When Innovation Meets Education: Free Quality Education to One Million Children

This post was written by Koen Timmers. Learn more about Koen and his work here.

Technology and innovation in our schools come with benefits and drawbacks.

Augmented reality, 3D printers, blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and a plethora of other unforeseen technological advances will be everyday realities in our students’ lives as they enter the workforce.

New jobs will require skills like complex problem solving, creativity, empathy, and collaboration.

Innovation Lab Schools

Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologist and anthropologist, founded the Roots & Shoots program with the goal of bringing together youth to work on environmental, conservation, and humanitarian issues.

In 2018, Roots & Shoots approached me to collaborate in developing Innovation Lab Schools in Africa and South America. Each lab school aims to offer a free quality education to children living in rural areas. The facilities are typically equipped with an Internet connection, laptops, and educational resources including Lego WeDo and Minecraft.

In addition to a local teacher, Lab School students will learn by having a Skype lesson offered by a member or members of our global teacher community of one thousand educators. Students from around the world will be able to connect with local students in Lab Schools, offering both sets of students a series of powerful intercultural exchanges.

Lab School students will be asked to work to improve their communities. They will explore, brainstorm, discuss, offer feedback, create, connect, reflect, present and share their findings on issues impacting their communities. Far beyond studying and memorizing facts, students will find solutions and take action to improve their world. They will become content creators as well as content consumers.

The Lab Schools project involves a new curriculum based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. These goals have the power to end poverty, fight inequality, and stop climate change.

The Lab Schools curriculum was developed by 20 experts and makes connections with STEM resources. It will be published for free in ten languages at our website, www.innovationsdglab.com, and will promote other learning approaches like collaborative learning and flipped learning.

Formal education has the duty to teach tolerance and change students’ mindsets concerning issues including single-use plastic, solar power, avoiding wasting clean water, and calling out sexist language and behavior. A project-based learning approach allows students to brainstorm and reflect about these issues.

In the end, we want to offer students fair perspectives and strong insights, so they can make well-informed decisions when they are adults.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots has partnered with me to start developing Innovation Lab Schools in Tanzania (Pugu and Kigoma) and South Africa. I plan to develop future schools in Nigeria, Uganda, Morocco, Palestine, Argentina, and Brazil, aiming to offer one million children a free education by 2020.

Innovation Lab Schools are sponsored by Skype in the Classroom, Empatico, Participate, i3 Technologies, Lego Education, PXL, and Edukans. PXL university college will do research to ensure the project is making an impact and establish how students perceive the project. Charlize Theron, actress and philanthropist; Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand; and Don Thomas, astronaut, have endorsed the project.

The Innovation Lab Schools project will offer a free education to hundreds of thousands of students, and a platform for teachers across the world where they can exchange thoughts, best practices and applications.

By allowing students to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals to improve their world, they will be developing the skills they will need to navigate the complex technological world in their futures.

Koen Timmers is an educator, author, and keynote speaker based in Belgium. Koen has been a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, and is one of the authors of Teaching in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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