Empowering Innovation in Education: a TEDxNY Education Event
About 200 educators and other interested people met on for a day of sharing ideas about education. The setting was the New York Academy of Sciences on the 40th floor overlooking ground zero — the perfect place to discuss rebuilding dreams. TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design (www.TED.com), is an annual event where leading thinkers share what they are most passionate about. A TEDx event, such as this one, is independently organized and licensed by TED, but still exclusive. Attendees had to fill out an application with their background, interests, and three conversation starters just to purchase a ticket.
The program was four sessions of speakers (19 in all) with time in between for networking. Alan November, an expert on using technology in education, emphasized that the key to joy in work is purpose and this message is not lost on kids. Gary Stager, a constructionist teacher in the mold of long-ago progressive education pioneers, said, “We can have high standards without standardization.” His emphasis: project-based learning.
Heidi Hayes Jacobs recommends rethinking everything we do in schools, from scheduling to how we group students to assessments. “We can do dumb things with a smart board,” she quipped. She was particularly adamant about the negative effect of the assessment tests on both teaching and learning, symbolically breaking a No. 2 pencil at the end of her talk. Patrick Corman, a children’s fiction author, talked about his multimedia approach (text plus videos) to storytelling that gets kids involved with reading.
The possibilities for innovation in education are generated by the newly available power of the Web for unlimited access to information and global connections. Children no longer want to wait until they grow up to participate in the world. They want to do it now and they are already doing it electronically. Teachers are more important than ever in guiding and shaping this new empowerment and must begin focusing on a new set of 21st-century skills to help students find their way and their voice.
The event seemed to energize the participants to effect change in education. Many of the attendees were from independent schools that are already on the cutting edge of educational innovation. The people who need to hear the message most were not in attendance. Policy makers were not there, nor were the administrators who are focused on raising test scores. #
The sessions are posted online at http://tedxnyed.com/2011.
Vicki Cobb is an author and science educator.