it is. Why don’t you test it after a week on this and this and this? Let’s see if you think that they’ve grown. And suddenly parents are like, well, I’m testing them on sort of conventional tests, but they are learning and growing and that’s fantastic.

So the parents really start buying into it and then we gradually ask them questions like, have you seen changes in communication? What about creativity? And then the others start answering questions like yeah, that’s true. They’re suddenly more confident. So that’s where the parents suddenly start shifting their mindset. When it comes to the children, it’s about again and again just telling them it’s okay and rewarding them for the effort and for the experimentation and not for the end product.

And gradually children build so much confidence that they amaze us, they create things which are well beyond what we had designed in the project. They take it to levels which we can’t imagine, for example, there’s a project about designing your house rules for COVID just for your home, in most of the places we went, children reached the point where they were deciding village rules for COVID. For the entire village, and they were deciding it with the head of the village.

And that’s incredible. But so children, when unleashed and unbridled, can do a lot. It just takes a little bit of a journey to get there.


I saw you taking a lot of notes there. Tyler are taking a couple of points of inspiration or I imagine you may have a couple of reflections to share with us yourself.


A little bit of both, I guess. Just trying to capture my ideas down. So built upon this notion, this premise of we work better when we work together, remake learning is the stewards of this ecosystem. This regional ecosystem, partnership is valued and it is something that we strive to support others in forging and as a network of educators and innovators in the city.

We use that term educators really loosely. And so for us, educators include artists, learning scientists, teachers, out-of-school time educators, librarians, industry partners, etc.. And so, you know, I think three kind of loose categories that we find our members falling within. And this is not all encompassing. We have researchers and learning scientists. And so these are folks in schools of education at our universities, but also schools of psychology, schools of neuroscience that are really kind of forging new understandings on how young people develop, how we learn.

The second category, organizations who are doing research and development, and a lot, in the city of Pittsburgh, a lot of that is happening in our universities like Carnegie Melon University, entertainment of technology that are really kind of pushing, thinking around gaming and experiences of learning. And then we have our practitioners and again, these are classroom teachers, but they’re out-of-school time educators, librarians, etc. And for us, the magic is in that spark at the intersection of all three of these, because we see that it’s really key

that development in all of these spaces incorporate each of these categories. And so for us, that sweet spot is how can we make partnership normal, How can we normalize it, and then how can we forge partners among unlikely partners and so, partnership is key to the work that we do.


And eloquently said, if I do say.


Okay, so the primary way or the organic way whereby we at the limits of our program is through the social franchising approach. But again, just after COVID, we were like, can we also try exponential growth through partners? Just to echo what he has said, we have research partners who are like, okay, is Kidogo model working looking at the child outcomes.

Also, there’s another research ongoing, just looking at assuming we solve the childcare crises and the parents going to work and a dignified livelihood, just looking at it from a research perspective. So it’s like a model of women economic empowerment. And the other bit of the partners that we work with is in the policy and advocacy space. As I mentioned in Kenya, they’ve been known for years whereby it’s an unregulated sector and the childcare is devolved the different county governments.

So you find in country government A maybe they have regulations, country government B, no drafts, no bills and all that. So we work with partners and that all took place to just try to push this forward. And then the other interesting bit is in terms of program implementation or let me call it offering technical assistance.

For example, we have in Kenya a woman who is locked in prison and has a child below five years. They’re allowed to go with the child in prison. So our vision in Kidogo is you know, we say like, imagine a world where all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. So in this case, what about the under-five child who has been locked in the prison?

So like we have what we call workplace partnerships in this case like in that one we partnered with an organization that has programs in the prison because you can’t just enter the prison like that. And then through them, if we managed to reach the children OR for example, in tea factories, you find a woman will be carrying their child on their back.

It’s very cold, as they are plucking tea. So in that case, how about sitting on site or a near site childcare center near the factory? So you find like it’s either we work with the partner or the employer or a partner organization to ensure that we reach or we will bring a solution to that problem or offering technical assistance maybe to a caregiver who will take care of that.


All really interesting insights. Thank you all so much for sharing those. Maybe we can wrap this conversation up. I mean, we could go longer than this, but we want to let you guys off the hook. Maybe we could leave the listeners with just a main sort of food for thought from innovators of the fields of education what do you wish you could have told yourself five, ten years ago as a budding entrepreneur or a budding innovator, the field, about something you wish you knew about innovation in education or how to innovate? One key lesson.


To me, I say like there will always be a need. Just that how the need needs to be addressed keeps evolving. So even as an innovator in education, just thinking about how can we keep on just adapting the solution to the new context. Just a simple one, you can look at pre-COVID and post-COVID. So much has changed. So let’s keep on innovating and let’s keep on addressing the need that is there.


So first and foremost, this is really just an incredible honor for myself, for remake learning. I’m just so incredibly grateful for this distinction of the WISE Awards. That said, I think something that really sticks out to me is how deeply regional this work is for us. Remake learning and I think why we’ve experienced the success that we have is that we’ve really leaned into that regional aspect of the work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

We have these two, I think, dominant legacies that we lean into. We are Mister Rogers neighborhood, Mister Rogers. You know, he had a television show, an education, television show for decades and many generations grew up watching Mister Rogers. It was filmed in Pittsburgh. He was an innovator. He was one of the first people to leverage this new technology of television to deliver educational content.

When a lot of people don’t know is that pretty much everything he did was informed by the learning sciences. He had a deep relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, and so everything he did was informed. So it is that kind of intersection of innovation with the learning sciences, and I think it’s a beautiful legacy. And then we are the Steel City.

We’re known as the Steel City, Pittsburgh. We often say we are not New York, but we built New York. And so Pittsburgh was a primary steel producer for four generations, and that legacy ended in the eighties and had really huge impact on the city. But we lean into that because by nature within our DNA, we are makers. And so these are two legacies that we we lean into.

And I think it’s embedded in the DNA, the work that we do. So innovation, I would say, is deeply regional, deeply local work. And I think that’s a beautiful lesson I have learned along the way.


So I think mine is just that there often is a fixed definition of innovation and we believe it has to be something novel, new, never been tried before. Often. The other thing is that we have this again, a very deep embedded thought about taking risks and the idea of how everything we do has to be perfect and I just want to challenge both those notions today. Hitting the first is just that innovation is pretty much embedded in everything we do. It can be small, it can be broad, it can be a tiny micro step. It can be something that works somewhere else and didn’t work here. It could be the same thing done slightly differently. And it really depends on the context and the constraints on the ground and to be really carefully listening to what those are so that we can solve for them is what innovation really is.

We really require multiple, multiple ways in which we deliver design and develop education today. And if we’re not innovating those, we really learned nothing from this pandemic. So I think that’s the first part. And I think the second part is around this question of risks and aspiring to be perfect. If anyone here has been in a classroom or has been a teacher, you know that the most perfect lesson plan devolves into something completely different the minute it hits that room.

And there is some magic that happens in that interaction. And I think a lot of it, therefore, is to do our best to understand what we can do to ensure that we’re empowering both those individuals in that space and then let the magic take it where it goes. And I often feel like with our managing and evaluation frameworks, we almost limit how much can happen and we almost constrain the potential by ensuring that we’ve set specific targets and specific areas.

But I think what we’ve established with this conversation is learning is not one dimensional. So there isn’t just math happening in a math class and there isn’t just social emotional learning happening in that class. And the beautiful confluence of all of it is what happens. And so if we are not constrained by what innovation is and what it can deliver, I think we can all do so much more with it.


Thank you so much to all of you and congratulations and thank you so much for joining me on WISE On Air.


Thank you.


Thank you so much.