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Posts Tagged ‘ted


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Jennifer Magiera told a passionate and inspiring story at a recent TEDx talk.

Inspired by Sir Ken Robinson’s talks, she opted to release her students from the shackles of schooling and bring back their inner creative child.

When she gave them time and space to explore, they did nothing productive and instead asked for guidance and crutches. Magiera realized that she had created “rubric zombies”.

But she persisted and suggested four ways to revive the undead:

  1. Cultivate natural curiosity
  2. Outwit obstacles (see past problems)
  3. Play purposefully (being driven by student interests)
  4. Empower students and give them voice

Do yourself and your kids (actual kids and students) a favour. Delay the watching of the next episode of The Walking Dead and invest 18 minutes to remind yourself about what really matters.

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edX CEO Anant Agarwal shared a statistic at the beginning of his TED talk. About 155,000 people took an edX course offered by MIT. This number was larger than the entire alumni of MIT in its 150 year history.

But MOOC reach was not what Agarwal wanted to highlight. Instead, he described how experiments in MOOCs were informing university faculty on:

  • Going where the learner is at (online, mobile)
  • Designing blended and flipped lessons
  • Promoting active learning by designing interactive and self-paced lessons
  • Providing instant feedback
  • Leveraging on social learning
  • Getting students to learn by encouraging them to teach

In other words, relevant and progressive pedagogy.


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I agree with the main point that Donald Clark made in the video above. There has been more pedagogic change in the last 10 years than in the last 1000.

He provided anecdotes of what people like Eric Mazur do to make lectures better (stopping delivery and injecting human interaction). He also explained why lectures should be recorded so that learners can have “a second bite of the cherry”.

But does that not assume that the cherry is sweet and desirable? What if it is sour or diseased? Who would even want a first bite of that?

He tried making his case by citing a study that claimed that video recording can improve a bad lecture (approx. 8min 40sec mark). He explained that students had the option to simply skip the bad parts or the parts they did not need.

But is the lecture better? No, it is not.

Could it be edited to be a bit better? Certainly, the same way a bad photo can be Photoshopped or Instagrammed to look better.

Are there even more effective teaching strategies that bypass lectures (good and bad) altogether? Definitely. After all, Clark points out that lecture theatres have an occupancy rate of about 20-30% a year (14min 45sec mark).

Perhaps the most perplexing thing that Clark says is that pedagogic change originates not from educators but from technology gurus (15min 34sec mark). From Berners-Lee (who gave us the Internet) to Williams, Dorsey, and Stone (who gave us Twitter), we are talking about non-lecture technologies. We are talking about technologies of access, openness, social reach, democratization of information, etc.

Perhaps the most powerful point was not that obvious. Clark’s TED talk was shared on the Internet. It was streamed (and still streams) on YouTube, it was tweeted then, and I am blogging about it only now. His talk has replayability, sharability, and commentability.

That is why I do not think TED talks are just lectures. Conventional lectures are overrated. Talks like TED and storytelling are better especially if they leverage on social, open, and mobile tools. But we really need to think and act beyond a talk as a starting point.

Where then do we start? Ask our learners. Get them to self-organize. Supervise and suggest if you must. They will surprise you with what they can do.


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If you are born blind and have severe autism, your chances of living a “normal” life are slim.

But Derek Paravicini is a maestro with an innate talent that needed a nourishing environment (provided by his nanny) and some pruning (provided by his piano coach).

According to his TED bio, Derek taught himself to play the piano when he was four and gave his first concert when he was seven.

Not everyone is a savant. That is a genetic lottery.

Not everyone is given Derek’s opportunities. That is a shame.

We lock normal kids up in a schooling system designed largely to enculturate and industrialize. This is despite the opportunities and tools we have today to create an educational system that can nurture and individualize.

We have the keys to unlock genius and creativity. They are not as fiddly and difficult to use as before. Yet we let fear and ignorance hold us back.


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This is a model TED Talk.

Let me rephrase. This is a TED Talk where a runway model, Cameron Russell, shares what it is like to be a model.

It is an honest look about what must surely be a first world problem.

I am certain that while she will get some plaudits, she will also face some backlash. People who speak about or speak against their professions sometimes get vilified.

The thing I admire about the sharing is how open it is. The cultural expectation is that you say what you need to say and you deal with what results.

Elsewhere you keep things to yourself or share within very closed contexts. The former only leads to frustration and the latter often leads you to group-think.

If individuals and organizations are to learn and grow, they must be more open. Open to change, open to risk, open to feedback you would rather not hear.

Then again, you might just appear to be open. Looks can be deceiving. Only the consistency of your actions will show if you have an open mindset or not.

If reality can bite, then Science must be its teeth.


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This video is an introduction to an excellent TED Education series. The lessons were designed by Joy Lin, wonderfully narrated by James Arnold Taylor, and animated by Cognitive Media.

So would you rather have super size, super strength, or super speed? Perhaps being able to fly, become invisible, or be immortal are more up your alley.

Spoiler alert: Science will ground you in reality. But the more you know, the better. And you can wish for some other super ability.


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Sir Ken Robinson’s most recent TED Talk was one of those talks that you could watch ten times and get ten different takeaways each time.

When I watched it the first time, I liked SKR’s analogy that teaching is like dieting.

The student in the video below had a less articulate (but more honest) critique about teaching not leading to learning.


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His peers would probably agree that he “schooled” his teacher about the importance of meaningful learning over prepackaged, delivery-oriented teaching.

Whether teachers like it or not, we need more students who think like him. If we teach better, then they may not act like him.


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I could probably watch this TED Talk of Rita Pierson and find a different inspiration each time.

I liked the part where she mentioned twice in succession that, despite less than ideal circumstances, teachers teach anyway.

She could have meant teaching anyway (whatever the circumstances), any way (whatever worked), or both. We need teachers that do both.


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Daphne Bevelier shares research on the impact of games on learners and game-players.

Myth: Staring at the screen worsens eyesight.
Her research: The vision of action gamers is actually better than those who do not play video games. Gamers can make out finer details and are better able to distinguish more levels of grey (better able to tell contrast?).

Myth: Gamers are more distracted because they develop attention problems.
Her research: Gamers are actually faster at resolving conflicts and can pay attention to more discrete objects or instances.

Myth: Gamers can multitask better than non-gamers.
Her research: The ability to multitask varies with the choice of media or game, not with the individual.

Myth: The effects of experimental game interventions are not long-lasting.
Her research: In one study on spatial cognition, the effects of a total of 10 hours of video-gaming were not only immediate but also present five months after the intervention.

Bevelier concludes that “general wisdom carries no weight” in the light of research.

I also loved her example of how educational games are like chocolate-coated broccoli. They are meant to be good for you, but you do not buy it because you will not swallow it.

Parents and teachers might buy the chocolate-coated broccoli games. However, the kids and learners will know better.

The trick then is to create games that kids really want to play and are also good for them. It is about creating good, really healthy chocolate.

I think there is a simpler solution. Show teachers how to take advantage of existing chocolate and get both students and teacher to consume and create at the right times.

This strategy is not about the technology. It is about the pedagogy. Good games are already well designed so you need not redesign or recreate. You just need to facilitate creative and critical use of the games.


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If you listen to and laugh with Eddie Obeng, you might agree that the world seems to be changing at a rate that is sometimes difficult to understand.

Rules and principles that we learnt and now follow do not seem to be valid any more. Or as Obeng said more articulately in this TED video:

We spend our time responding rationally to a world which we understand and recognize, but which no longer exists.

I took two things away after watching and reflecting on this TED talk:

  1. We run the risk of allowing the pace of change to overtake the pace of learning.
  2. We learn and innovate by failing in smart ways.

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