Takeaways from WISE 2013

My first time at the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was eye opening. I was surrounded by more than 1,200 education leaders from 100 countries and with a wide range of perspectives on what’s working and what’s not. I captured dozens of snippets from the sessions I attended at @KimberleeSD, but here are a few standout highlights that really stuck with me:

  • STEM gives us “a sense of wonder, the same effect as music, art and literature do.” She likens STEM to seeing a flower and its beauty as others do, but also seeing its inner beauty. “There’s science behind the beauty.” – Maggie Aderin-Pocock, an English space scientist.
  • “We should be teaching an appreciation of science, not just trying to get more researchers.” – Claudia Dreifus, Columbia University and New York Times science writer
  • “There are currently 6,000 languages in the world. 3,000 will be gone by the end of the century. We need to be sensitive to cultural and linguistic diversity.” – UNESCO
  • “We need to teach the capacity to deal with the uncertainties of our daily lives. We don’t know where the future will take us.” – Edgar Morin, French philosopher and sociologist


We are clearly in a major transition period in education with a lot of work still to be done, but let’s take some time to step back and reflect on all of the positive steps individuals and organizations are taking forward all over the world. The WISE crowd alone is making leaps and bounds.

While soaking in the thought-provoking sessions, I also had the chance to immerse myself in more cultural activities in Doha like the famous Souq Waqif market, dune bashing and a camel ride, as well as camel races and a trip to Dukhan beach. I return to my life in San Diego with new perspectives, great new friends and an excitement for what the future holds connecting STEAMConnect with the world.

I’ll close with this: We experience life differently depending on where we sit in the world, but there is an underlying commonality between all of us. As Dr. Pai Obanya, Chairman of the Board of the West African Examinations Council said, “it’s our ‘humanware’ that is most important.” Well said.

When in Doha

Wow, what a week! This was my first time to the Middle East, and it gave me a whole new perspective on education at a global scale. Over a series of blog posts this week I’m going to capture the incredible journey I had “when in Doha."

Before diving into our two-day STEAM meeting, we had the chance to explore Doha with 20 school leaders from the U.S., Qatar and Brazil who held a similar meeting in parallel to ours. Our group of business and education leaders came together to enjoy an entertaining guided tour at the Museum of Islamic Art followed by a Dhow cruise along the Gulf with views of the sparkling skyline.

Day 1: From a former astronaut, the South African National Research Foundation and the Smithsonian, to Sesame Workshop, Boston Arts Academy, GameDesk and the Supreme Education Council among others, I was blown away by depth of experience in STEM, arts and education. We spent most of the day working through what STEAM means to us, concerns about its messaging alongside STEM and overall barriers for schools adopting STEAM. It was a challenging day trying to negotiate different perspectives in the room, but by the end of the day we had a sheets of poster paper and a wall of sticky notes filled with great ideas.

Ainissa Ramirez, materials scientist and author of Save Our Science – “All children have an inner scientist, we need to put memory back into the system.”

Day 2: With a fresh eye on STEAM after some much needed rest, the group powered through the morning fine-tuning their definitions of STEAM and hashing out questions around school support, funding and scalability, curriculum and assessment, and what students can learn from a STEAM program.

By lunch everyone was energized and excited to dig into mini STEAM project plans. We heard four different project pitches and the group dispersed based on interest. We now have actionable concepts including the STEAM card game, science music videos, a STEAM program for Qatari schools, and a creative, space-related mashup of two participants’ existing work.

“The future never just happened, it was created.” – Mae Jemison, former NASA astronaut

At the close of the two-day meeting, we went around the room sharing reflections on the experience. Everyone agreed it was incredibly productive, it opened up minds to the potential for STEAM, it gave the group actionable STEAM projects to move forward with, and that this is just the beginning of the great work we can do together across the world.