A quick post to review today's excellent TEDx day. For those who don't know of TEDx or TED, a quick explanation. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and is an event originally held in the US where notable thinkers spoke in these three areas spoke to other (invited) like-minded people in a spirit of "Ideas worth spreading". In more recent times talks have themselves spread beyond the three original areas to now encompass innovative and important ideas from any area and the talks themselves are now available free to anyone who wishes to watch and listen at TED.com.
TEDx is related to the original TED but is local and smaller. For example today I attended TEDxMelbourne, an event with a limit of around 100 attendees, at a TEDx day the format is that there are videos of TED talks and live talks, after each talk attendees break into small groups to discuss the ideas brought up by the talk. This format really appeals to me as it really mirrors what I do with this blog and my reading, I like to bring ideas from diverse disciplines together to then exert influence on how I think about what I do, learning and education.
And so to today's event. (with some of my own and others ideas scattered through - it is really what TEDx is all about, it gets you thinking!)
Introduced by Warwick Merry and Rod Sherwin we were told to expect to be "out of our comfort zone" and that whilst we could listen to some of the talks at home the benefit here was that we could then discuss our ideas with others. We were then shown a brief intro to the TEDx concept by Chris Anderson (curator of TED). And so it began....
First up was a video talk by Juan Enriquez. This was filmed in the US at the height of gloom and doom about the credit crisis and the talk begins with a quick review of where things were at in the US (summary not good!) He then used this as a counterpoint to highlight the upside of the future, human's use of science to 'improve' our own biology. That is through our mastery of science we will not just control nature but also control human evolution. My take - yes we are gaining control of a whole lot of new things but in many ways it is just an extension of what human's have done for millennia, agriculture, urbanisation, industrial revolution and so on. For me change is just what happens, I'm an optimist. I'm not meaning that there won't be major challenges and questions to answer about our use of technology, however I believe that human's will work their way trough these issues and then move on again.
The next talk was excellent - Temple Grandin - speaking about how the world needs all kinds of minds. So many good points and a great talk, Temple has autism and as she describes it this means that she has a 'specialist mind', not great at everything but excellent within certain spheres. She describes how she thinks strongly in pictures and how she sees the world in quite a different way to many other people - but she doesn't see this as a problem, but rather as different. In fact the point of here whole talk is that it is the variety in people that provides strength, or as she says, "the world needs all kinds of minds". There is a bit of Ken Robinson in what she says, lamenting the pigeon-holing that occurs in education today. A super talk and well-worth the time to listen to it!
Now we went to the first 'in person' talk of the day - it's good to have a mix of video and live!
Pat Naughtin, who runs a consultancy called Metrication Matters, spoke about the costs and benefits of metrication, or the lack thereof! A one person said afterwards, he didn't imagine that he'd ever be interested in a topic such as this, but the really enjoyed it! A fair point I reckon! Pat is a very good speaker, throwing in a good dose of dry humour along the way. The key point of his talk was that where people don't use metric measurements (mainly the US!) thee are huge financial and other costs associated with this, examples quote included deaths in medical errors, some due to confusion over non-metric measures. The key point I think though is that Pat's talk was about simplicity and communicating this clearly and unambiguously. He showed a slide with 199 words/measures that have been used to describe energy during climate change debates in recent times. How can anyone be expected to really understand science when people trying to explain it use so many different words and measures to try to describe something. It becomes impossible to really understand. Science must use simpler statistics if they hope to clearly understand climate science!
After a very enjoyable Korean lunch with 4 other TEDx attendees the next speaker (again in person) was Mauricio Buchler. Mauricio spoke about education - obviously close to my heart! he demonstrated an online virtual world he's been working on to assist with English language learning (see here). Mauricio also spoke of his frustration with the education system and passionless teachers, a tricky question really. What comes first? Do people enter teaching with no passion or does it disappear later on? My view is more often than not the latter and it is this that needs to be addressed. Mauricio also believes that passion must be an entry marker for prospective teachers (but how to keep the passion).
Mauricio also spoke of how he believes learning should be fun. OK, my view, yes pretty much, but sometimes more than this it needs to engage learners, this mightn't always look like 'fun' but learners are 'loving' the learning (if you understand what I mean?)
The TEDx day finished with a brace of 3 short videos arounf the theme of success.
First was Richard St John with his 8 keys to success - only 3 minutes long, short and to the point.
Our next video was Derek Sivers - a really interesting talk that shows that there is more than one way of looking at things. What is true and obvious to me is not to another person. I liked his example of how in most Western countries city blocks are the un-named places between streets, whereas in Japan it is reversed, streets are the un-named places that surround blocks. If this confuses you watch the video, t's only 2 minutes long!
The very last video was of Joachim de Posada speaking on really interesting research that links the concept of delayed gratification (in childhood) with later success in life as adults. He shows humourous footage of experiments with children trying to resist the temptation of eating a marshmallow that was put in front of them (they were told not to eat it). I must say that I'd not do well in such a test, now or back when I was a child. Could there seriously be a link between this and later success? Perhaps it has got something to do with the ability to focus. To resist eating the marshmallow a child must keep the thought of not eating it foremost in their mind, they are able to focus their attention. Back in Richard St John's talk he certainly listed focus as a key element of success! (along with persistence)
And so the day ended. I really enjoyed the day. Warwick and Rod were right, I was (happily) "out of my comfort zone" and on top of that I got the chance to meet people in person whom I'd only ever tweeted with, met others for the first time entirely, found many others who read similar books to myself (see my book ideas here) and thought about things I certainly don't normally do on a Saturday. Thanks to all who helped organise the day, I look forward o the next!