PROCESS POST: Brittany Wenger, TEDxAtlanta, and Re-Imagining School

Live like you’ll die tomorrow. Learn like you’ll live forever.

Ben Dunlap, The life-long learner, #TED

Yesterday, on September 25, I lived on an edge with a number of inspiring people gathered on a common edge – people who are living like they could die tomorrow and learning like they could live forever. Gathered in Unboundary’s TED Dome, more than 300 movers and shakers came together for TEDxAtlanta “Edge of the South.” We lived and learned with “12 Southerners who are breaking new ground. In art, filmmaking, media, and fashion. In business, social innovation, energy production and the sciences.” I grow giddy with excitement and anticipation about these TEDxAtlanta days…

Here’s a quick Storify that captures a bit of the incredible experience for me:
tedxatlanta-edge-of-the-south-empathize-go-do-conn

Once again, though, I failed to ask my most burning question:

“So, in what ways did your formal schooling propel you on your current path, and in what ways did your formal schooling impede your current path?”

I remain optimistically frustrated by this question. Certainly, most everyone with whom I’ve ever talked can remember a moment in school or a particular teacher that contributed to his or her unique path in life. Of course, all of those same people can also name an aspect of formal schooling that existed as an obstacle to their journey, too.

We can learn so much about how to continue improving school by exploring this question.

I could recount more than a thousand stories or thoughts inspired at TEDxAtlanta “Edge of the South.” At this particular event, however, one stands out…

“Brittany Wenger, 17, Wins Google Science Fair Grand Prize For Breast Cancer Diagnosis App.”

If you missed Brittany’s talk, I cannot wait for you to see it when the videos are processed and uploaded to the TEDxAtlanta site. Yes, she spoke of being inspired and supported by a biology teacher and a computer science teacher. And she spoke of the project that she undertook as an independent study – partly due to the fact that her school does not engage in a science fair system, partly due to the fact that her work did not “fit” into her required coursework.

Motivated by a passion to make a difference in the lives of others and in medical science, Brittany combined biological biopsy processes with cloud-based artificial intelligence to create an app – Cloud4Cancer – that could just be a revolution for breast cancer detection, prevention, and treatment.

And Brittany worked on this primarily “outside of school.”

Why couldn’t this BE school? Let me ask that in a more positive manner…

How might we re-imagine school so that a veritable army of learners – students and teachers together – might contribute to the problem identification and solutions-finding for our world’s grand challenges and issues?

[Out of time to write, for now! There are deep connections among the TEDxAtlanta “Edge of the South” speakers…and educational transformation. There are deep connections between Ben Dunlap’s talk and re-imagining schools.]

6 thoughts on “PROCESS POST: Brittany Wenger, TEDxAtlanta, and Re-Imagining School

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