On October 10, 2010, TEDxDirigo, Maine’s first TEDx event successfully launched. I had the honor of being at the rudder of this ship, steering it from inception to the after-party. The event was successful in its aims: inspire leaders and change-makers with the brilliance and innovation of Mainers through the TED Talk format.
I learned a tremendous amount through the event planning process and the big day itself. And now I am trying to formulate the difference between what happens at a TEDx event and what happens at a lot of schools every day. Perhaps an unfair comparison, but considering we talk about wanting students to be inspired change-makers with “21st century skills” or “solutionaries” as Zoe Weil aptly termed them (TEDx talk will be on-line soon!), and this is what happens at TEDx events, it does seem appropriate.
What I am about to walk-through is a bit crass. What I mean is that if we were to design education based on learning from TED and TEDx it would be a bit more complex than what I am about to propose. But hey, this is a blog post, not a dissertation.
Let’s talk about what makes TEDx events exciting. It’s two things. The primary component is the TED style talk. We here at the co-op have these posted at our must watch videos link and share them around all the time. These are watched by thousands of people everyday. TED style talks are all about communicating an idea really well. Through story-telling, really complex and big ideas are broken down in 18 minutes or less. Speakers take audiences right through the idea, why it’s needed, and how it can work, in less time than recess.
There’s no Q&A, no breakouts, no panels. Participants (attendees are participants, not just witnesses) take up the conversations during breaks and after the events.
So let’s start here, what if teachers started a unit, a week, a class with an inspiring talk about the idea that the class is supposed to orientate itself to discuss, understand, and move forward? TEDx speakers once they give their talk are no longer “in the spotlight” per se. They become enmeshed in a network of high functioning change-makers who also have unique skill-sets to contribute to making big ideas happen.
And this is the second key component of what makes TEDx events so enthralling. It’s not only the curation of the speakers, but also the audience. Everyone in the room is amped up about big ideas that are or can change the world. Everyone is actively working to do so, in some shape or form.
This offers a second paradigm to change in schools–everyone becomes activated. People are now not only responsible for their own learning, but are engaged in making something bigger than their own learning happen. This is a complex process. It’s certainly not a stripped down content-delivery system which has the aim of linear-efficiency like a factory conveyor-belt.
For it to work in schools a different feedback system than current grades and standardized scores is required. But we already knew those weren’t going to work out anyway. The feedback system is more akin to ones taught at leadership institutes. It’s about process agreements, +/delta feedback, candor, individual work, teamwork, and accomplishment. These group processes, and individual time management and assessment are the skills that need to be imparted by teachers to students. Teachers then help students enact these processes as well as provide guidance and expertise on various subjects as appropriate.
The key is teachers nor standards are driving the process any longer. Collaborative effort centered on moving inspiring ideas forward to benefit the greater good is what drives it.
What do you think? What if you classroom were like a TEDx event? Would it look and feel like the Innovation Lab?
Is it even the aim to move the classroom in this direction? If not, where should we be headed?