Monday, May 13, 2013

TED Talk Commentary

Recently, TED and PBS collaborated on a special featuring talks regarding education in our country.  I've spent the past few days watching the talks.  You can find them all here:
TED Talks Education

I do have a few thoughts, however, on what I heard.  First let me say, that most of the speakers have hit the nail on the head.  We are still using an antiquated education system that puts too much emphasis on passing standardized tests and not enough emphasis on learning.  In order to fix this system, it's not about devoting more money or reducing class sizes.  It's about revamping how we teach.  It's about instilling curiosity in our students and making the information rigorous and relevant.  And it's about caring about the student, not the number he or she produces on the test.

And speaking of standardized tests, how do the tests measure what students learn?  Seriously, I'm asking.  How do they?  With so much emphasis placed on performing well on standardized testing, how can we expect teachers to be creative and inspiring?  And why do we think teachers will want to stay in this profession when they don't have the freedom to teach more effectively?  The answer is, we can't.  Which is why we need a change.

Many of the speakers, including Rita Pierson, Pearl Arredondo, and Geoffrey Canada, talked about caring for the student as a person.  They each brought up instances of inspiring positive thinking and showing your belief in the student.  How do we train our teachers to be better at that?  As a former teacher I can tell you there was a lot of talk about it, but no training as to how to do it.  Maybe there should be.

And Ramsey Musallam talked about instilling curiosity in our students and using that to inspire our teaching. Walt Disney listed Curiosity as the most important of his Four C's.  Curiosity leads to questions, which lead to learning.  We should be encouraging students to take ownership of their own learning, not forcing them to learn what we want when we want.  We should be giving students the skills they need to be lifelong learners.  And that begins by encouraging curiosity.

There was a lot of good discussion brought up in these talks.  And it is discussion that needs to happen if we expect the state of education to get any better.  But discussion alone isn't going to get us anywhere.  Many of the speakers are implementing the changes they discuss on the small scale, but how can we start implementing these changes on a larger scale?  How can we start to abandon our ancient philosophy of education and move into a new, more effective way of thinking in regards to educating our future generations?  I wish I had the answer, but discussion is the start.  I applaud, better yet, I high five, TED and PBS and all the speakers for initiating the conversation.  And I encourage all of you to watch the talks, share them, and keep the discussion going.  I also encourage you to leave comments here regarding anything I may have said.  Thank you and I hope you enjoyed reading.

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