Three TED Talks to Change the World of Learning and Education for Good and for Better

September 29, 2011

in Education, Ideas

TED Talks: Improving Education and Learning

There is nothing more important to our world and our society’s sustainability than continually expanding and bettering our education. The ability to learn and process new material and concepts in creative and innovative ways is what enables us to live purposeful lives. While it is undeniable that education and learning are the utter most important aspect of our existence, there remains significant debate and struggle over the logistics and structure of education. New and innovative technologies continue to alter and expand the way in which we live our lives. With our daily lives, communication, and relationships ever in flux, so too does our educational system and learning structure need to alter. These three persuasive, inspiring, and enriching TED talks are given by movers and shakers in the world of education and learning today.

Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education
Founder of the Khan Academy, Salman Khan discusses how he discovered a way to successfully reinvent classroom learning, using modern technology and a “flipped” classroom. Khan created YouTube videos to help tutor math to his cousin in another city. He uploaded the videos he made for his cousin to YouTube and they eventually became quite popular. Khan found that students prefer automated learning. With a videotaped lecture students can pause, review, and watch at completely their own pace. With positive responses from viewers on YouTube, Khan decided maybe he was onto something.

From those humble beginnings came the Khan Academy, a learning system that has “flipped” the classroom. Students are assigned video lectures for homework and then complete “homework” during class with their peers and teacher available. While in theory this learning structure would seem to dehumanize the classroom, actually technology has humanized the classroom. With lectures taking place at home, students are able to really communicate and interact with their instructors rather than merely have them talk at them.

Salman Khan developed software that maps out a student’s progression within the classroom. With the help of modern technology, students and teachers can be attentively connected to their educational progress, successes, and struggles. This software encourages mastering a skill before a student moves on to the next step in their learning. Creating a classroom that is self paced and responsive to each student’s individual needs, Khan has discovered interesting things about the way in which kids learn and classroom works. Encouraging the world to reevaluate the labels of “gifted” and “slow”, the Khan system discovers that kids who are “slow” in one area of learning, once that area is mastered, may be “gifted” in a different area. The Khan system of learning is easily translatable into a global classroom, so that students from around the world can learn together and benefit from one another without holding each other back. This inspiring video and inspiring system have the potential to reinvent the way in which our children learn.

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!
Ken Robinson has been a TED talker for many years now. Considered an expert in creativity, Ken Robinson gave one of the most famous TED talks available in 2006 on how schools kill creativity. This video from 2010 is a follow-up to that talk where Robinson encourages a learning revolution. Robinson compares the problems with standardized education and learning to the global warming crisis, calling it a “crisis of human resources.” He explains that schools and our learning structure today are making poor use of our talents.

Robinson explains that the linear system of learning that our society has been married to for so long is just no longer adequate. He advocates not a reformation of education, but rather a revolution. The way in which we learn within the school system needs to be completely revolutionized. The standardization of schools and the learning system dislocates people from their natural talents. Robinson discusses the necessity for an organic system of learning that will personalize each pursuit and create the conditions kids need to cultivate their natural talents. Phrased as the “fast food model of education,” Robinson explains that we are poisoning our students with conformity and standardization in the classroom. Human talent is tremendously diverse and so too should our educational options and methods be.

David Merrill demos Siftables
While this is not your traditional TED talk, David Merrill presents an innovative use of technology that has the potential to change the way in which we learn and interact with digital media. As a computer science graduate student at MIT, Merrill has created Siftables cookie-shaped, computerized tiles that react to your manipulation of them. Merrill explains that playing with blocks as a child, moving them around and touching them is all about learning to solve problems and think about spatial reasoning.

Siftables, Merrill explains, open up an interesting pathway for interacting with digital knowledge and information. It is an interactive computer that can be handled. The small blocks react to what you do with them. Siftables can show video, be aware of one another, express emotion, and much more. These tiles have interesting implications for the world of education and learning. Students can actually act and manipulate digital information in a very organic way. Rather than sit with a stagnant cursor on a flat screen, students can move the digital information, grasp it, and touch it. Siftables can be used to teach math in a quick and immediate way. They can be used to create interactive vocabulary games for students. Merrill’s presentation and demonstration with Siftables communicates the endless possibilities these computerized tiles may hold for the future.

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.



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