I was fortunate to attend TEDx London this weekend. This event was born from issues raised in Sir Ken Robinson’s 2010 TED talk and was designed to raise the question ‘ How can we bring on the Education Revolution?’
What can all those involved ACTUALLY DO to ensure that the old and irrelevant in education is thrown out and that we can build a new model of constant reinvention to ensure that education provides what industry requires and more importantly what young people need to flourish in today’s world.
I returned from TEDx London, my head buzzing with ideas, questions and things to explore. Many of the underlying concepts were not new but were reiterated by passionate individuals and illustrated by exciting examples from the world of education. These were some of my highlights:-
The talks were split into 3 sections
- What’s Wrong / What’s Happening
- What’s Right
- What’s Next.
The first session began with a live feed from Sir Ken Robinson. He discussed his views on the purpose of education
Economic – Education underpins the modern economy and for a modern economy there is a need for creativity and innovation.
Cultural - Helping to understand each others cultures and relieve the problems of cultural mistrust.
Personal - Education is about individuals, it cannot be mechanistic and should encourage students to become engaged. For this reason education should be personalised.
Sir Ken Robinson’s vision for change includes
- Education that is personalised
- Improvements in the motivation of both students and teachers
- Education that is customised to the needs of the particular community or individual school
- Education is about diversity and standardisation offends diversity.
- Education is about partnership with great institutions and the community.
A number of these points were a common thread throughout the talks. The importance of recognising children as individuals and encouraging, rather than stifling their talents and interests, came time and again. The need to motivate children and encourage them to think for themselves and the many possibilities that technology offers also kept reappearing.
I consider myself fortunate to work in Early Education. Active learning, teaching that stems from children’s interests and strengths and listening to the child’s voice are fairly widespread. Learning is fun in the early years and it would be unusual to find a pre-school child who grumbled that school was boring. I hope that all education can take lessons from early education at its best.
Adam Roberts an 18 year old human rights campaigner talked about critical thinking and how his mother’s encouragement to ask questions set him up for life. As young children we instinctively ask questions, but as we grow older children are often discouraged from questioning. This point was made even more strongly in Ewan McIntosh’s talk. Ewan explained the need for children to be problem finders rather than problem solvers. He showed a group of 7 and 8 year olds who were asked to put on their own TEDx event. The children were inspired to come up with their own questions, prompted by ‘have you ever wondered?’ The children came up with wonderful philosophical questions and the excitement and animation shown by the children was truly infectious.
Another common thread was the potential for embracing social media and technology in the classroom. By doing this we are bringing the real world into the classroom rather than viewing education and school as separate to other aspects of life. Dan Roberts believes strongly in education through technology and demonstrated some of the things his students at Saltash.net Community School are doing.
The What’s Right sessions showed a number of inspirational projects including:
History pin - building a history of real people and places using photographs and video footage.
A workshop from Seeper with a school for children on the autistic spectrum, showing how technology can motivate and engage children.
Dr Matt Whitby showing how awe-inspiring science can be, through his off the wall science experiments.
Tim Exile - a musician who has invented a machine to create spontaneous electronic music using a variety of sounds.
The Final session involved speakers who are thinking in a new way and their pleas for like-minded individuals to join them in this journey.
Dougald Hine was inspirational. He talked about change with determination and self belief, a firm believer in making things happen.
Emily Cummings the 24 year old inventor has been named Barclays woman of the year in 2009 and one of the top ten outstanding young people in the world in 2010. She explained how her passion for designing began when her grandfather taught her to make things in his workshop. Teachers recognised her talent and entered her for competitions, harnessing her enthusiasm and giving her new goals.
Sir Ken Robinson closed the day with a plea to make alternatives a part of the mainstream. A new vision for education including personalised learning, group activity, the closeness of the community and using and sharing talents. Many of the case studies from young people at the conference showed that talents were often discovered and utilised outside of school.The community then has an important role to play in educating children.
The closing lines resonated with me
New technologies will make change possible.
Technology alone doesn’t do much, it’s what we do with it that matters.
There were some wonderful examples of what we do with technology and creative thinking. I came away with lots of ideas and things that I wanted to share but also a feeling of uncertainty about what I can do to make a difference. I want to share inspirational ideas and inspire others to try new ways of teaching. Why? I believe that we need to be able to use the tools that children are used to at home and that will form a large part of their future rather than sweeping them under the carpet . Technology will not replace traditional play but will enhance it if we use it creatively. It gives opportunities for awe and wonder, for raising questions, self discovery and creative expression. My endeavour is to show this in practice and inspire others to do the same.