Big Ideas and Small Steps: Remo Schnellmann Reflects on the 2019 HundrED Summit


This is a personal reflection blog from Remo Schnellmann, Teacher and ICT-Supporter at Knonau School, Switzerland and recognized for the their innovation Robot Your Classroom for the Switzerland Spotlight. Robot Your Classroom a series of lessons on programming and robotics for different school levels. Pupils gain access to digital worlds by means of level-appropriate teaching materials and interaction with programmable robots.

The little girl stands spellbound on stage. Next to her, gigantic dinosaur skeletons tower up, which would have been frightening millions of years ago. But it's not the dinosaur bones that make her a little nervous. It is the 250 or so listeners in the Natural History Museum in Helsinki who are eagerly awaiting her words at the opening of the HundrED Summit in 2019. In her elegant blouse, jacket and glittering ballerinas, 10-year-old Marigold Mioc looks more like a prominent speaker than a normal schoolgirl, at least on the outside.

She traveled from Canada to the HundrED Congress in Finland to share her thoughts and wishes with developers, investors and people from education as an ambassador of the learners. From her point of view, she explains how the school should develop so that it doesn't end up like the mighty dinosaurs around her: scary, dry and extinct. She talks about a school that encourages, hands over responsibility, values mistakes as an opportunity, addresses learners individually and gives them a voice for themselves.

Among the listeners is Jörg Berger, headmaster of the Knonau School, whom I can accompany with 12 other participants from Swiss educational institutions as  “Pedagogical ICT Supporter” of the Knonau School. They were all invited to participate in the Spotlight project.

The HundrED organization, which invited us to this meeting, has set itself the goal of supporting innovative ideas, networking developers and investors and helping ideas to grow. This also includes digital innovations such as the award-winning robotics project implemented at the Knonau school.

The next morning at the Nokia Center it quickly becomes clear that this is more than just a technical reappraisal of traditional educational content. But while some of this traditional content, similar to digital devices, is based on the polarity between right and wrong, between 0 and 1, the changes that are expected will be much broader. 

Not only within Switzerland, as Jörg Berger, ambassador of the Swiss delegation on the main stage emphasizes, but also in an international context the conditions are different. Rob Houben presents the Agora School from the Netherlands, which Marigold Mioc would really enjoy. Learners work on their own learning stories. During the presentation, pictures on the modern podium show a colorful mixture of traditional workstations, disassembled car bodies and indoor tents.

On the other hand, two Ambassadors of the Amblema Project from Venezuela talk about how they strengthen their children's literacy, numeracy and environmental awareness through small training sessions. Almost incidentally they mention that they also involve the house staff, the gardener and the security staff in this project. Now, at the latest, it is clear that this is a completely different way of developing educational content. Courage, as demanded by Marigold Mioc, is particularly important here. Alemayehu Hailu Gebre, who ensures with his "Speed School" in Ethiopia, that young people without school-leaving qualifications are led back to school and lifelong learning, offers another insight of this kind.

What all the participants and the other speakers at this symbolic site of Finnish economic history have in common are the great ideas and the small steps it takes to make education alive and strong. And they all share the experience that this path cannot be taken alone.

From the imposing Oodi Library, where the last day of the congress takes place, the participants take home many points of view, symbolically for the fantastic view from the 3rd floor, but also many contacts and strategies. According to Gregg Behr, founder of "Remake Learning" from Pittsburgh, what keeps these visions alive is the focus on the beginnings, on a holistic education and finally on a regional implementation in which these can flourish.

After Deepak Ramola's touching closing speech about the "lessons of life" in his country of origin, India, I am able to talk briefly to Marigold Mioc between cake, coffee and tea. When I asked her whether she had heard what she had wished for on the first day, the 10-year-old reacts with a spontaneous yes and a broad smile. After my additional question, what her "lesson of life" was so far, the bright student remains silent for a moment. After a while she apologizes that it is difficult for her to give such a spontaneous answer to this question. In accordance with her wish during the welcoming speech, I explain to her that this is not a mistake and that she does not have to be sorry for that. A little more hesitantly smiling, she finally says: "Maybe this is just a "lesson of life" - not to be sorry for something, whether I have a suitable answer or not".

Learn more about Robot Your Classroom on their Innovation Page.