Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Technology and Education: TED Talks for Teachers

TED Logo
I've only mentioned TED, ever so briefly, when I wrote the inspirational Monday article The Winds of Change. In brief, TED is a small nonprofit devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED's scope is now much broader providing talks and performances for free (almost 500 TEDTalks are now available, with more added regularly). If you've not experienced TED, I urge you to do so. Don't take my word for it, read what others have said.

As you may know, I like to collect free alternatives to commercial software. Along the same lines, I at one point started collecting information on what free education is available out there from reputable schools like Berkley, Stanford, MIT, etc. As part of the ongoing search and collection of free education, I've come to like and follow Free Technology for Teachers. On one of their posts, the site featured 10 TED Talks for Teachers I thought were worth repeating & mentioning as a way to show how technology can serve education beyond student curriculum; and specifically for the teachers themselves. Here's the exact article from that post:

TED Talks provide viewers with insightful and thought-provoking commentary and ideas. The contents of many TED Talks can be directly or indirectly applied to your classroom practices. While you're on holiday break, you may want to watch one or all of these TED Talks. If you're interested in learning more about using TED Talks in your classroom, check out Teaching With TED.

TED Talks directly about education.
1. John Wooden on Winning vs. Success.
What strikes me most about Coach Wooden's talk is his emphasis on teaching and developing character over winning. One of his three most important rules, "no criticizing of teammates, I'm paid to do that," is a great rule that translates well to the classroom and the workplace.

2. Clifford Stoll Teaches Physics to Eighth Graders.
Clifford Stoll has done many cool things in his life including catching a KGB spy, but the coolest thing he's done is teaching college level physics to 8th graders. What I like about Clifford Stoll is that instead of just talking about ways to teach and improve education he is actually getting on the front line and trying his ideas. (Stoll has definitely done enough things and made enough money to sit back and be a "consultant" but instead he's actually teaching, something I have tremendous respect for). In this talk he gave at TED in February 2006 Stoll talks about and demonstrates measuring the speed of sound with an 8th grade class. Stoll also makes a very profound, but somewhat obvious, statement about the future. He says, "if you want to know what the future generation will be like, ask a Kindergarten teacher."

3. Don't Eat the Marshmallow
In this TED Talk given by Joachim de Posada talks about the behavior of children when they are given a marshmallow and told not to eat it for fifteen minutes. In the talk Joachim de Posada reveals that the response of children to this challenge can be indicative of future success in life. In addition to being informative and thought-provoking, the talk includes some really cute video clips. The information shared in the talk confirms what most of us know about the impulse control of small children. None-the-less, it's nice to have a reminder that can inform our planning of day's lessons.

4. Bill Gates Talks About Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Education.
In this interesting TED Talk (they're all interesting) Bill Gates discusses mosquitoes, malaria, and education. The education part of his talk (the last eight minutes) presents some interesting fodder for conversation.While you may not agree with everything that Gates proposes in this talk, it will definitely make you think about what does and doesn't work in education.

5. David Merrill Introduces Siftables
Siftables are the high-tech version of the alphabet and number blocks we all played with as children. Siftables are little computer blocks or digital blocks that contain motion sensors, neighbor detection sensors, digital displays, and wireless communications. The blocks can be manipulated to create words, equations, pictures, and designs. Siftables are not yet commercially available nor do I have any idea what they would cost, but there is a ton of potential for Siftables as an educational resource. Siftables would be great for young students just learning to spell and do arthimetic. Siftables could also be great for older students to develop and try solutions to mathematics problems.

Update: Sir Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity.
I don't know how I forgot this one, but thanks to a comment left by Dolores Gende I was reminded that I should have included this talk. In fact, it probably should be first on the list.

TED Talks with implications for education
6. Tom Wujec - 3 Ways the Brain Creates Meaning.
In this short talk Tom Wujec explains how the brain interprets words, images, feelings, and connections. As an educator I always take interest in research and discussion about how the brain absorbs and processes information. Knowing how the brain processes information should influence how we present information to our audience(s).

7. Jimmy Wales - The Birth of Wikipedia.
Do a Google search for just about any academic term and more times than not Wikipedia is at the top of the results. So how did Wikipedia get started? How does it continue to run? Watch this talk by the founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, to find out.

8. Julian Treasure - 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.
In this talk Julian Treasure tells us that people working in open plan offices are 66% less productive than those in quiet rooms. Treasure follows that up by saying if you are in a noisy open plan room, wear headphones and listen to soothing sounds and your productivity goes back up. The ideas and information in the video are good to remember the next time you have students working independently in a large classroom. Perhaps instead of trying to keep them as quiet as possible, we should allow kids to use their mp3 players when they're working on independent assignments.

9. How Cell Phones, Twitter, and Facebook Can Make History.
In this talk Clay Shirky examines how text messaging and social networks empower citizens to report the news without state-run media censorship. This TED Talk could be good for getting students to think about the positive things that they can accomplish using the technologies that they often think of as just fun tools.

10. Matthew White Gives the Euphonium a New Voice.
If you're a music teacher, this two minute performance might be something you'd like to share with your students to encourage them to develop their improvisation skills.

Update: Lead Like the Great Conductors.
Again, this is one that was brought to my attention by Dolores Gende. This talk has great lessons for school administrators.

Bonus: David Pogue on the Music Wars
In this video David Pogue performs a catchy medley about the changes in the way today's consumers access music and television. Pay particular attention to the middle section of song where David mentions how younger consumers watch two minute shows instead of traditional television shows. Watch and enjoy the video it will put you in a good mood for at least five minutes and you might learn something about shifts in media consumption too.

Update #2: More reader suggestions
Pranav Mistry - The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology.
Benjamin Zander - On Music and Passion
Dan Pink - The Surprising Science of Motivation

As a person who relies on technology for my everyday life, and a geek at heart and by profession, it should come as no surprise that I'm a huge proponent of technology in education. Having technology for children, in the classroom, without a doubt, has its pros and cons. But in order for technology to be effective in today's education system, it needs to be intelligently integrated into a rich, meaning-centered curriculum. You can read more about technology in the classroom (with many excellent resources and references) here.

Having technology, however, as a tool for students, teachers, educators and professionals alike has without a doubt been of great benefit. I can only hope that we see more of how technology, in the form of online videos, podcasts, etc. (like the ones from TED) become part of how we advance as a society for one, and as of humanity as a whole.

It's worth mentioning that TED has (I believe) all their TEDTalks on YouTube (it makes embedding on Facebook and other social networks a lot easier). What do you think of TED?  ▣

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