Exploring Roles & Directions, Keynote

Exploring Roles & Directions — panel presentation

This was the best conference keynote I ever attended. I didn’t want the panel to end. These women could have continued to talk all morning, really, all day, and I don’t think anyone would have complained. It was an excellent start to the conference

Ilana Ben-Ari, Founder, CEO & Lead Designer, Twenty One Toys
Liza Conrad, Head, Community & Partnerships, Hopscotch
Erin Mulcahy, Strategic Initiatives, Global Education Business, littleBits

21 Toys #Empathy Toy — 21st century skills

Ilana was really good at school did not equal good at life or work. 21st century skills needed – Innovation; creativity; collaboration; complex-problem solving. It’s hard to practice, assess, and understand these skills. You can’t teach innovation thru textbook…”Toys are the New Textbooks article” . There’s also a creativity crisis.

Fortune 500 companies’ reviews of impt skills for kids to be learning for the job force: in 1970, it was reading, writing arithmetic. In 1999, teamwork problem solving, interpersonal skills.

Social skills — empathy — basics of communication & collaboration

The Empathy Toy” patience, frustration, communication (blindfolded) — scaffolded dialogues
Work with kids & adults. Originally developed visually impaired kids…

TEDx talks

Used in schools, post-secondary institution (Sheridan College); shifting model from info to participation.

Innovation — it’s not just about iPads but about mindset.

Erin — Little Bits

empower everyone to create inventions; Color-coded pieces that mean different things. Little Bits + other materials.

Best tech has low floors and high ceilings and wide walls (for everyone) (<– I love this statement)

Invention cycle matches to standards…how play is educational.

Hopscotch – Liza

Raw Code isn’t inviting and friendly…

Hopscotch is an easy way to make software. Drag code blocks with your finger. No typing, no syntax.

About the logic behind what you’re creating–the framework–the grammar (later the vocabulary)…instead of quickly getting frustrated by missing semicolon.

  • It’s simple, yet powerful.
  • Coding as a form of interactive communication.
  • Share what you did — software is a collaborative process. Not just guys in a basement…

Working together bc our ideas are better when you share with other people

  • Iteration so important…systems thinking.
  • Separate ego from goal of idea
  • Creative confidence & pride.

Creative confidence — Ideo concept. Experimentation; testing.

Why making? People don’t want toaster — they want toast.

Panel Questions

Is coding & programming a 21st century literacy? It’s not necessary for a job, but we do exist in a hyper-tech world. The more you know & understand, the better off you are. Have some idea of what happens behind the screen because you interact with it all day.

Why learn/invest time in coding?

  • Jobs
  • Complex problems & breaking it into smaller bytes, general solution, transfer to apply to other situations
  • Hopscotch — expressive form of media. ideas take flight in coding & people interactive & respond to the user. Dialog with the world. People respond to your idea & react to it. Create software –> other people use to create. Adobe — billions used software to create. Further ideas.
  • Coding — challenge; teamwork; collaboration; work w communities around the globe
  • Scratch out of MIT & communities around Hopscotch’s products.

What do social skills have to do with creativity & innovation?

talk to the people you’re creating for — that’s where empathy and failure comes in. growth mindset. be okay with messiness and human component

Challenge — scale; keep fun, innovation, as you grow, share common themes & culture. Stay as focused as possible and remind people who are new, what it means to be a mission-driven company, even when it’s challenging.

People you can leverage in the community to learn from and grow with. you’re not alone….

Word proto-typing.

Social and emotional learning.

Successful business but if you’re not talking to your customers, you’re going to completely miss the mark. keep lines of feedback open.

Share ideas.


Hopscotch: Challenges: serving a bunch of different audiences. Broke down problem (too much poop in Hopscotch — emoticon); kids are users — freedom to explore imaginations. Hopscotch value — poop emoticon is okay. Priortizing decisions: lens of who is this helping and serving and what do they need? Who we’re working for. Create product that kids feel like they can use to make whatever they want.

Innovation involves poop. Embracing failure and messiness and talking to customers.

Innovation beautiful movie and movie…and there’s a lot more plumbing to it, in reality.

  • Think like a startup
  • not afraid to get hands dirty
  • creativity — book not been written; take risks

try something no one has ever seen before. have guts; hootzpa; what is there on day one will be so different at the end of the process. Fail forward. Humility. Feedback loop.

Business — every day what am I doing completely wrong? What am I missing & misunderstanding. Passion courage and community to push forward.