Not being a teacher or a parent (yet…), people sometimes ask why I decided to make my life’s work about using technology to improve education. I made that decision while in rural Cambodia in 2010. In a country still struggling to recover from the brutal genocide 40 years earlier, we were visiting a learning centre that ran afternoon classes and learning activities, complimenting the local school’s morning-only classes.
The centre was run by Sonai, an incredibly entrepreneurial lady only a few years my senior. She was the first person in her village ever to graduate high school. (She jokes that she only did it because she couldn’t bear the thought of being a farmer the rest of her life. I don’t blame her!)
Together with a team of other young teachers and mentors, they were providing food, learning and leadership development to hundreds of students in that village. She is determined to lift her village out of subsistence living through her brilliant mix of education and entrepreneurship. It worked for her, it can work for these kids too.
When I got back to Australia, I began chatting with teachers, and my admiration for the profession grew more and more. These people were fiercely determined to provide their students with the best opportunities for a life worth living. Even in a country as wealthy as Australia, a good education often makes the difference between a life shaped by hope and opportunity, and a life that just scrapes by. And we weren’t without our own educational struggles: remote indigenous education, catering to special needs, struggling with new national standards and international competition.
I don’t have the personal make-up to be an effective classroom teacher, and I don’t pretend to know all the best practices or solutions to all of these problems. What I can do, is work with the most innovative teachers to craft solutions to the most difficult problems. They bring their teaching expertise, I bring the design, tech and startup know-how. (The idea for ClassHomie came out of one such meeting with Aaron Gregory, a teacher I have so much respect for. It has since been refined by input from dozens of teachers).
I strongly believe that entrepreneurs and teachers can, and should, work together to solve the difficult problems of education. By improving learning, we improve lives. This work matters, and that’s why I’m building educational apps, starting with ClassHomie.