Lady Therese Robinson is a passionate advocate for creativity in education. The wife of the late educator Sir Ken Robinson, she continues this work through her support of new app Hello Genius.
Therese was a primary teacher and worked in education before launching her own highly successful events company. She created wide-ranging events such as receptions for HRH Prince Charles at St. James’ Palace to international celebrity media events for The United Nations with clients ranging from prominent charities to major brands, before focusing exclusively on promoting Sir Ken’s work globally.
Please tell me about your latest project as Global Brand Ambassador for Hello Genius.
As Global Ambassador I get to share my excitement about Hello Genius. It is one of the easiest projects to promote because the minute you go to the site you understand the incredible adventure in learning it offers. It allows you to really see what sparks a child’s imagination and where the exploration takes them. You can be a part of this while allowing your child to take the lead. You can follow their interests over a broad range of topics and make entirely new connections together. Hello Genius is underpinned with sound educational principles and enriches everything that your child is learning at school. I hope my enthusiasm will be infectious because I believe it is an opportunity not to be missed.
Why are you involved in this project?
Technology is moving at a rapid pace. Increasingly parents understand the need for their children to have as broad an education as possible. Nobody can forecast what the world will look like even ten years from now. The way to equip young people to navigate an uncertain future is to empower them with skills and an understanding of the natural world and their place in it. Hello Genius is a global application that supports parents. Children want to learn and they do this best when they are learning in a way that is lively and engaging. I have spent my life promoting the importance of a broad curriculum – of not seeing the world in narrow ‘subjects’ but to see it whole and connected. Hello Genius makes these connections. You may start by exploring a shell and end up discovering where it was found, how it looks, how it was formed, who used it as a home, singing tongue twisters … you may spend the weekend sticking shells onto a glass bottle. I don’t know why that came to mind. It popped into my mind as an example of the kind of exploration you might make together once you enter the world of Hello Genius.
How Does Hello Genius Differ from other ed apps on the market?
There are many excellent apps on the market, but none that function in the same way. Most are linear and subject -based. Hello Genius is child directed and captures their interests and imagination which allows them to explore freely. Another major difference is the design of the parent app, a function which allows you to send your own learning suggestions and tips through a live feed to the children’s app. It means you can be together online even from a distance. You can learn so much more about your child by being able to see what excites and interests them. Another really important aspect is that the content is not driven by age. It becomes possible for a child to become expert in a topic at a level well beyond the age you might expect of them. There is also the community function, where both children and parents are able to create new friends who share their interests.
Some parents have concerns about the amount of screen time children have. What are your thoughts?
I absolutely share the concern of parents about screen time exposure. It is vital that online time is balanced out with other activities. It is also important to recognise the incredible opportunities that online tools can offer. Time -stressed parents often struggle with the tension between finding quality time to bond with their children and dealing with the demands of work and everyday life. When it is properly managed, time spent online offers an opportunity to develop new ways of being together in the real world. It opens up new conversations and ways to connect.
What concerns do you have about the safety of children online?
Used correctly, the Internet is an invaluable resource, but it is always changing and so my concern would be that parents stay as well informed and alert as possible in order to protect their children. Safety and data privacy are two of the most critical pillars underpinning Hello Genius. It adheres to the strictest data laws. The only person who can see the child’s data is the adult who shares the app with them. All content is curated and filtered through multiple levels and the device can be locked into a closed kiosk mode. The child cannot navigate outside this safe environment.
You started your career as a teacher, what attracted you to a profession in education?
My mother was a head -teacher at a secondary modern school. These were the schools for children who had failed the eleven plus exam and were considered to be less intelligent.
She knew this to be blatantly wrong and championed her students, entering them in debating competitions and other activities to show them they were just as clever and talented, that they had not failed, it was the selection process that had failed them. That was her mission and so from an early age I learned to question the education system. This became easier as I experienced my own frustrations with school, especially the lack of opportunity to do what I loved most to do which was to dance and perform, to draw and to play the piano. Fortunately, I was reasonably academic and had access to the arts outside of school, but I knew others were not so lucky. I trained as a drama teacher and became an advocate for the vital importance of a broad curriculum. When I met my husband, Ken Robinson, over forty years ago, it became a shared passion.
Your husband was a game changer within the world of education. What drove his thoughts and policies?
Ken trained as a teacher and wrote his PhD on ‘The Arts in Education.’ This looked closely at the place of the arts in the curriculum, and he began campaigning to make the arts accessible to all. He was driven by a sense of urgency and believed that any system that supressed individuality, imagination and creativity had to be changed. In his book Creative Schools“ Ken wrote “Revolutions don’t wait for legislation. They emerge from what people do from the ground level. If you are involved in education in any way you have three options : you can make changes within the system, you can press for changes to the system or you can take initiatives outside the system.”
This is why Ken joined the board of Hello Genius. He saw it as a way for him to support an initiative that fostered creative ways of learning. He was a visionary who believed in the possibility of change.