Tag Archives: TED

The world needs all kinds of minds

I agree with Temple Grandin, the world needs all kinds of minds.

We should stop celebrating normal and worrying endlessly about what doesn’t fit within that normal.

Temple’s ability to verbalise her own autism has broadened our understanding of what it means to be autistic. Instead of looking at autism in terms of what is wrong, Temple turns our perspective around by stating that we wouldn’t have evolved without those people who think and function differently.

I’ve pulled out some of what she said in her  TED talk, things which resonate with me, both as a teacher and just in general:

People are getting away from doinghands-on stuff. I’m really concerned that a lot of schools have taken out the hands-on classes

We’ve got to think about all these different kinds of minds. And we’ve got to absolutely work with these kind of minds, because we absolutely are going to need these kind of people in the future.

And this brings up mentors. You know, my science teacher was not an accredited teacher. He was a NASA space scientist. Now, some states now are getting it to where if you have a degree in biology, or a degree in chemistry, you can come into the school and teach biology or chemistry. We need to be doing that. Because what I’m observing is the good teachers, for a lot of these kids, are out in the community colleges. We need to be getting some of these good teachers into the high schools.

If by some magic, autism had been eradicated from the face of the Earth, then men would still be socializing in front of a wood fire at the entrance to a cave.

Question: So, most people, if you ask them what are they most passionate about, they’d say things like, “My kids” or “My lover.” What are you most passionate about?

Temple Grandin: I’m passionate about that the things I do are going to make the world a better place.

I would love to see the school that Temple would create if she were a principal or education department head, wouldn’t you?

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David Pogue – satirical medley

New York Times tech columnist David Pogue performs a satirical mini-medley about iTunes and the downloading wars. Village People fans, this is for you. Very clever and part of the TEDxMelbourne talks.

David Pogue is the personal-technology columnist for The New York Times. Each week, he contributes a print column, an e-mail column and an online video. In addition, he writes Pogue’s Posts, one of The Times’s most popular blogs.

Read more about him here or go visit his website.

Take a look at the other talks at this event. I’m impressed by these amazing vocal play artists. I hesistate to say singers because they actually sound like musical instruments.

By the way, I was very disappointed to discover that these TED talks were held in Melbourne, FL, not Melbourne, Australia.

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Don’t forget TED for teaching

Engagement in the middle years of school may well be an oxymoron.

This was recently confirmed for me when starting off a year 9 class of boys in their research for an effective speaking competition. We gave them a brief: talk about an event which has had a significant impact on society or has stood out in history.

Hmmm….  reading long chunks of text wasn’t something they were going to do willingly, especially during the last period of the day. What about videos? Yes, miraculously focus was rediscovered, and the boys managed to maintain their concentration for almost an hour as they browsed the list of videos I’d prepared.

Fact known by all: young people respond well to information presented in video format.

That’s why TED is such a great teaching tool. I forget about it sometimes, but really, there’s so much information to spark thinking, discussion and debate.

Today the TED blog recommended the childish thinking playlist.

Today’s playlist is about kids and their brains, which hold the dreams and possibilities of our future. How can we teach them … and how can we learn from them?

TED recommends, amongst other videos,  Adora Svitak, who makes the case that grownups have lots to learn from “childish” thinking — creativity, audacity, open-mindedness.

Here’s another one:

Who are the leaders of tomorrow? Joachim de Posada shows how to find them — with a marshmallow

Dave Eggers thinks like a child to create a massively popular after-school tutoring club — starring pirates, superheroes, time travel …

Then you’re invited to share your favorite stories about kids in the TEDTalks archive –

Add your suggestions for this playlist to the comments below, or email contact@ted.com with the subject PLAYLIST: KIDS. (Jog your memory with the TEDTalks spreadsheet.)

A brilliant way to share best TED content within a theme.

The spreadsheet is seriously informative, and lists the name of the TED talk, the speaker, a short summary, duration of video and publishing date. Very nice. I really like seeing, at a glance, the shorter videos because they are often just what I’m looking for to show students.

I found Sirena Huang, an 11 year old prodigy on violin, playing beautifully and talking about her instrument.

TED’s format is satisfying, providing biography and links, as well as transcript. Excellent for teaching purposes. It also provides relevant websites, you can bookmark the speaker on the site if you like, and you also get a list of related speakers and themes.

I think I should plan to use TED in teaching regularly.

Has anyone used TED talks in teaching? Would you like to share your experiences?

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Who’s leading? How a movement is made

Derek Sivers received a standing ovation at TED for this talk about leadership.

This really made an impression on me. I realised that, yes, it’s the first follower who plays a crucial role,

he publicly shows everyone how to follow.

This is so true, and I can speak from experience when I say this. Last year, when I took the risky step of creating a ning for a class, my brave and trusting friend Maria was the one who said yes, I’ll do it with you.

It takes guts to be a first follower! (Thankyou Maria! You’re the best)

She trusted me (even when I didn’t trust myself), and together we joined forces not only to create the ning as a learning and teaching platform for the year 7 class, but we forged new territory as we went, supporting each other and later demonstrating to the rest of the staff what this new learning environment looked like.

The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.

This year our school has taken off with Web 2.0 platforms for classes, a couple at first, serving as examples for others. Thankyou, Una and Catherine, for making the ning such a rich learning environment and inspiring other teachers.

The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts. Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

Now there are more and more teachers wanting to try nings, having seen the wonderful examples.

Now here come 2 more, then 3 more. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

I may be jumping the gun a little, but I’m predicting that soon the Web 2.0 learning platforms and tools will be part of the everyday learning and teaching practice at my school.

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky. If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now. They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry. Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

I love the advice that Derek Sivers gives about leadership – listen particularly if you don’t consider yourself a leader:

The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.

Check out Derek’s biography.

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How do you explain a ning without sounding silly?

This is cross posted from my other blog, English@wfc

 ningvideos

Following our school’s involvement in Powerful Learning Practice, our team has been asked to present to the whole staff next Monday. Maria and I will be talking about the ning in our English classes. We decided to present collaboratively, with Maria doing most of the talking and me driving the ning tour. Our idea was that teachers would find the ning more relevant and convincing if a classroom teacher presented. Sadly, I think that they would be less likely to listen if a teacher librarian was presenting, because we’re associated with the library (which means we’re seen as chained to the library circulation desk and focus on books).   Today we got together to decide how we were going to proceed.

The most difficult thing is deciding what is essential – we don’t have more than 10 minutes or so. We don’t want to overwhelm everyone but if we don’t present in some detail, it won’t make much sense to anyone.

For me, the essential part of the ning in supporting the English curriculum has not been the technology, but the possibilities for discussion and interactions. Within online discussions, every student gets an equal chance to participate in discussion at his own pace. The authentic audience and connections with others form a community of learners. Instead of responding to the teacher, students interact with each other; their learning is social. Although it’s not exactly Facebook, the ning has provided a Facebook-like platform for classroom learning.

What we’d like to stress is that the teaching is more important than ever. Yes, the ning is technology, but that’s not the focus. The ning is not some technical textbook with multiple choice questions and answers making the teacher redundant. Scaffolding the learning process is even more vital than ever to ensure rich discussion and push students’ thinking towards  critical and reflective responses.

During our planning session,  Maria and I focused on identifying the way the ning enhanced teaching and learning beyond traditional teaching methods.  We anticipated teachers wanting to hear why they should tackle the technology, what was special about the ning. That’s a fair enough question: there’s no point in using technology for its own sake. So let’s see…  Well, as I’ve already said, there’s the authentic, peer audience, and the interaction within that, and secondly, there’s the threaded discussion. When students are asked to write down their thoughts in class, it’s normally just the teacher who collects and reads them. Perhaps a few might be read out in class. The ning provides the transparency for all students to read everyone’s contributions, but also to reply to a specific one. Students can read every other student’s ideas, and respond to any of these.

Apart from the connection to the other students in the class, our class was joined by The Kings’ School boys in Parramatta. The ning has also provided an opportunity to bring in an expert, in our case,  our book’s author, Allan Baillie, who was able to answer specific questions of each boy individually. We provided authentic, engaging learning. The boys got a kick out of having their questions answered by the man himself.

I also love the simple fact that the ning contains everything so neatly – from a teacher’s point of view, assessment is made easy because everything that has been written is easy to find. I imagine it will be easy to see development in the boys’ writing as the year goes on.

Using videos to spark discussion has never been so easy. I embed videos when I come across them (handy for on-the-spot activities), and all the discussion following the viewing is neatly recorded underneath. Students regularly practise literacy without even realising. Somehow they think that discussion of a video isn’t real work. Videos are great for visual literacy -something I’ve noticed doesn’t come easily to young people regardless of what is said about the internet generation. They need lots of practice ‘reading’ visual clues, following visual narrative and interpreting and critically analysing visual messages. Of course, audio is also important, and our class has also enjoyed videos with music.

We plan to show teachers the variety of resources that can be included in the ning. Our videos cover many subjects – even grammar, information literacy (eg. evaluation of websites) and responsible online behaviour. I’ve started embedding TED talks which I think will be suitable for this age group. I’ll be looking to include more TED talks because they’re so inspiring.

I hope our presentation will demystify the ning and similar technology and open up practical suggestions for the use of such technology in the classroom. As long as the internet connection works! Keep our fingers crossed.

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TED Q & A with Ken Robinson

KenRobinsonTED-reddit

The TED blog describes an interesting Q&A session with creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson, author of The element. Reddit gave TED fans the opportunity to submit questions for Ken, with the 10 most voted questions being answered.

Here are the 10 questions Ken answered. Many of these are long, and I’ve tried to select the main part of the question, but you’ll have to go to the post to read the rest:

1. What specific actions do you recommend taking to overhaul, say, public education to maximize how we identify and nurture creativity? And what place do you think things like critical thinking and logic (also noticeably absent) have in basic education?

2. …why do we make these distinctions between “math”, “biology”, “history”, and “art”, when they are all linked, and when the interconnections so often make them meaningful? Is it OK if children are not “well-rounded,” as long as they are following their curiosities, or does a lack of “well-roundedness” mean we are not exposing them to enough bridges to new interests?

3. What do you think is the correct way to grade/rank/assess an individual’s academic performance? And what do you think should & should not be included in standardized entrance exams like SAT?

4. … some would advocate that video games are in fact best preparing kids for 21st century life. What’s your opinion on this, and of the place of video games in education?

5. There are so many individual teachers and librarians out there who GET IT, who want to help their students stop “playing school” and start having authentic learning experiences. How do they build critical mass to change our bureaucratic, cookie-cutter approach to educating children?

6. How do I get involved to make this change happen?

7. … What are your thoughts on the future of distance learning, and have you seen any signs of a breakthrough that will replace the status quo, while delivering interactive, powerful, social and visually simulating learning?

8. What is your opinion of the Summerhill School?

9.  I’m a maths teacher, in England, in a forward-thinking school (the head showed your TED talk to the whole school a couple of years ago at a staff meeting) and I believe in what you say about creativity passionately. So what three things should I do in September to foster creativity? I’m talking about definite, in-the-one-hour-lesson things I can do to my classes to change their experience.

10. … We all know you can find your element at any time in life but what more can I do to find out what MY element is?

 It’s definitely worth reading in full. I won’t summarise but I’ll pull out sections which resonated with me.

 The basis of my argument is: creativity isn’t a specific activity; it’s a quality of things we do. You can be creative in anything — in math, science, engineering, philosophy — as much as you can in music or in painting or in dance. And you can certainly be involved in the arts in ways that are especially creative. And so it’s important to emphasize that it’s not about creating some small space in schools where people can be creative, and particularly not if that means just tacking on some art programs on a Friday afternoon. It’s about the way we do things.

Ken talks about a ‘grammar of creativity’:

You can help them think productively, generate ideas effectively, help them to think of alternative approaches to issues and questions.

It’s a series of processes, not an event. And helping people understand how that works is an important part of being creative. You wouldn’t expect people to become literate just by hoping it’d happen.

And I think subjects is a poor idea, really, for the kind of work I’m interested to promote, because it suggests that the world is definable into entirely different sorts of content or subject matter…. So now, we live in an age where there are multiple variations of different disciplines — the merging of physics and chemistry and of engineering and genetics. And the problem is that schools and institutions are often slow to keep up with these changes.

It’s not that I am against standardized testing. What I’ve personally got a rant about is the extent to which standardized testing, firstly, has become a massive commercial industry which is detached, in most cases, from the real purpose of education. And secondly, the extent to which we’ve come to associate standardizing with raising standards. Now, everybody agrees we should raise standards in schools. Of course you should. But, the primary instrument that’s being used is standardized testing. And the problem with it is that it fails to do the one thing we know works if we want to improve standards in schools, which is to address personal development… It’s not there to identify what individuals can do. It’s there to look at things to which they conform.

So, my argument is that instead of standardizing everything in schools we should be going in the opposite direction…. I think we should be personalizing everything in schools. We should be looking at ways of making education relevant to each individual child. And there’s no other way of improving standards. Actually, there’s no other way of doing it on the grand scale.

 On the whole, people in education get this as much as anyone else. And they don’t like it. They know there’s a big problem in the system, and they want to change it…. 

The real place to focus, initially, is on the work you do yourself. I’m always keen to say this: Education doesn’t happen in the committee rooms of Washington, or London, or Paris or Berlin. It doesn’t happen in government buildings. It happens in the minds of students and learners. It happens in the classroom… So what I would say to teachers is: Change your own practice, today. The education your children are getting is a result of what you’re doing with them.

Don’t wait for the government to change things; get on and do it yourself. But also, if you’re in a position to do it, you should try and influence policy. There’s an opportunity to do that in many countries. It depends on your position.

Just dumping stuff online isn’t the answer to it. But there’s a massive thirst for ideas, for this sort of content, as illustrated by the mushrooming of social networking and user-generated content… Because we now have the ability to put the best thinking, materials, pedagogy, resources in front of everybody. This should be seen by schools as a massive opportunity to — not to replace what they do, not to replace their own teachers and curriculum, but to enrich and enhance it.

But there are some characteristics of good teaching which are concerned with promoting creativity. One of them is to engage children’s curiosity to get their imaginations fired up. I was saying earlier that the fundamental capacity is imagination. Well, what I mean by that is you can’t be creative if your imagination is not engaged.

If you want to promote creativity, you need, firstly, to stimulate kids minds with puzzles and questions which will intrigue them. Often that’s best done by giving them problems, rather than just solutions. What often happens in classrooms is, kids sit there trying to learn in a drone-like way things of not much interest that have already been figured out.

I talked about, in the All Our Futures report, two things, one of which was “teaching creatively”: teachers finding interesting ways into material. Presenting unusual points of entry or interesting angles or perspectives, and enjoying the process of finding them. So, that’s important. Teachers themselves should try to evolve their own creative capacities and enjoy what they do, creatively. Standardized testing has taken the joy of teaching away from them.

The second big part of this is asking open questions as much as we ask closed questions. Giving people questions they can explore, rather than ones to which they have to find answers that have already been given. That, to me, is the fundamental piece of all creative processes. Giving area for exploration.

One thing I didn’t touch on earlier is, the creative process is a bit like a DNA strand. There are a lot of things weaving through it. One task being creative is to hypothesize and think of possibilities and look at alternatives ideas — to speculate. To be imaginative. But an equally important part for every creative process is to act critically on the ideas you’re coming up with. To evaluate them.

… group work. An awful lot of creative work doesn’t happen individually. It happens with people interacting with other people. The most powerful engines of creative thinking are groups. And the reason that’s true is because a great group models the human mind: it’s diverse, it’s dynamic, it’s distinctive. So, knowing how to form groups, how to get groups to work, how long to leave them doing it is a core skill of good teachers.

So I think its three things: it’s stimulating imagination, it’s telling them problems with open questions, and knowing how to organize groups. And I think in there are the answers to things we can all start doing tomorrow.

Fertile ground for personal and professional discussion, don’t you think?

 

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TED talks wiki

If you enjoy TED talks on video, feast your eyes on the TED talks wiki, which is like a cornucopia of TED, an overabundance of these tantalising talks.  Getting through these all might take you – lets see, say about …. a year!

The talks are searchable by speaker, or you can search by first name of speaker alphabetically.

Since I’ve just blogged about Howard Rheingold, I thought I’d use him as an example of the quality of these talks. His talk, Way-new collaboration, is about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action — and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.

The TED talks site also gives you a summary of the speaker’s biography as well as a link to more details. Here is Howard Rheingold’s bio:

Writer, artist and designer, theorist and community builder, Howard Rheingold is one of the driving minds behind our net-enabled, open, collaborative life.  

The site also lists other talks in the series or on the same theme, as well as related theme, and related tags. Altogether, it’s an excellent way to hear experts and inspirational speakers talk about a large variety of topics. It’s also an excellent way to discover interesting people. It’s easy to keep up with the latest talks; you can subscribe to the TED newsletter, or subscribe to RSS feeds.

It’s wonderful how much variety there is within a theme. Tales of invention includes the following topics and more:

Legendary designer Philippe Starck‘s lively ruminations on his own creative process suggest how the patterns of a civilization might affect, say, the design of a citrus juicer. Jan Chipchase investigates the worldwide impact of mobile phones — and the impact of culture on next-generation mobile technology. Explorer and adventurer Bill Stone, meanwhile, fires up a rapt audience with his ambitious plan to harvest energy from the moon.

Copyright lawyer Larry Lessig gives a brief history of creative freedom and copyright, and talks about how contemporary copyright law could strangle future artistic invention and interpretation. William Kamkwamba tells how he built a windmill from scrap metal when he was 14 years old. And Amy Smith shares her transformative low-tech tools for saving life in the developing world.

As usual, the comments are an interesting continuation of the conversation.

I’ll leave you with Larry Lessig, one of our foremost authorities on copyright issues, with a vision for reconciling creative freedom with marketplace competition.

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