Danny Hillis

Danny Hillis, co-founder of Applied Minds, speaks at the Big Ideas Festival on the topic of personalized growth and mapping learning. The conference took place at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, last week.

Danny Hillis is trying to create an online version of his fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Wilner, an educator who knew her students and could tailor materials and skill assessments to their interests.

This is how Hillis began a lecture to about 180 teachers, administrators and education experts during the third annual Big Ideas Fest held at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, last week. The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, or ISKME, sponsored the four-day conference. There were speakers, networking opportunities and group workshops.

To bring Mrs. Wilner to life for future generations, Hillis is making a digital learning map, a representation of all there is to learn.

"If someone had given me a picture (and said) ‘this is the world we're going to explore,' I wouldn't have had to understand it yet, but just known that there were all these things we were going to explore," Hillis said. The map provides students with an education road map and allows teachers to integrate student assessment.

During the conference, nine groups spent roughly six hours developing ideas to transform education. In the end, three winners were selected. With a $50,000 matching grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the teams can continue fleshing out their ideas and create prototypes.

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