Why “Black Swan”?

The Black Swan story began with language learning. Most people’s experience with language learning is like this: they spend four years in high school learning French, and they still can’t speak French. Years ago, when we discovered a language teacher who claimed to induce language proficiency in three days, we were intrigued. When we learned of a math teacher who could make kids proficient in high school math — in five days, using similar methods — we started investigating deeply.

These — and other examples — of extraordinary learning have transformed our view of learning as much as the discovery of black swans in Australia in the 18th Century transformed people’s understanding of swans. Until then, swans were white — no questions asked. So much was the color white built into the concept of swan, a collective noun for swans was a “whiteness of swans” (now it’s a “bevy of swans”). The Black Swan terminology has subsequently been popularized by Nassim Talleb to describe events that no one expected, and yet they happened.

For many, drudgery, memorization, and poor outcomes are baked into the concept of learning. Our Black Swans will help change that.

In our XPRIZE work with StarShine Academy, we have developed software prototypes to teach beginning reading, math, and systems thinking. We are excited with the initial results, and are looking forward to completing our Black Swan portfolio of methods and software, and making it available to the world.

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