Sir Ken Robinson on Learning, Innovation and Creativity at Wisconsin Science Festival

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“Everyone should watch this talk!”

Those are the most popular words framing blog posts about Sir Ken Robinson’s popular TED Conference presentations.

When the charismatic cultural visionary strides onto the Forum stage in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery Town Center on Sunday, Sept. 30 to deliver the keynote talk for the 2012 Wisconsin Science Festival, he will encounter a Wisconsin version of his fan base: a crowd eager to engage on the future of learning, education, and innovation.

The talk, which takes place at noon in the circular Forum on the first floor, is free and open to the public.

The former professor of education has led a United Kingdom commission on creativity, education and the economy; was the central figure in developing a strategy for creative and economic development as part of the Peace Process in Northern Ireland; works with Fortune 500 companies, international agencies, and cultural organizations around the globe; and is in high demand as a speaker on the creative challenges facing business and education in the new global economies. In 2003, he received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to the arts.

The second annual Wisconsin Science Festival, with its theme of Innovation, is the perfect forum for sharing Robinson’s revolutionary ideas, according to Laura Heisler, director of the festival and programming at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

“This festival explores innovation from every possible angle, including how we think, work, live and learn,” she says. “Sir Ken Robinson will be speaking on issues of great strategic importance to the University, but also to the community as a whole.”

Heisler and her committee schemed for more than six months to bring Robinson to campus, and were able to pull it off thanks to a sponsoring grant from Promega Corporation, as well as support from the College of Letters & Science, the Wisconsin School of Business and the School of Education. All three of the University partners have a great stake in advancing non-traditional thinking about education and its outcomes.

"In the Year of Innovation, Ken Robinson is a strong voice for thinking creatively about the future of higher education,” says Gary Sandefur, Dean of the College of Letters & Science, who drew from the L&S Annual Fund (gifts from from alumni and friends) to support the festival for the second year running.

“L&S is happy to help make his visit possible through our collaboration with the Wisconsin Science Festival."

The videos of Sir Ken Robinson’s famous 2006 and 2010 talks to the prestigious TED Conference have been seen by an estimated 200 million people in over 150 countries. He is known for statements such as:

  • “We are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
  • “Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects: at the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts.”
  • “Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface.”

Across UW-Madison’s campus, departments and units are considering innovation and what it means in terms of our past, present and future. The Year of Innovation celebrates such breakthroughs as Aldo Leopold’s founding of the science of wildlife ecology and Jamie Thompson’s revolutionary discovery of how to cultivate embryonic stem cells. It examines emerging trends in social entrepreneurship, engaged scholarship, and service learning. Finally, the Year of Innovation asks UW faculty, staff, and students to consider how technology and knowledge transfer might transform a troubled world rich in human potential.

Sir Ken Robinson’s keynote talk for the 2012 Wisconsin Science Festival is timed to capture the imagination of a campus, and a community, engaged together around the question: How can we think smarter about the future?