Jacqueline Edwards: Technology, Inspired Learning and Opportunity


Education innovator Jacqueline Edwards talks to Rob Johnson about how technology has the potential to bring people from less fortunate backgrounds onto an inspired path of learning that creates opportunity and portends a better future for humanity.

Transcript

Rob Johnson:

I’m here today with Jacqueline Edwards. She is the master creator of IB 2.0, and she is a digital systems expert working with Konica Minolta in New York City. She is a master’s degree in technology management and business from Columbia University. She’s one of those young people who seems to be very attuned to the potential future of technology, and to the social conditions that need to be repaired, in our country and in the world, even before the pandemic descended upon us. Jacqueline, thanks for joining me today.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Thank you for having me Rob.

Rob Johnson:

This pandemic it feels like all kinds of things were in the offing that were not right. There were all kinds of things in the offing that were potential for change, and the pandemic has unmasked things and thrust us towards the future. But I sense it’s a future that you’ve anticipated. How do you see-

Jacqueline Edwards:

In some sense, yes.

Rob Johnson:

Okay, I appreciate your modesty. But I know you have been on the cutting edge of understanding the future of work, the future of technology, and in particular, the future of opportunity and the future of technology in creating opportunity as it pertains to education. How do you see now? Let’s start with the university, what’s happening at universities now in light of the lockdowns shutdowns? Where do we see them being transformed in an irreversible way?

Jacqueline Edwards:

Well, I feel a lot of universities are struggling financially right now, because of the situation. In terms of enrollment and what that experience for the students is going to look like moving forward. There’s that uncertainty that surrounds university right now, and there’s also the uncertainty of how is it that they’re going to use technology to create a unique experience than what the moose that are currently available are providing? In other words, what’s going to stop somebody from just enrolling in an online class, versus paying a large amount of money to attend a university while getting the same virtual experience.

Yes, I do have a lot of friends too that are complaining about the same things. I believe with this everyone now, especially parents, we’re all, well, I shouldn’t say we, but they’re all questioning that high tuition fees. That’s something that I think university have to look to or pay attention to, to frame how is it that they’re going to deliver on their promise to students, and value it at the amount that they’ve been offering before.

Rob Johnson:

You have 14% unemployment and rising, there are a lot of parents who are wondering if they can afford to pay that tuition. A lot of people are out of work. A lot of people are scared they will be out of work. Also, the other dimension is within the university. I made a podcast about a week and a half ago with a gentleman named Henry Ponder, who’s 92 years old. He’s the former president of Fisk University, and he’s been involved in administration. He said to me, “Universities are going to be under financial pressure. They’re not going back to the good old days.”

The people who are going to get squeezed in his mind, were the people who aspire to be tenured professors, who are now assistant professors or people on the runway to become assistant professors. These people are extremely vulnerable, more than the teaching assistant, more than the senior tenured professor. That middle group, and in a place like New York City they can be replaced by what they call adjunct professors, who are part-time, come in for a course or two, like I used to do at SIPA at Columbia. How do you see their world? What does their world look like?

Jacqueline Edwards:

I think that’s always been the problem that I’ve been addressing somewhat. The role of teachers, the future of teachers, and how do they compete with technology? I’m interested in technology, something that peaks my interest on many levels. But one of the things that I’m really interested in is the use of AI and augmented reality. My first experience with augmented reality I was on an airstrip, and I’m getting educated about plane, and while I’m getting educated about planes, I’m seeing the actual planes overhead.

Immediately I thought to myself wow, this experience and learning was far more fulfilling. Then I can see how this technology could actually replace teachers. Then for me, I’ve had wonderful experience with teachers with my own professional and personal development. I wanted to preserve the value of teachers in education, because with technology, even though technology can think on its own, and when I say technology can think on its own I mean with AI, the output it’s only what is inputted by a human, right? I’m not sure if I twisted [inaudible 00:07:02].

Rob Johnson:

Let me try to rephrase it. A human programs an algorithm, and the computer is only capable in so far as that algorithm has the complexity of the underlying problem programmed into it.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Correct. A computer can only output what has been programmed in other words. I wanted to preserve the roles of teachers. I guess when I started talking about this years ago, no one was really paying attention. That was one of the problems that I was just addressing, and also addressing the need to democratize quality education, make it accessible. I went on this journey of for a sense in the market to figure out okay, if I should build such a platform, who would be interested in it? It took me about two years in just asking simple questions. I feel with 2020 and the pandemic that we’re facing, it propelled the rate of change, or I should say accelerated the rate of change.

Where all these challenges that we saw before in the past, we have to now deal with them face-to-face. My take on this throughout this whole pandemic, and I have to tell you I’m somewhat exhausted from COVID-19. I just feel you get overwhelmed sometime with the information that’s being shared. But my take on it is that collectively we all have to come together, and figure out how is it that we can create a world, because I don’t think we’re going to go back to what we knew was normal. How can we create a world where we can function, where we can continue to learn, where we can continue to support each other on a humanistic level, while bridging a lot of the inequalities that already existed in society.

Rob Johnson:

That’s an important point. The advent of the technology has the potential to diminish an enormous flaw that was hiding in plain sight before the pandemic.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Absolutely. Because with technology it doesn’t discriminate. It acts according to the algorithms and the programming that it’s designed to do. But I feel with education it can solve a lot of the world’s problems. You have drone technology that can be used to deliver learning materials to remote places in Africa. You have mobile technology, and we have right now over 20 billion people on a mobile device. How can we use this technology to deliver quality information to the people that need this information? As you mentioned before, I am from Jamaica, and I think everybody knows Bob Marley and his famous quote, “None but ourselves can free our minds.” I’m a big advocate for education. I feel it’s important for me on my mission to make sure that I deliver quality information to people who aspire for something different, or who aspire to create some change in the world.

Rob Johnson:

Bob Marley, Redemption Song, that’s a beautiful, beautiful that you pulled that forward. I know it has to do with your heritage, but you hit the nail on the head, that’s beautiful.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Yes. I’ve tried this many ways before. I’ve always dubbed the term as edutainment. Because even with myself growing up, I was always drawn to just very curious, just always researching, always reading on different things. But I realized that not many people in my peer were like that. I wanted to create something that would be somewhat entertaining. I figured okay, with everything now with globalization and people competing and the gig economy, and everyone trying to be an expert in this an expert in that.

I realized that the need for a customized experience, especially online, and this goes for every industry, not just for education. I feel if you’re in business, you have to now fish out your customers online or find them online, and then create a personalized experience for those customers. Then we get into the muddy water of privacy and what does that look like? It becomes challenging. With COVID now, with the rate of how COVID is spreading in America in particular, I feel like a lot of those things as it relates to privacy have to be overlooked if we’re going to really flatten the curve.

Rob Johnson:

Mm-hmm. But you don’t want to set a precedent in the sense that what you do to flatten the curve isn’t necessarily unleashing surveillance in a unbridled and aggressive way across a whole lot of frontiers. It has to have a social purpose, and in this case it does have a social purpose.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Correct, and not necessarily surveillance. Because when I mention technology, we can divide it into industry. Because if you look at the healthcare, there are a lot of robots right now, telerobots. I recently had an appointment, a doctor’s appointment via video conference. There are different ways that technology itself can help us to flatten this curve faster than we would have imagined.

Rob Johnson:

Well, it’s an interesting as I’m seeing the portrait that you’re painting in this conversation. I see teachers under pressure, but they have the ability to add value. I see electronic learning advancing, and I see a preexisting condition of the what you might call inadequately broad access to the rungs in the ladder, that create opportunity by the learning that takes place in what we will call a knowledge intensive economy. Peter Temin, who wrote the book The Vanishing Middle Class, spoke about something and I know your formative years were spent in Jamaica, so it may be somewhat unlike that experience. But Peter Temin talked about how we have a service economy, now in let’s say 20% of the population is doing well. 80% of the population is in these low-paying low value added services.

The only way out of that trap is through the knowledge intensive education like IB 2.0, is catalyzing and promoting facilitating. I see the situation where we’ve had a poison in America, it relates to racism, and how our school systems are segregated or compartmentalized, and the local community that has no money can’t afford a big high quality school system. I’m from Detroit. Internet infrastructure in the major cities in America, Detroit ranks 244th best city in internet infrastructure.

How do you expect those children to learn, to participate in this knowledge intensive economy, when the internet infrastructure is not there? In some ways, something like IB 2.0 that you are building and envisioning, it’s not purely charity because I know it’s for those who are yearning to learn and just need a little mentoring, tutoring help to get up the ladder. But our basic structure talks about the land of opportunity and ideas, and doesn’t deliver the system of opportunity in the United States. I don’t know how that contrasts with Jamaica, but it’s dreadfully demoralizing here.

Jacqueline Edwards:

There’s a lot of problems within the education space in America. I did high school in Jamaica, but I felt the brunt of it when I came to college here and I think I was somewhat surprised. Even within my own professional life or my career, I have experienced a lot of challenges, but I’m a person that I focus on solutions, I would say. For the situation that we have in Detroit as what you mentioned, I feel what I’m doing is that I can’t be the only person that thinks this way. I guess my goal is to build a community of people or a tribe of people that feel on the same level, that understands, that sees the inequality. That realizes that these kids, these children, the youth, those are the one that are going to be shaping the future, and we have to protect them. I used to say to my friends all the time that I’m not interested in motivating an adult, because usually when you’re grown you’re already set in your ways.

Rob Johnson:

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Exactly. But my drive and my motivation in everything that I do is to set an example to the younger generation. Because in the actuality, I’m building a space for them to thrive. The best way for them to thrive is to deliver fair information. When I say fair information, providing them with the tools, with the resources that they need so that they can flourish. Go ahead.

Rob Johnson:

I’m reminded of a song that is about what you might call the urgency of now. It was written in the 1960s, but as you were talking I thought of the first verse. The name of the song is the Time Has Come Today by the Chamber Brothers. Then the first verse is, “The time has come today, young hearts can go their way. Can’t put it off another day, I don’t care what others say. They say we don’t listen anyway, but the time has come today.”

Jacqueline Edwards:

It is, it has come.

Rob Johnson:

It has come. The pandemic thrust the unmasking the inequalities and inequalities of opportunity, the inequalities of healthcare, the inequalities related to the criminal justice system in the United States, and the inequalities related to advancement between the global South and the advanced countries. I think the time has come today to recognize that I think Martin Luther King once said, and he was referring to American civil rights, but he said, “We all came here on different ships but we’re in the same boat now.”

Jacqueline Edwards:

Yes, absolutely.

Rob Johnson:

Well, we’re in the same boat now in terms of challenge, but riding out the storm some people are on ocean liners and some people are in little rubber rafts. But the kind of work that you want to do it wants to take that challenge on, I can feel that from hearing you.

Jacqueline Edwards:

It gets frustrating. But when this first started, I would like to describe myself as a very optimistic person, as well I told you before I mentioned before that I’m a solutions person. You tell me a problem, I come with a solution. I have to admit that when this first started, meaning when we were told we have to quarantine and it’s really getting really bad, this thing is spreading. I thought that technology would have been our savior. Why? Because information travels now at the speed of light.

I expected naturally that the information that we would get from the other country, just watching how they deal with the pandemic, how they deal with the virus spread and control everything, that when it actually got to America using technology, and getting people that information that they need so that they could react fast and protect themselves. But it was quite the opposite that happened here in America. I guess for me it’s bringing to light a lot of the challenges within this country and how broken it is, and I don’t want to say that in a very negative way.

Rob Johnson:

Well, I want to underscore for people because you shared this with me in our preparation. You were born in Jamaica, but you are now an American citizen.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Yes, I am.

Rob Johnson:

You were driven by some aspiration of being in America.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Correct. About the values of America. I was driven by that. But then it just shows you how broken we are as a nation.

Rob Johnson:

You got to practice what you preach.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Exactly. The time has come.

Rob Johnson:

Maybe it’s even overdue. I think the pandemic and these health consequences and the distress is in many ways hideous, but there are people who would argue that we were on such an unsustainable trajectory related to climate change, related to inequality and poverty, related to what I’ll call the worship of money. They say money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is. Seeing all of these distortions, as hideous as this is it’s going to shake people up. They are going to come to a different vision of what matters, and I think the care for others. What’s the expression in Jamaica about like one people I can’t remember.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Out of many one people.

Rob Johnson:

Out of many one people, listen to that.

Jacqueline Edwards:

At the end of the day we’re all people.

Rob Johnson:

Yeah, but I think this is where we are. I think you’re… It’s an interesting thing to me because I learned about IB 2.0, and I’m thinking about work that INET does, Commission on Global Economic Transformation, particularly related to Africa, I’ve spent some time last year in the Ivory Coast, Ethiopia. You could see there throughout the continent, the traditional East Asian development model, manufacturing, learning by doing, etcetera, has been devastated by global supply chains and automation. You’re near the equator, a hot zone, so the arable lands for subsistence farming are being burned, and it’s driving people to despair. You have a demographic bulge in the continent of Africa, which the scenarios tell me of people who have already been born. This is not some fantasy.

The workforce will go from 1.2 billion now, and in 40 years it will be 2.6 billion. You have all of these development challenges. You have this fear, this pessimism about corruption in government and the like, that has been what you might call thoroughly demonstrated. You have as Europe has shown, fear of large scale outward migration. But the idea that technology, my good friend Mike Spence, the Nobel laureate, who was our speaker at our webinar at INET today, working with Jack Ma and the Luohan Academy, are trying to use technology to integrate markets and to foster education throughout the African continent, as a critical piece of development. You can see into that world more than I can. What is the potential for technology to help Africa reach a sustainable socially prosperous and peaceful and confident place?

Jacqueline Edwards:

I think technology can help Africa in a very, very profound way. For example, just in Tanzania, which I did some work there. In Tanzania, they have over 40 million people and maybe seven different tribes in Tanzania, and maybe another seven different language. There’s a barrier of communication within the African continent, which I feel a lot of the struggles stems from. One way in which technology can help to solve that problem and to bridge that communication gap, you have translators right now, where speech can get translated using an app, a mobile device in real time. But then also people that are oppressed or restricted from getting access to education, we can also use various technology to get them information. For example, drone technology now can be used to deliver different items in villages that it might be hard for you to get access to.

My first niece actually she just got back from Uganda. She was there working with a school. She was just explaining to me the challenges that she had. They had a very, very old computer. The computer that you had to put in the Dos prompt, type in Dos prompt for it to get to the operating system. That’s what they had. They had one computer that was being shared for over 20 students. Before she got there, no one knew how to operate this computer so it was just off until she got there [inaudible 00:28:37]. Anyway, she was brought back because the whole situation with the pandemic. Then I said to her, because now she’s a little bit uneasy and she’s like, “I left my student. You don’t understand how much it meant to them having me there, and what it meant for them in terms of their outlook in life and everything.” I’m like, “Well, why don’t you try to just do like a Zoom call with them?”

This is me not thinking that, wow, okay these people might not even have electricity. Then she just went in, she was like, “Look, there’s one computer. They don’t even know how to operate the computer.” There’s a lot of challenges within Africa, but there’s also a lot of growth that’s happening in Africa. For instance, Ghana, that’s an economy that’s been growing year over year. I’m quite impressed with Ghana actually because they’re doing a lot of production, and producing goods made in Ghana. They’re also creating jobs, so that every Ghanaian can have a job. Isn’t that amazing? This is from the top. You have parts of Africa that is thriving. I went to South Africa too, and I was very, very impressed. It didn’t feel like I was in Africa.

In fact, I experienced technology that was not even released in America the first time I went to South Africa which was three years ago. That’s a whole different experience from like a Tanzania. Within Africa, there’s different, I guess there’s different level of development. There’s different level of progress, but I feel the main reason why Africa is in the state in which it is it’s because of that communication. I believe there are parts that they want to standardize using Swahili as the language to communicate, and that’s more to the East.

But those challenges still arise, because you have the Maasais that live out in the bushes. How do you communicate with them? How do you end tribal war, when culturally it’s been passed down generation to generation like hey, this is how you survive. Then as an outsider coming in now with new technology, there’s that immediate block to acceptance, only because of history and the past of what they went through as a nation, being stripped away by invaders. I don’t want to say it out, but you know what I’m getting at.

Rob Johnson:

Well, this is an interesting question too, because you’re talking about the promise of technology. You have all these different countries, all these different languages, but you almost need a continent-wide infrastructure, electronic of internet infrastructure, to allow these platforms to be realized, and for the continent to go to the next level economically.

Jacqueline Edwards:

One of the biggest thing that I realized about Africa is that more Africans now are on mobile technology, which is why I wanted to utilize that technology. More Africans now are connected. I feel okay let’s use mobile technology to reach them. I’m not saying we’re going to reach the whole Africa, but I know that there are a large amount of people that are there looking for opportunities, and just looking for someone to come with some helping hand to help them.

Rob Johnson:

Well, there’s often talk particularly emanating from Europe after the fears of large scale outward migration, particularly from North Africa, about what you might call using the World War II analogy, an African Marshall plan. In other words, instead of coping with all kinds of boats landing in Italy and Spain and what have you, let’s build a place that people want to stay. Let’s alleviate the despair proactively. I know-

Jacqueline Edwards:

That’s what they’re doing in Ghana. In fact, they were trying to make Ghana the leader as that model of what they should do roll out in Africa. Because I think you have South Africa and you have Ghana in the economy right behind South Africa.

Rob Johnson:

I know to the north Ethiopia is considered to be making strides as well. This is an interesting, how would I say? When INET identifies the sources of disruption and almost the most daunting challenges, some relate to technologies, some relate to environment, but this question of despair and development and induced outward migration on very large scale. The world has to come together and embrace helping these people in this region. As we talked earlier, from every man for himself or every woman for herself to we’re all in this together and all in the same boat, is a real change of mind. It’s a real change of purpose. I think in part, I want to ask you a question which is IB 2.0. At one level you’re saying with credentials, with the tools of learning, broader access for the people who are ambitious, desire to excel, hungry, they can achieve their goals.

But at some level the destination, and we’ll call it the Ivy League, I’ll put in Oxford and Cambridge and Stanford and University of Chicago in the mix. Are they teaching the wrong stuff particularly in social science? In other words, the ambition that young people can see is coherent and socially sustainable and environmentally sustainable, is not the curriculum that I was taught as an economist. I got degrees from MIT and Princeton, which are the kind of places how do I say? In a pure credential sense people want to go. I think there’s this change in mindset about inclusiveness of opportunity, making the American dream again more credible. There’s the role of teachers. I must say one of the things I fear most, or two things I fear most about the universities right now.

One is they’re going to push people back into the classroom and so forth because they have cashflow problems, and they’re going to make the COVID consequences worse and prolonged for society. Because of the financial pressures. But the second thing that concerns me, is that inside those elite universities, in order to guide society we have to change what you might call the ideological framework or the notions of what is good. This spirit of inclusiveness that you talk about, whether it’s from Africa, whether it’s from the Caribbean, or whether it’s from my home city of Detroit.

If we bring people who have suffered, like the gentleman I did a podcast with yesterday, Isiah Thomas. In the end a world-class legend, NBA all-star named one of the 50 greatest basketball players of all time. But he grew up as one of nine children in a poor family in Chicago. His sensibility from his formative experience. I guess what I’m wishing for, and you’ve got to tell me if I’m fantasizing, a lot of these people from all these places that you would bring closer to opportunity, can from their participation change the ideology inside of universities. They bring a different consciousness to the table.

Jacqueline Edwards:

You’re saying in bridging the gap or making it more accessible that it will change the framework of how the university operates?

Rob Johnson:

I think that the university would be in a different era quite resilient in saying you’re lucky to be here and this is the things you have to learn.

Jacqueline Edwards:

That’s how they’ve always competed. That’s the structure of university here. How do you change that? What I’m hoping is that what happened or what will happen because of this pandemic is that we wake up and realize that we’re humans here. That this is a human problem and it forced us to think about not just ourselves, but the society on a whole. If we can see past imperfections or see past what’s unlike yourself. Then we can build a incredible America, because I still feel like this is one of the greatest country in the world, which is why I’m here. I came here to pursue my dream. When I left Jamaica, I had a desire that what I needed to accomplish was far greater than I could ever gain here, and I had to leave my country in order to get it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the challenges that you speak of and everything with… I’ve been doing work in the diversity space, and a lot of research covering unemployment, working with a professor from Cornell University and just uncovering a lot of the systemic challenges within the system here. Every time I do it brings me to tears. As you mentioned, most of my formative years were in Jamaica. But then yeah, if I could bring a solution to let’s say an underserved community, and have them feel less intimidated, and have them see the value of attaining this education or attaining this knowledge. Have them see how this or getting the information that you need will actually change your life. Not your life, but generations to come. Breaking that systemic poverty. Breaking the systemic poverty. Go ahead.

Rob Johnson:

It’s very interesting to me, I guess I’m seeing like a two-way street, which is, you’re facilitating people who had been less advantaged, a broader base participation in the university.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Let me just clarify, my hope is to attract them as well. But my work and past work throughout my career at some level has always involved within the diversity space, or getting opportunities to people that [inaudible 00:41:48] with their background.

Rob Johnson:

Yes. What I’m hoping, and I don’t know if it’s a romantic notion or, but I suspect there’s an element of truth. Is when these people get access, and they’re vital and they’re energized, the echoes in their mind of their formative years, like my friend Isiah Thomas expressed will challenge what you might call the inhuman and the unmindful status quo that exists sometimes within the curriculum in elite universities, and transform the consciousness of our leadership.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Right. Which is why I want to focus more on a customized level, meaning an individual on the platform can work how they want to work. Can pair with professors how they want to pair with. Let’s say there’s a course in finance and there’s a course in literature that they want to take, they can sign up to do these things a la carte. I’m not trying to disrupt the current university structure in America, I’m providing like a supplemental push as you might say to help professionals, to help people that are ongoing learners, to bridge those gaps for themselves. To help them to achieve what is it that they’re setting out for or to do in life.

Rob Johnson:

Well, I’ve since the gentlemen who was my core life coach John O’Neil is his name. His most famous book is The Paradox of Success. John used to tell us, he ran a thing every year called The Good Life Seminar. He used to tell us about what he thought in the different stages of life. But the one thing that he emphasized, is that the people who he knew who he had coached, who he had observed, who had the most satisfying lives, were the people who had an unyielding curiosity and were lifelong learners. When I felt most honored was when he described me in one of his books as someone who had become his learning partner, and someone who had an unyielding curiosity.

Because John feels strongly that people can lose their purpose, or they can equivalent of worship false gods, and they can end up off the road in a ditch if you will, losing their way. That that curiosity, that unrelenting energy that I remember Steve Jobs talking about in his commencement address in 2005 at Stanford University. This kind of what you might call injection of spirit, it feels to me like that’s what you’re trying to impart to a broad range of people that don’t ordinarily have access to realize their enthusiasms and their potential.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Or just reignite it. It’s hard to be enthusiastic in a system that limits your ability to thrive. I like to paint the picture of optimism, and I like to focus on mental development and keeping your mind within a positive framework so that you can go about and do the things that you’re supposed to do in life. But yeah, it is challenging to thrive in a system that’s somewhat designed to limit your ability.

Rob Johnson:

In listening to you, you were referred to being solution-based rather than, how would I say, wallowing in the discord of distancing yourself from what is wrong. Trying to figure out how to help society evolve and repair. I’m looking at the portrait that you’re painting of helping teachers, of helping people move forward into this knowledge intensive way of being and living and thriving. Cultivating curiosity, increasing the credibility of our nation or of many places in the world where your systems can touch upon which we might call realizing greater opportunity, and greater potential for mobility. I think this is critical at a time when the danger of demoralization provides a fuel that can feed a despondency that can feed authoritarianism, and very, very ugly forms of coercive governance, and perhaps violence and war. Your constructive, your solution-based orientation, to me looks like light at the end of the tunnel.

Jacqueline Edwards:

I hope so.

Rob Johnson:

It looks like what needs to be the mindset, so that we avoid despair.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Listen, I know that there are going to be challenges. I know that there are going to be challenges. I was recently in a phone call, and there was a lot of just resistance, and it’s okay I’m not expecting everybody to rally on and just jump on the wagon. Because it’s harder to understand if you’ve never experienced something. But then as I mentioned before, I know I’m not alone. My goal is to build this tribe of people that want to do good. That want to give back, that want to reach out to youths. That want to reach out to these community. That want to give access. That want to mend broken systems. Those are the people that I’m looking to connect with. I’m merely just doing my part, and my part is to inspire, to lead young people. To frame their mind in such a way that they can cope, that they can develop and be incredible grownups. I’m just doing my role in this grand scheme of us getting back to normal.

Rob Johnson:

Well I think, how would I say? Go ahead, please.

Jacqueline Edwards:

That plays into my role too at Konica Minolta. I’m working with organizations right now in New York and helping them to create strategies to reopen, while keeping them efficient, while boosting productivity, lowering costs. It’s just what I do. I’m a solutions person. I’m a person that believes that’s optimistic. I’m a person that believes in young people. I’m a person that believe in creating a future for young people, and I’m a person that believe that collectively we can create a world that’s beneficial for everyone. Maybe it’s too dreamy, because human nature humans are humans. We are who we are, we’re still going to have the challenges of ethnocentrism, one nation feeling like they’re better than the other. All those things are still going to exist.

But I believe at the people level, and this is what technology is doing, it’s connecting us now on the people level. Where I can communicate with somebody from Africa, and I can touch that person from Africa in a very deep level, deep understanding level, versus looking at I’m from America and this is Africa, now we’re getting more individualized which is great. I think that spirit too have shown even more with COVID-19, so I guess there is some positive to what’s going on with this pandemic. I see more people just supporting each other, even within our neighborhood it somewhat feels like a family now. I’m here in New York by myself, but in actuality I felt like I gained a whole new family being here, including you Rob.

I guess it’s up to us to continue to carve out different paths of development, of upliftment. Whatever that might be, it could be different channels, as what I said. I’m merely just inputting what I feel compelled to do or what I was inspired by life to do. But hopefully we can get back to some normalcy sooner than later, and hopefully everyone will have IB 2.0 as a bookmark on their phone. Hopefully all the professors will understand exactly what is it that I’m trying to build, because really and truly I’m just trying to recruit professors that love what they do. I think I mentioned the story about we call them teachers in Jamaica so I might interchange, teachers, professors. My teacher, I had many teachers that were just really instrumental for my development, and I’m going to mention two.

One was my sixth grade teacher in Jamaica. Sixth grade so that would be before high school. That would be what grade here? Trying to convert it. But yeah, my sixth grade teacher anyways. After I left I went to high school and went to high school then I migrated, came to New York to study business, graduated. Somehow the teacher got a hold of my number and she called me randomly. She’s like, “Hi, this is misses Green.” I’m like, “Hi,” was not expecting to hear her. But anyways this teacher had a notebook of when I was probably nine, 10 years old. She had in this book everything that I said that I wanted to do as a child.

She was reading them out to me, and she was like, “Did you do this? Did you do that?” For me, that’s what a teacher is. I remember saying to myself, and I’ve said this to many friends that I don’t think I can be a teacher because of that level of… I feel like a teacher, the role of a teacher, they’re there for a lifetime. If you’re a teacher, it’s your job to make sure that your students are much better off when they sign up for your class.

Rob Johnson:

Mm-hmm. You’re investing in their life, not in their semester.

Jacqueline Edwards:

You’re investing in every aspect of their lives, and that’s what teachers are for me. I’m hoping that I can attract those individuals like Ms. Green, and like, she was my management professor at Berkeley College. She used to always tell me, “Jacqueline you should be a manager, you should be a manager.” I remember even being in class and everyone would get an F or they would fail, and I would just be quiet and trying to blend in with the class acting like I fail. She would always call me out, “Go read her paper in the back, she has an A.” I’m like, man Ms. [Wity 00:56:26] why? But I remember because I was just this very shy girl coming in from Jamaica.

I’d recently lost my cousin, and I guess that was my inspiration for leaving Jamaica. My cousin who was my best friend, he was murdered at a very young age in Jamaica. He always said to me that he wanted to be a star, and I remember writing that essay when I got accepted to come to college here. I only accepted Berkeley because I got an international scholarship, that’s why I accepted it. But when I wrote that essay, I wrote that I wanted to be a star and I didn’t know what that meant, but I said a star for me was being the best at whatever it is that I chose to do in life. These people, I can mention many more teachers that have played such a tremendous role in terms of my development, and shaping those ideas that didn’t really make any sense. It was there, but it wasn’t really.

For instance, IB 2.0 that was from Columbia University. I started it as my master’s project. It was interesting because when I out for that, I wanted to be an expert in my field. I went there and I created something and it was inspired by my mentor, Tom Collin. This is the role of a teacher for me. I guess this is what I’m trying to build, a community, while at the same time looking at the relevancy of teachers. Looking at how technology might disrupt that market, not might, will disrupt that market because it’s going to happen. I’ve heard a recent comment from a teacher that said, “I have a job.” I’m like yeah, but how long will you have that job? Universities are struggling financially right now. I am looking for something that, and by all means, I’m not here to derail a market. I’m not here to, what is the word I’m looking for? Like what Uber did to the taxi industry I’m not.

Rob Johnson:

Disrupt. You’re not here to disrupt.

Jacqueline Edwards:

I’m not here to disrupt anything. I’m here to create an experience, and I’m here to bridge gaps. I’m here to provide opportunities. I’m here to provide a future for young, especially in America, young African American, young people from diverse background in this country, because I see those limitations. I don’t want to restrict it because I feel like I don’t want to build something that limits someone from attaining what they need to attain. Because as I said I’m from Jamaica, I see people. Out of many one people. But I want to take what we have here as being the best, and open that up. But then open it up in a way where I am not disrupting the education system, but open it up in a very customized model, where a person can get the help they need, maybe supplemental help, maybe through tutoring or mentorship or coaching.

You and I are talking about different things that we’re doing with Detroit, and I’m sure we can’t mention them here right now. But I’m also excited about that. There’s a whole philanthropic area or side to IB 2.0 as well. As I said, my dream would be for it to resonate with those professors that really love what they do. This is how I market it that it’s a platform, is the only platform that markets and promotes teacher. Where a teacher can go on, promote and share their research. Because I feel everybody have their own little learning styles, and everything that they’ve developed over the years.

You want to brag about these things, like Ms. Green, she had her thing that she created and how she taught us math. She had that in her little notebook, and that was just her way of teaching. How awesome would it be to have this recorded digitally? Where I can experience this now, I can share this similar experience that I have years to come with the next generation. I guess I’m just trying to preserve the knowledge. Maybe it’s not doable, but that’s my ultimate gold.

Rob Johnson:

Well, I think there’s an author who I made a video with recently, Andrea Gabor, who’s written a very, very powerful book called After the Education Wars. She was talking about the charters and privates and all these things that were taking place, related to the despondency of what you might call the decay of the public school system. But what she uncovered in Texas was a group of people who followed the teachings of the management theorist W. Edward Deming.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Yes, I like Deming.

Rob Johnson:

Deming is not part of the top-down control approach. He’s one who empowers the locality, who preaches faith, in some cases that the people on the assembly line will care. If you invest in them, they will improve the productivity. In the case of the school, the families, the parents, the teachers who chose that profession have the heart to reach in and invigorate and raise things to a new and higher level. Andrea’s book found that the people in Texas, a region about the same size in population as New Orleans, Louisiana, that group was exceeding what the charters and privates and others were doing in Massachusetts, in New York, in Louisiana, in other parts of Texas. It had the same tinge listening to her and reading her book and talking with her, it had the same tinge what I’m calling aura of enthusiasm that you’re sharing with me tonight, because it’s about real people connecting and caring about real purpose.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Yes, absolutely.

Rob Johnson:

Well I want to mention that it was not more than a couple of weeks ago that the Young, Gifted & Black Entrepreneurial Awards were created in what was called the power in motion women empowerment awards. One Jacqueline Faith Edwards was the recipient of that award. While I know you are very modest in your, I would say not getting ahead of the curve and taking credit for your purpose, you just keep working on it. You are beginning to inspire and attract a formidable recognition. People are, how would I say, like myself inspired by how you are devoting yourself and cultivating resources and building credibility through your vision and purpose. I think I always do this with songs it’s just my habit. But there’s a song from the Philadelphia soul tradition. It’s how would I say this? It feels like where the world has to go, which is regeneration and renewal and re-inspired.

As I listened to you tonight, the song came into my mind. In the last verse of the song, and I will modify the lyrics to read to you because it comes from me, it comes from my audience, and it comes from the people who you are impacting. The last song or the last verse of the song goes like this. God bless you. You make us feel brand new. For God blessed us with you, you make us feel brand new. I sing this song because you make us feel brand new. I think The Stylistics would be nodding their head if they heard me using their song to describe the lady that I had the pleasure to talk with over this last hour this evening. I want to thank you for being my collaborator in exploring these issues. I want to thank you for the inspiration that you provide, and for your work in conjunction with the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Before too much time passes, I want to call you back, and we can explore where things are in the world and where things are with IB. 2.0. Thanks for being with me tonight Jacqueline.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Thank you so much for having me Rob.

Rob Johnson:

To be continued.

Jacqueline Edwards:

To be continued.

Rob Johnson:

Bye-bye.

Jacqueline Edwards:

Bye.

About the Host

ROB JOHNSON serves as President of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Johnson is an international investor and consultant to investment funds on issues of portfolio strategy. He recently served on the United Nations Commission of Experts on International Monetary Reform under the Chairmanship of Joseph Stiglitz.

About the Guest

JACQUELINE EDWARDS is a member of the board of advisors of Moovn Technologies and a Partner at Intermix Logistics.