In my work, I’m focused on looking at the experience of remote, home and school learning differently! The K-12 education sector is rapidly experiencing the redesign of school, for home, and remote learning via a screen. Interestingly, most change in K-12 education with and through technology has been incremental, during the last 20 or so years, with many children still not having affordable technology or network services at their finger-tips, or access to engaging and impactful learning experiences via the screen that prioritize creativity over content.
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Page, Ph.D.
Kelly L. Page, PhD (@drkellypage) is a social and digital innovator, entrepreneur, educator and learning consultant. She has a Ph.D. in the Psychology of Web Knowledge and an obsession with learning innovation and social storytelling.
Kelly believes that innovative and entrepreneurial thinking is at the heart of creating truly social cultures, organizations, and leaders.
Kelly has over 18 years of experience working at the intersection of social innovation, social design and the learning of mediated social experiences for Startups, Universities, Schools and School Districts, to Fortune 500 companies. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and on the TEDx stage and she has partnered with companies such as Microsoft, Google, General Assembly, Element AI, MediaSnackers, TESCO, EarthTech and learning initiatives spanning multiple countries.
Her work has been published in leading peer-reviewed academic business, education and technology journals, such as Journal of Business Research, Studies in Higher Education, Computers in Human Behavior, International Journal of Interactive Marketing, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Psychology & Marketing, Behavior & Information Technology. Her work has received awards from IDMA and a BIMA — Best in British Digital and the FWD Collective for Social Impact for Women and Diversity. Kelly is regularly invited to speak on topics such as Learning Innovation, Social Leadership, The Art of Social Media and Women in Business and Technology.
Director of Bennett Labs (2019 — ) a learning innovation and development lab embedded in the life of the school in West Town Chicago, Kelly also served as the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) and a Research Fellow in Residence (2017–2019) at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA). She is the founder and curator of the social initiative Grateful4Her and the social design studio and creative group, Live What You Love, LLC. She also serves as a team lead consultant for the Arts and Business Council (A&BC) of Chicago.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’d say a fascination with learning and creativity in particular. At a young age I found myself drawn to the creative and visual arts — — painting, drawing, sculpture, and especially photography. I loved making and creating with my hands and how through any medium and especially technologies, such as a camera, we can document the world around us and create beautiful representations of our reality or expression of ourselves.
Art taught me how we can create anything with our imagination, if we have the freedom and courage to do so. It also taught me about innovation and creative approaches to learning. The artisan, the maker, and creator is the earliest entrepreneur and innovator, if you will, and it was the world of art and photography that led me into the idea of not just coming up with ideas but also doing something with those ideas, by creating something to share with others.
So, for my career path, early on I was immersed into the idea of learning as a creative practice, where no two people learn the same or for the same reasons, no matter where or who they are. At college I was introduced to the Internet, Web-based technologies and how they were designed with a technical language used to build and create entire worlds through the screen. And in my twenties I was fortunate to be invited to pursue my doctorate in web knowledge and digital learning, working with technology companies and start-ups studying how people learn about these innovations. This time taught me much about people, and how we innovate. It also taught me how everything is a social design problem or opportunity we can address and design for.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
In my work, I’m focused on looking at the experience of remote, home and school learning differently! The K-12 education sector is rapidly experiencing the redesign of school, for home, and remote learning via a screen. Interestingly, most change in K-12 education with and through technology has been incremental, during the last 20 or so years, with many children still not having affordable technology or network services at their finger-tips, or access to engaging and impactful learning experiences via the screen that prioritize creativity over content. In my TEDx talk on ‘Education Innovation’, I share how important it is for us to focus on investing in what matters, to truly change the model and the experience of learning in our schools.
With mass school campus closure this year, my team and I pivoted. We leaned out of thinking about our campus-based learning experiences, and instead leaned into exploring ‘how might we design learning experiences for home learning via the screen that are engaging, grounded in joy and creativity, include tangible play around the screen, and are a learning experience where the child and their family at home are at the center?’ In short, how can we design home and remote learning experiences via screen, differently.
With the team at Bennett Labs, we stepped away from the traditional school-campus idea of learning, looked at models like Netflix, TED and Amazon, and embraced the new reality of home learning we now all find ourselves in. In 10 days, in April 2020, we came up with and launched Bennett Live — engaging media and educational programming with a mission to inspire young designers, creators, and makers through Reggio Emilia and project-based learning at home. Through pre-recorded media content and live classes, our goal is to reach children and families everywhere, and inspire learning through doing, making, and creating with whatever materials you have at home.
In short, remote and home learning doesn’t have to be boring or difficult. We just need to design it differently.
We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve been fortunate to have many mentors, guides, and critical-learning friends throughout my journey, so it’s difficult to just pick a few; however, here are three people who have influenced me at different stages in my career, and in different ways.
- Ada Lovelace, while she died in 1852, her work was an inspiration to me, and in many ways a guide. Before women were permitted to go to school or university, she was tutored at home. She became a great mathematician, computer scientist, as well as poet. She is regarded as the first computer programmer and is remembered for aiding Charles Babbage with his Analytical Machine and developing one of the first algorithms to work on the machine. Through her work she invented the field of poetic science — aimed to bring the arts and science together to create something that pushed the boundaries of what either discipline could achieve alone. I first learned about Ada during my first year of college. Up until then I’d only learned about male inventors and entrepreneurs. She has served as a long time inspiration and guide for my work.
- Professor Mark Uncles (Australia), and Professor Robert Morgan (UK) both professors of business, and strategy, Prof. Uncles was my doctoral advisor, and Prof. Morgan my research mentor. They worked with me throughout my 20’s and 30’s until the present day. What I remember and value most is how we work equitably as research and education partners, despite all being considerably different in experience and they more established in their careers. They mentored me at different times through the world of business academia, and I shared with them what I was discovering about the early world of the Internet and the Web and its impact on how we learn and organize. I learned from both of them: if you don’t have confidence and do the research to support your ideas, why should anyone else? At times, I felt they believed in my ideas more than I even did, encouraging me with questions and possibilities, which inspired me very much. They showed me the importance of working from a growth mindset, working as a team with equity and integrity in how we research the world, and the sharing of it with others. They were the first educational business entrepreneurs I’d worked with, and by taking a risk on me and my ideas, and mentoring me, they afforded me the freedom to truly step-into the design and business of learning differently and powerfully.
- Genevieve Thiers founder of SitterCity and Former Entrepreneurship at Obama for America. We met in 2010 when I first moved to Chicago. We met through the Women in Tech group, and I was inspired by her intelligence, tenacity, and creativity. We’ve kept in contact ever since. She is a true innovator in childcare services for families in tech as founder of SitterCity, an increased technology business and childcare platform she created out of her own need for childcare after having twins. What she built was an accessible company that empowers women and families. Genevieve has taught me much about being a successful woman in technology and business who is an innovator and also an artist and opera Singer.
Lastly, I consider every woman I’ve ever worked with a mentor or guide to me. Working alongside them, women have an unfathomable commitment to other people (and we get stuff done).
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
On the first day of my first job. I was sixteen. It was a part-time job, weekends and the odd evening to help pay for my school books, art materials, clothes, and provide some pocket money while I completed high school. My father drove me to my first day, and on the way he shared two pieces of advice. The first, “treat everyone the same. It doesn’t matter if they are the CEO or the cleaner, they are deserving of the same respect.” Equity was very important to my parents in how we treat people, and my father in particular was not impressed by positions or titles, more a person’s integrity — — were they, their word. That same day he also shared with me a piece of economic advice, something my grandfather had shared with him — “If you want to know where the power is, follow the money.”
When I was in my twenties and I had just started my doctorate, I went through a very difficult period. The work was hard, long hours, and all of my friends who had graduated college were in different types of work that paid much better and were travelling. I wanted to quit, and I remember speaking to my mother. She listened and then shared this piece of advice: “Kelly you can do what you do today, because of the women that came before you, and what you do today, will impact the men and women, boys and girls, who come after you.” She reminded me how fortunate I was and also how everything we do has an impact on others. I didn’t quit, and whenever things get difficult, or I’m unsure of something, I lean into this advice.
When I was working for a national theatre company in the UK, National Theatre of Wales, I was observing and documenting how they were using technologies like Twitter, Facebook and other social networks in narrative storytelling, and how the artists were learning and developing their digital identities. John McGrath, the artist director shared with me and the team about how “we create the world with our words, for ourselves as well as for others” and how important it is to be intentional with what we share, with and about whom. This advice has greatly influenced how I use social media in particular today, especially when sharing about someone else.
I would say these pieces of advice have influenced how I see and treat people, how I consider economics in relationships, and lastly how I understand my own impact in the world, especially the impact of my work and my words on others.
How are you going to shake things up next?
The inspiration behind Bennett Live is to reach children and families everywhere. That children, no matter their income, location, ethnicity, or access to technology, have the opportunity to experience Reggio-inspired project-based learning in their homes. To learn through doing, creating, and making with whatever you have at home.
It was one thing for us to create Bennett Live, and to launch it during the pandemic and campus closures. It is another for us to reach into homes everywhere. This September, we are launching the Bennett Live App. We want to get Bennett Live into the hands of children, youth, and their families on their handheld device. Be it an iPad or tablet through school, or youth with a smartphone, or parents’ multiple mobile devices, we see this is how we can make Bennett Live most accessible.
We also are reaching out to partner with schools, especially those in our most underserved communities, to offer Bennett Live as a support to their learning, around the remote learning curriculum their school might be offering. Often project-based learning is seen as for progressive and independent schools and communities, outside the domain of public curriculum like the common core, whereas it doesn’t have to be.
Learning is not a building or a business model such as public or private school. Learning is a creative practice motivated by our imagination and our interests. Reggio-inspired Project-based learning is learning through doing, and is one of the most powerful ways humans have always learned. Our intention is to focus on this for children and families everywhere, and to really learn from our children and families, what they really need and want to inspire them to learn at home.
Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?
Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on ‘Your Creative Genius’ and her book ‘Creative Living Beyond Fear’ are two works that I have learned much from, and I share with people, children, youth, and adults alike. I first heard Elizabeth’s TED talk when I was writing my own memoir about growing up in country Australia, the daughter of an immigrant and a war veteran. I was struggling in how I was sharing about my family and myself on the pages. To hear the journey of a famous and successful writer, her struggle with creativity and her genius and journey served as a great example to me as to how we are all in some way creative, as well as struggling with the ways we express our creativity.
Interestingly in formal learning settings like schools, we often talk about the importance of creativity, yet don’t design the space for it or we do the opposite in the form of one or two things. We espouse that it is the adult as a teacher who inspires creativity in children and youth, or that creativity is only reserved for arts like subjects. In fact, every single one of us is creative, and ‘creativity is the use of our imagination in the coming up with ideas and connections’, be it in science, mathematics, english, art, or through working on a project, it is along our own personal journey through which we uncover, embrace, and foster our creativity and that of those around us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
In 2014 I led the launch of a social initiative called Grateful4Her — a Thank you note to women everywhere. Grateful4Her is a movement earthed in gratitude about the ways, achievements, and impact of people who identify as women.
Women are 50% of the earth’s population yet continue to experience less than 50% representation in many areas of society. Women live in a deficit model of existence, and experience the highest rates of discrimination, abuse, violence, and murders than our male peers. Yet, women are some of the most powerful, transformative, and impactful people, often the lead caregiver, while also driving change in their families, communities, businesses, and government. Just now, during the pandemic and global crisis, countries with women in leadership, who have also appointed a diverse leadership team, have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men. Despite their achievements, women still face inherent discrimination and bias, especially in the media with our stories rewritten and obscured by social gender bias.
Grateful4Her is a way to share her story and show your gratitude for her impact. A way to create our collective appreciation for the powerful influence of women across the world, in the past and to the modern day. We launched the initiative during November, in the fall with a call to action for people to share personal stories about the women who have impacted their lives, and to express their gratitude in the form of a social post, saying why and tagging the post with the hashtag #Grateful4Her. Some 100k people participated, and are still sharing their gratitude to this day.
Gratitude is a healing emotion, and the purpose of the movement is to change how the world considers, treats, and talks about women, to heal us, if you will, and to inspire possibility in how women of all generations see their way of being in the world, as powerful, as impactful. It is a reminder that we are each in charge of our own stories.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If I had to choose one, it is a quote I first learned while trekking Nepal, while learning about Buddhism and the life of the Dalai Lama. I took 4 weeks out of my life to go off-grid, disconnect all technology, which is very hard for me given my life and work, and to trek some 140 miles along the Annapurna Circuit with a group of people I didn’t know. It helped me to reconnect with my purpose as well as discover my own philosophy that was to carry me through life.
Since a child I’ve both been curious and struggled with the ways spirituality and organized religion is represented and used in our world, yet never really connected to a specific faith or way of beliefs. I’m a researcher, as well as an educator. A business person, as well as an artist. I lean toward ways of everyday people as well as the ways of the universe. Discovering the work of the Dalai Lama, and especially the life lesson he shares: “My brain and my heart are my temples. My philosophy is kindness” (Dalai Lama), really spoke to me as a human being, as well as an educator and innovator committed to improving the learning of others.
Just like doctors who live by the ‘do no harm’ unwritten rule, we educators, especially those in the innovation space, also have an unwritten rule of being ‘in service to the learning of others.’ If we can do this from a place of kindness (as opposed to being right), and truly honoring the brain and the heart of our children and youth, as well as our teachers and families, in their ways of learning, we can truly make progress for improving our schools, and access to education and learning in our communities.
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be reached on most social platforms, including the following:
People can also follow and learn more about Bennett Live at: