Each week, AIME’s Global Head of Partnerships, Parul Punjabi Jagdish, catches up with one of our keynote guests on IMAGI-NATION {TV} along with the show’s Founder and host, Jack Manning Bancroft.

This week, they talk to Nancy Conrad, Chairman of the Conrad Foundation and a leader in transformative education, about all things education and why now is the time to rethink and redesign it, ahead of Nancy’s keynote presentation on IMAGI-NATION {TV}.

Jack, what’s the idea behind IMAGI-NATION {TV} and who’s been on the show so far?

We’re [trying to] support the 1.37 billion kids who are currently being affected by COVID-19 school closures and are stuck at home in one way, shape or form. We’re working out how we can get a mentor into their homes every single day.

We’ve had guests from the United States, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda… and kids and teachers from all around the world. We’ve had Stan Grant, a prominent Australian artist, author and storyteller. We’ve had a great art curator, Jordan Watson, from the United States. Ben Lee came on… we’ve had a really interesting fusion of artists, storytellers, thinkers and scientists. We’re trying to show these kids a really broad cross-section of role models so they can find hope in these times and be resilient.

Nancy, what role are you playing in this?

We’re inviting young people to design the future, so they’re creating commercially viable products to solve global and local challenges… We’ve invited them to combine education, innovation and entrepreneurship and begin to shape what the future’s going to look like in an active way.

Nancy, what pushes you to do the work you’re doing?

Nancy: I’m a teacher, and I’ve dedicated my whole life to changing the way kids learn. The classroom has been what I call ‘push education’. The kids are complacent, they sit there, they absorb information. I used to call it the education Cuisinart (Note: a brand of a cake mixer). So you put the kid in, you shove a bunch of facts in their head, you spin them around, spit them out in the universe… I’ve been working my whole life to blow up the [education] Cuisinart.

So, we do ‘pull education’; we invite kids to participate in learning and to be part of their own learning process. They have to take everything they know and create something out of nothing, to solve a global or a local challenge. They own it.

Image courtesy The Conrad Foundation.

Many of our kids get patents and we work in categories. This is real stuff. It’s deployable and it’s commercially viable. So the kids design products in aerospace, energy, cybersecurity, health, smoke-free world and ed tech. We’ve had kids that created a nutrition bar that met NASA standards for nutrition and it went up on STS 134 with Mark Kelly… and they’re now taking their product to market.

Fundamentally, we’ve been taught there’s in-the-box thinking and there’s out-of-the-box thinking. We don’t have a box. We created the ‘no box toolbox’ and it’s an organic framework that helps teachers and students understand the process of innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s an interactive platform with… all the tools and resources you would need to understand how to make a product that really can be put into the marketplace.

Jack: When you’re talking about unboxing the box, [a] phrase I think of is that ‘a problem well framed is a problem half solved’. The problem with framing education with children is that the moment [you] put limitations on it, you’re suddenly closing down a kid’s mind to what’s possible, and that’s a dangerous thing to do so early.

Nancy: When you bring up [a kid’s] own passion, their own interest and their own excitement about learning, that’s the gift. Once they know how to think and how to learn they can do whatever they want… It’s so exciting to see a young person’s eyes just light up when they’re excited to learn stuff.

Jack: I think about teaching and often, for so many teachers, I think the load of the world can fall on you and sometimes you can lose that magical idea that if you’re not learning, you’re not teaching.

Nancy, what do you think about that idea?

Yeah. You have to do that constantly. I talk about how I don’t think there are any problems. I think there are challenges. You can solve challenges… I don’t want to hear about problems. Having said that, man, we’ve got a monster challenge, right now, just staying alive and keeping humanity alive. I think what’s going to [come] out from this is called ‘obstortunity’ (I coined a word, Jack). It’s when an obstacle becomes an opportunity… When we look at education, the opportunity to actually rethink it and redesign it has never been more important than it is right now.

Any closing thoughts?

Nancy: I think we’re in for a big adventure. I’m excited!

Jack: And I love adventures.

Nancy: Yeah, me too.

Parul Punjabi Jagdish

3rd April 2020

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