The TED Talks started in the 1980’s as a Silicon-Valley conference focused on software, technology and design. Now, it’s the destination for smart hipsters and brilliant researchers, visionaries and experimenters to express their passions and become the circus attraction. I’ve been watching a few of these talks on and off for a year or so. I don’t have a TV, and these guys are the closest I get to PBS. While I’ll send you over to their site, www.ted.com, know they are on hulu too.
On the off-chance the conference is still around when I become a famous and confident master-teacher…I’d like the opportunity to get 15 min and express my views on education. Until then, there’s a great number of talks to see:
First up, Dave Eggers. The guy edits/owns/somehow is responsible for McSweeney’s, a comedy magazine, yet his best work may be with students. He has sent the last few years volunteering to – rather, finding himself under the imperative t0 – tutoring young San Franciscans in English every day. And he got his company to go along with it. And to sell pirate supplies in order to make it happen. My former employers, Citizen Schools, leverages the same sort of volunteer work for kids. I’ve found it works. We need volunteers to teach, whether in a school or pirate store. The more caring adults, the better chance a student has.
My school is green. The greenest in TX. This guy beats us by a mile.
No consideration of TED Talks would be complete without Sir Ken Robison discussing creativity. I live off creativity. Recently I stepped into a classroom discussing addictions such as drugs, tobacco and alcohol. I neglected to tell the kids of my most obvious vice, but I did claim addiction to creating. I build all day at work, I write here on this blog, I bang on guitars and create noise, I paint, I raise kids. I love to create and I’ve been lucky in finding an education path that has let me do that. Robison has spent considerable time thinking about how education can hurt creativity and has a persuasive argument for change.
For a classroom perspective, I enjoyed these two talks: Diana Laufenberg & Dan Meyer
Laufenbuerg’s talk describes a teaching philosophy, while Meyer breaks down his teaching technique. Notice the focus – Laufenbuerg asks “when and how do children learn best?”, while Meyer seems to ask “what tools make students learn most?” In my woodshop, this seems to play out in by my choices in projects (a stool) and tools & joinery (chisels & dovetails). I’ve spent the last three weeks (six hours!) watching a student work towards creating a curve for a bookshelf. Not the bookshelf design – just an upper curve. My philosophy tells me practice, time and mistakes will become learning. My technique is to move from published plans to copied sketches to CAD work to drawing the curves on a template. Which will, sometime in the next two weeks, be transferred to the final product. All those steps aren’t necessary for the student to create the skill (in Meyer’s classroom, this would be algebraic computation) but they are necessary to create what Meyer wants and Laufenbuerg articulates: true project-based learning.
On a final note. I have a dream of retiring and making a place like The Tinkering School…but there’s one just up the road. Maybe they need a Houston summer camp.