Inspiring Innovations in Education

Today I had the unexpected good fortune to attend a TedX event focused on Education Innovation and, while in theory I was only there to support my cousin Jake who was speaking (and had flown in from the UK), in reality I found it incredibly inspiring. And intriguing because here were these people with fantastic ideas for challenging the status quo, advancing education and creating new generations of globally-minded, community-focused and technology-leveraged children and future leaders. Who wouldn’t be inspired?

Three talks stood out for me.

The first was by Julia de la Torre of Primary Source and focused on introducing global education into the curriculum as early as K-12. Empowering young, eager minds with a meaningful understanding of different cultures, not just through one-off International Days when they learn about one country’s food and history, but through new types of curricula, new models for learning, collaborations across classrooms, even countries. This really resonated for me: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel far and wide, to have lived in different countries, to speak different languages. As a European, this is not so unusual. I desperately want for my kids to have the same exposure, appreciation, challenges. I’m only just starting to experience the American Public School system and I sincerely hope my kids’ education and mindset are able to expand beyond Massachusetts. I know my husband and I play a large role in opening their eyes to the world beyond Framingham but I would love for their school to also forge a large part of this global education.

The second talk was by my cousin Jake Hayman of Future First. Jake created this organization to tackle the issue of social mobility and the reality that your family’s wealth – or not – foretells your future. Jake talked about how hard it is for lower-class kids to break out; that the cycle of poor education and poor jobs and poor prospects repeats itself. But that a solution lies in bringing these kids, hope, mentoring and financial support via their school’s alumni. Future First’s mission is to help schools make the most of their communities using the enthusiasm, experience, skills and talents of former students. To quote Jake, “We can flood schools with army of alumni ready to give back.” In the UK, more than 500 high schools have bought into this concept and have instituted powerful alumni networks. Now, Jake is bringing this to the US; and I wish him so much luck. This is not about innovating in education, but about creating meaningful bridges between classrooms and communities that can effect change and progression. I respect that.

The last talk that inspired me was by Eileen Rudden, who recently served as Chief Officer, College and Career Preparation at Chicago Public Schools. She presented some shocking facts about how US students might be making it to college but are increasingly dropping out; the root cause being that their high school education has not fully prepared them for college success. Eileen is creating a Massachusetts-based cluster of ed tech startups to challenge this, bringing together startup companies that are innovating across aspects of education. After all, Eileen said, “How come teachers do not have software solutions at their disposal, like almost any other profession?” Innovation in ed tech can not only improve kids’ ability to learn but also substantially improve teacher efficiencies.

Each of these topics hit home to me, as a parent, an expat, and a passionate follower of technology and innovation. I’m inspired. But I’m just not sure what to do with this inspiration, how to channel it. Still processing it all. There’s change needed. Ideas are a good start. But action is required.

Leave a comment


  1. Hi Sam,
    I was so envious when I saw where you were! This event combines so many of the things I am most passionate about! I will be interviewing for a long-term sub Art teaching position at an inner city elementary school on Monday. I asked the dean why he is looking for someone to fill a position at this time of year and he explained that there were issues in the hiring process with the city, and even now he only has the o.k. to hire a long-term sub to get them through the first week of January. In other words, the children at that school have not had an Art teacher yet this year!
    Ask your second grader what he has done in art class so far this year? Typically it only meets once a week, but that is at least 4 classes that all these children have missed, right? What have they been doing during the time scheduled for Art class so far this year?
    This may seem insignificant to some. After all, it’s not STEM classes, so not the most important thing we are teaching the children, right? On the contrary, it’s so very important on many levels. I could write a blog post of my own on this subject alone. It breaks my heart.
    The discrepancy between the well-off neighborhood schools and the inner city schools is so much worse than can be imagined. There simply has to be an answer to this dilemma. I admire what your cousin is doing. It’s a brilliant idea that I think is an excellent way to engage and inspire the children. But until we pour cash and manpower (“Master” teacher and administration) help into the inner city schools, those student will continue to receive a sub-standard education. Quite frankly, that is unjust and, when all is said and done, unacceptable.

    • So very well said. I’d welcome a guest post from you about the importance of art in K-12 education, if you are interested. Also happy to connect you with Jake; FutureFirst is rolling out in Bridgeport CT right now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: