“Because it’s difficult to ask a video questions”

It’s the day after the Learning Without Frontiers annual conference and I’m sitting at my sister’s desk in north London reflecting on an amazing couple of days. There’s a lot to unpack from two solid days of listening to 20-minute talks by people who have dedicated their lives to the important topics in education.

Interestingly, though, it’s not the main presenters who are on my mind this morning, but rather the amazing group of young people from Young Rewired State. YRS is the philanthropic extension of Rewired State and focuses on mentoring young coders for the common good, or as they say “coding for a better country.”

About a dozen young people from YRS attended Learning Without Frontiers and spent two days in an “experience pod” coding solutions for educational change. Their mission was simply to “hack education.” At the end of the conference they presented their ideas and prototype applications to the conference delegates. The young coders were funny, articulate, confident, and not at all uncomfortable sharing not nearly finished work with the assembled delegates. In fact, the first presenter talked about how much more confident she is about herself and her ideas since joining YRS.

I LOVED all the presentations but I’ll just focus on two of the young coders who worked together to focus on peer sharing.

The first idea was a sharing site for students, where students would post work-in-progress and other students would comment on their work, giving them real-time feedback and peer review. The presentation was very comprehensive—they had a name for the product, solidly good branding, the beginnings of a web site, and had started on programming the application. Not bad for less than 24 hours of work!

The second idea was similar and, I think, immediately implementable. They had looked at the Khan Academy, articulated its usefulness to them, but found it too solitary because, as they said, “it’s difficult to ask a video questions.” Their idea was to develop a feature set where you can watch a video with other users and then ask each other questions about the content to clarify and deepen understanding. The other users could be an organized study group formed by you, or could be other people around the world who are interested in learning about the same topic as you at the same time as you—a just-in-time study group. Simple, but massively useful.

Earlier in the conference, Conrad Wolfram shared that, in his opinion, programming is to Mathematics what composition is to English. That was certainly on display in the YRS session. However, what was also on display was how far students can take their ideas when they own them, see themselves in them, and are given access to the tools and resources to implement them.

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