When Fortune 500 companies want to learn about the evolution of work and the future of education, they turn to UWindsor alumnus Dwayne Matthews.
An education strategist, Matthews (BA 1998, B.Ed 1999) is a sought-after guest speaker with regular spots on CTV’s Your Morning and The Marilyn Denis Show. The founder of TomorrowNow Learning Labs, he’s a go-to expert for governments and industry, having met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and having given addresses to the Conference Board of Canada and the United Nations.
“I am an innovation evangelist and a future-of-education strategist,” said Matthews. “I help school boards, educators, and parents understand new and evolving themes in the 21st century, the future of work, and how to help prepare children to thrive in a rapidly evolving digital information driven world.”
Matthews, 46, was born in Toronto then moved to his parents’ home country of Trinidad and Tobago when he was 2 years old. Matthews returned to Toronto when he started high school.
When it came time for university, his looked for a place he thought would be welcoming.
“I went to Windsor because there was a really robust Caribbean Black community there,” said Matthews. “My experience there had a profound impact on who I am evolving into. I absolutely loved my time there.”
After graduating with a degrees in sociology and education, Matthews spent nine years in the classroom. His first teaching job was at an inner-city school in Toronto. He then moved to Lima, Peru, where he taught at the FDR International School, drafting the private school’s mission statement as part of the core strategic planning team.
His foray into the business world began with a trip to the jungle.
While still teaching in Peru, he learned of entire communities of children sick from mercury poisoning. “I was in the Amazon jungle and I had an epiphany.”
He started a business that scouted clean tech solutions for resources companies.
He brought his passion for technology transfer and open innovation back to Canada. Before founding TomorrowNow, he started a company that used neurotechnology to help students sustain attention and improve mental performance.
“I think school has always been about technology,” he said. “We have a 600-year-old technology called the printed book. We designed an education system around it.”
The first personal computers began the digital transformation of the economy in 1977, but it wasn’t until the advent of the internet in 1994 that the education system began to change.
He gives the example of a school project his 11-year-old son recently did on Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former prime minister.
“The research that would have taken me 20 days back when I was his age is now is done in minutes. My son just says it into a speaker and he has it all, everything, right in front of him,” he said. “That’s a profound change.”
Despite technological changes, we are still caught flat-footed, Matthews said. The pandemic especially has exposed glaring gaps in the Canadian education system.
“No one in public education was prepared,” he said of the shift to online learning. He points out that while many Canadian children don’t all have computers at home, there are schools in Rwanda where every student has a laptop.
“There are profound differences in terms of access to technology,” he said. “What COVID did was expose us to the fact that we aren’t prepared. In fact, we are grossly unprepared.”
Now handling his many speaking engagements over virtual platforms, Matthews often addresses the topic.
“I’m a lot more busy,” he said of his ability to make virtual appearances anywhere in the world without the necessity of travel.
It gives him more time with his family. His two children often make cameos in his social media posts, whether about the future of education or the family’s fitness regime.
Over the past 24 months alone, his social media posts have had more than 1.6 million views.
In 2019, Matthews received a Trailblazer Award in the science and technology category at the annual Black Arts and Innovation Exposition. And last month, he was one of 200 speakers at an international conference attended virtually by more than 25,000 people around the globe. Other speakers included heads of state and the leaders of the world’s largest companies.
“Dwayne works to review future trends in education that are driven by technological advancement,” said the news agency Reuters in introducing Matthews at the speakers’ forum. “Dwayne’s career path over almost two decades has afforded him an incredibly unique perspective on future technologies and its fundamental impact on education and work.”