To cultivate a conversation about the critical challenges facing American education, Black Enterprise partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to host Today’s Business Crisis: Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce,Â a symposium to be held May 15, 2013. Its goal is to draw upon the resources of top leaders in business, philanthropy, and education to help find solutions and resources to the education crisis. The symposium will analyze the application of technology within education and investigate new learning models to engage and improve the academic performance of K-12 students, as well as prepare them for post-secondary education.
To this end,Â we’veÂ invited a number of experts and entrepreneurs in the hi-tech industry who have a dedicated interest in expanding and implementing new technologies in classrooms to assist teachers, inspire students, and sustain parents. Omar Wasow, 42, who co-founded Black Planet in 1999, will moderate the conversation. Wasow became one of the first African Americans to develop a social tool to demystify technology and help plug the digital divide between blacks and whites. Since he left the organization in 2005, Wasow became particularly interested in the charter school movement and helped launch the Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School in 2003. This month he is finishing a Ph.D. in African and African American Studies along with an M.A. in Statistics and Government at Harvard University, and then he will start working asÂ an assistant professor at Princeton in the Department of Politics.
In this Q&A leading up to the symposium, Wasow explains why he is passionate about education; gives advice for tech professionals who want to give back to schools in their communities, and tells teachers and school districts what they can learn from the hi-tech startup culture.
What inspired you to help launch a charter school?
Almost everyone in my family is an educator. When I was an entrepreneur, charter schools were an ideal way to marry my commitment to improving the quality of education for low-income kids with my interest in innovation and new ventures.