Human Differences project

Koen Timmers

Educator - Author - Keynote speaker - Global Teacher Prize 2017 and 2018 finalist

Formal education tends to be restricted to assessment and memorizing. Teachers keep pouring knowledge into their students heads and there is very little contact between students from different classrooms. IQ or EQ: which one is more important? The book smarts or the street smarts. I believe we need to bring more empathy into our classrooms.

Human Differences is a global student-centered project. Students from 50 schools over 37 countries (6 continents) focus during 5 weeks on how people differ. During 5 different topics they brainstorm, do research, discuss, structure ideas, present and share findings about Gender Equality and Conflicts. Each week they create a video or presentation to present their findings to the other participating countries. These entries were published on The topics:

  1. Introduction: who do people differ? 
  2. Invisible walls: gender equality
  3. Visible walls: conflicts 
  4. Building bridges: how to fight against polarisation - how to be tollerant?  * Skype calls
  5. Anti-bullying campaign

What’s better than learning about global issues directly from students living in those countries?

In the Human Differences project students have been interviewing people on the street, parents, used Lego and Stop motion videos to express their feelings, they sang and danced, they went on excursions, created a equality machine, etc. During the last week they had Skype sessions with other countries. Students from countries which have been in conflict during the past decades were in direct contact reflecting about what connects them, trying to find similarities and building bridges instead of walls.

They created content and created a situation in which everybody – both students and teachers - learned from each other. Students spontaneously learned to use certain tools without being instructured. Teachers revised their curriculum or discovered new approaches and tools. Some teachers got a new, better relationship with their students. Many students worked about the project during their free time, even on Sundays.


Learning became fun and lots of emotional connections were made to several UN Sustainable Development Goals like Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities and Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions. The project offers great value to collaborative learning and the 21st Century Learning skills.

Authentic learning experiences is impactful learning.


The project included lots of highly talented, inspiring and innovative teachers. Many of them are Global Teacher Prize finalist, Etwinning ambassador or Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Take a look at this video including most of the participating countries spreading the message: “We are all equal”.


Note: The project was covered by newspapers and was even presented to the Austrian Chancellor, Global Teacher Prize finalists and a US senator with camera crew.

A Spanish very shy student took the lead while creating a video. The grades of the Austrian students have increased.



by PLN Education