Listening Past the TED Talk

Published: 2013-11-13 10:05 |

Category: Comment | Tags: teaching, ted talk, tedx, teded

I watched a TEDxBeaconStreet talk the other evening entitled “Reimagining Learning.” It started off well enough, with some good points about the challenges of teaching in a digital age. I really liked Richard’s opening point:

There’s a more serious digital divide that we face in this country. That is the divide between those who know how to use technology to reimagine learning and those who simply use technology to digitize traditional learning practices.

Not too bad, consider I’ve even written about reimagining schools through Flipped Learning.

He then made some jokes and quips about scanning photos and using projectors as really fancy chalkboards. Ha ha.

He argue that the way to really change schools is to personalize learning. Again, something I can get on board with.

And then he dropped this bombshell:

< crashandburn >

My heart fell. There are so many things in this story that put Richard, in my mind, solidly in the camp of “digitizing traditional teaching practices.”

The students walk in every day and they see on these screens, their names…and they see where they’re supposed to go to learn that day.

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I want my students to see when they walk in is me, smiling, welcoming them back to the room to learn together. Step one in this case is digitize the teacher.

And then they go, like this group of girls right here, and they learn whatever they’re doing. At the end of the period, they stop a few minutes early, and they take a quick three-question test.

Their performance goes into an algorithm that customizes their schedule for the next day.

Rinse, wash, repeat. (And, I bet if a teacher were around in that picture, they could tell you what the girls were working on that day.)

He then goes on to talk about MOOCs (attributing the idea improperly) and how “reimagining learning” is really just opening it up to hundreds of thousands of people. No mention of the massive attrition rate of students nor the fact that MOOCs aren’t solving real problems in higher education.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the widely-publicized talks on education are either 1) given by people with lots of money, or 2) given by people who want to make lots of money. There have been very few compelling TED talks lately that have really communicated some of the major change that can come to education when we really think hard about what technology can help us do.

I’m not saying there aren’t any. Ramsey Musallam’s “Three Rules to Spark Learning” and Kristin Daniels’ talk on reinventing professional development are top notch. I’m convinced they are because they’re teachers. Not venture capitalists. Not entrepreneurs. Not CEOs or filmmakers.

Maybe I’m just watching the wrong talks, but I know that I’m waiting for TED to look past the hype and bring back some great ideas.

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