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Posts Tagged ‘ted

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A simple definition of an autodidact is a person who self-educates. I can think of no better example of an autodidact than William Kamkwamba.

Kamkwamba was the subject of a Netflix original, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. It is well worth the watch and I include the movie trailer below.

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Kamkwamba was interviewed at a TED talk when he was just 19-years-old. According to this Newsweek article, he later “graduated from Dartmouth College in 2014 and continued on to work with focusing on Human Centered Design. The now 31-year-old has since worked on projects from sanitation in India to gender-based violence prevention in Kenya.”

TED talk

Other than providing inspiring story, the movie could be the basis of lessons for teachers and students.

For example, in teacher education, it could be used to highlight the importance of identifying problems before exploring solutions, and of placing context before content.

For students in general, the movie offers food for thought on the uncontrolled stripping of natural resources from our environment. It has equally powerful lessons on how people of different religions can be friends.

There are worthwhile lessons everywhere. You do not have to wait for the permission of curriculum planners or administrators. You just need to feel what the wind blows in. That is what an autodidact would do.

Listening to TED talks will do nothing to develop or sharpen the skills listed in the tweet. Actually trying and practising those skills in authentic contexts might.

Easy answers and taglines are rarely solutions. At best, they are lazy. At worst, they mislead.

TEDxSingapore brain trust (2014).

I say this an a member of the TEDxSingapore brain trust since 2014. As a representative from the education sector, I hope they trust my brain on this.

If I was still in the US, I would be marking Thanksgiving with a host family.

I am thankful for things big and small. As a leftie, I am thankful that my wrong-handedness was not selected against.

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Lefties persist because the advantages we bring are balanced by other pressures. We remain a minority, but we have a place in the world.

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Talk about a double-whammy — incompetent people who think that they are amazing do not know they are incompetent nor do they have the mindset or aptitude to change.

This observation is based on psychological research and is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

How do we not overestimate our own abilities as teachers and educators? I suggest each of us reflects critically and strategically. Mine is to do so at least daily and this has become a habit.

How might we not overestimate our collective abilities as a system or country famed for its schooling and education system as measured by tests? I say we ignore PISA results and university rankings. These external validations count for little if we do not first critique ourselves and seek to continuously improve.

This TED talk is like a trojan horse, but a good kind.


It started with the unwarranted fears of “screen time” but was really about authentic game-based learning.

The speaker, Sara Dewitt, outlined how games were or could be:

  • A form of embodied learning
  • A possible replacement for standardised testing
  • An opportunity for adults to co-learning with children

These aspects of gaming might be new to some. I hope they become standard fare in education because that is one of the places the mobile road is taking us.

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Takaharu Tezuka is the architect who designed what TED calls the “world’s cutest kindergarten”. It was designed in 2007, but only took the world by YouTube and TED storm recently.

The kindergarten was not designed to be safe, soft, and spongy. Quite the contrary. Tezuka mentioned several times in his talk how kids learnt from falling down, getting scrapes, and bumping their heads. As for water play, he said:

… you should know that you are waterproof. You never melt in rain. So, children are supposed to be outside. So that is how we should treat them.

The kindergarten was also intentionally designed to be open and round. Why?

There is no boundary between inside and outside… there is no boundary between classrooms… When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous. But in this kindergarten, there is no reason they get nervous. Because there is no boundary.

… if the boy in the corner doesn’t want to stay in the room, we let him go. He will come back eventually, because it’s a circle… they leave and come back.

Tezuka noticed kids liked running around and doing so freely. He noted how kids learnt best by doing and experiencing. So he designed a school around such behaviours.

Perhaps Tezuka’s point is this: There is much to be learnt about how to teach kids by watching and learning from them. It is less about curriculum and instruction, and more about how they think and act.

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I do not know anyone who hates John Green. If they do, they probably are not worth knowing.

Green is an author, YouTuber, and amongst many other things, TED speaker.

After sharing his passion for maps, Green described himself as a student:

I was a really terrible student when I was a kid. My GPA was consistently in the low 2s. 

And I think the reason that I was such a terrible student is that I felt like education was just a series of hurdles that had been erected before me, and I had to jump over in order to achieve adulthood. And I didn’t really want to jump over these hurdles, because they seemed completely arbitrary, so I often wouldn’t, and then people would threaten me, you know, they’d threaten me with this “going on [my] permanent record,” or “You’ll never get a good job.” 

I didn’t want a good job! As far as I could tell at eleven or twelve years old, like, people with good jobs woke up very early in the morning, and the men who had good jobs, one of the first things they did was tie a strangulation item of clothing around their necks. They literally put nooses on themselves, and then they went off to their jobs, whatever they were. That’s not a recipe for a happy life.

He sounded like a student that most adults would write off early in life as a future also-ran or has-been. So how did he become so successful? Here are some choice quotes from his talk:

  • I became a learner because I found myself in a community of learners.
  • A lot of the learning that I did in high school wasn’t about what happened inside the classroom, it was about what happened outside of the classroom.
  • It wasn’t a formal, organized learning process.
  • The most interesting communities of learners that are growing up on the Internet right now are on YouTube.
  • I know that YouTube comments have a very bad reputation in the world of the Internet, but in fact, if you go on comments for these channels, what you’ll find is people engaging the subject matter, asking difficult, complicated questions that are about the subject matter, and then other people answering those questions.
  • As an adult, re-finding these communities has re-introduced me to a community of learners, and has encouraged me to continue to be a learner even in my adulthood.
  • I’m here to tell you that these places exist, they still exist. They exist in corners of the Internet, where old men fear to tread.

Green reminds us that learning does not happen only in the classroom. In fact, it mostly happens outside of it. One of the most powerful learning communities and informal classrooms is YouTube.

Both Tezuka and Green made references to being outside. The benefit of being there means you do not have a teacher’s blind spots. Sometimes those blind spots land squarely on what teachers need to focus on: The learner and the processes of learning.

But these are the very places teachers need to go to recover their sight. Are they reacting, as Green put it, like old men and women fearing to tread?

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Ben Ambridge debunked ten myths in psychology, at least four of which have plagued schooling and education for the longest time. These are:

  • Learning styles
  • Left and right-handedness of brains
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • The Mozart effect of music

This 15-minute TED talk is worth every minute of dissonance or resonance it might create.

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People who do not live under a rock know who Malala Yousafzai is, what she does, and why she was the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Not many have heard from her father. He is an extraordinary educator who has a lesson and reminder for educators and parents alike:

People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.

This TED talk goes beyond this juicy question.

The speaker, Carol Dweck, described a school where students were not given a fail grade if they did not not exhibit mastery. Instead, they were graded “not yet”.

This could lead to a deprogramming of wanting results, products, or grades now, and lead to a focus on resilience, effort, and self-motivation.

Dweck recommended a few strategies for promoting “yet” and dissuading “now”:

  • Praise processes, not products or innate traits
  • Reward effort, strategy, and progress
  • Show paths for learner progress
  • Talk to learners about growth mindsets


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