Episode 082: Matt Keller, Senior Director of the Global Learning XPrize

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In this episode of Meet Education Project, Matt Keller tells us about the Global Learning Xprize, a $15M global competition to empower children to take control of their own learning. He talks about the program design, goals and more about this incentivized competition.

Guest Bio:

Matt Keller, Senior Director of the Global Learning XPrizeMatt Keller is Senior Director of the $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE. He is leading an effort that challenges teams from all over the world to create innovative technologies that will bring children — on their own and with each other — from non-literacy to literacy in 18 months in parts of the world where quality learning environments are difficult to access. Previously, as Vice-President of One Laptop per Child, Keller led OLPC’s ground-breaking literacy project in remote Ethiopia testing the theory that children from non-literate communities could teach themselves to read using tablets filled with off-the-shelf applications.

Keller has also served as a senior program officer with the United Nations World Food Programme in Rome, Italy, and as Legislative Director for Common Cause in Washington, DC, where he led the organization’s efforts to enact the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.  Mr. Keller has also served as a lawyer working on behalf of migrant farmworkers in the Southwest United States, and as a Jesuit Volunteer in Portland, Maine.

Show Notes:

(01:50) Matt’s background

(03:52) I’m always interested in what motivates and drives people to do what they do. From an early age, was this something that you were interested in, really make an impact, having a sense of purpose for global issues like this? What drives you in these sort of  projects?

(04:57) Let’s dive right  into the Global Learning XPrize. You mentioned some of your work with One Laptop Per Child. I’m interested in the goal of this Global Learning XPrize, and why this approach to this global learning initiative.

(07:02) Can you talk about the XPrize in general and Peter (Peter Diamandis, Chairman and CEO of XPrize)? I’m fascinated by the story of how he was influenced by Charles Lindbergh. Can you tell the audience about that?

(10:24) We talk a lot about education technology, things that technology can do to enable learning in the classroom… One of the questions on Slashdot is why can’t kids learn basic reading writing and arithmetic from regular teachers. One of the first things on the global learning website is 1.6 million more teachers are needed in classrooms by 2015. … I was wondering if you could talk about that.

(12:49) So this is a $15 million prize at the end of this competition in 2019. How did you go about the design of the overall competition? What was going through your mind?

(14:40) As part of this, I know that there was a Kickstarter campaign of some sort  that help you get people engaged and mobilized around the XPrize itself. What was the idea behind the Kickstarter campaign?

(16:05) Let’s talk about the timeline. Launch and registration open September 2014. You just closed the registration deadline. How many teams teams did you get and what’s next here in the process?

(17:28) So where do you go after, now that you have all of these teams engaged… What does the next year look like, what’s the timeline until the end, until February 2019 when the prize is given?

(19:41) One of the things that I find really interesting is the power of community and the fact that this is going to be open-sourced. Can you talk about that decision and how impactful you think that’s going to be.

(21:18) I see so many positive things in this and I also read amazingly so many critiques about this. What sort of backlash have you heard and what’s your response to that?

(24:02) When you think of the word ‘successful’ what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

(24:10) What book has most influenced you and why?

Taylor Branch’s America in the King Years trilogy

(25:18) Do you watch documentaries? If so, what’s your favorite?

Hoop Dreams

(26:10) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?

Bob Dylan

Global Learning XPrize website: http://learning.xprize.org/

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