Networks – a good thing, right? We talk about our Personal Learning Network, our network of friends and family. So what could the speakers at TEDxNYED say about networks?
First came our second TED Talk, from Chris Abani. You must watch the video. I’ll wait
Back? Ok, wasn’t that amazing? I’d love to have heard more from him.
Gina Bianchini spoke next and I’m glad she didn’t really present lots of ideas and things to think about. After Abani, I needed some time to recover. She talked about a dinner conversation she’d had with someone working on the crisis of AIDS in Africa. She’d asked him what made a successful social movement, and the response was: Hope, Competency, Love and Drive.
She also proposed what sounded a whole lot to me like restructuring education to resemble Foursquare. Imagine it: you can unlock badges for… what? Getting a specific grade in Algebra? Completing a research project? I’m not denigrating the idea completely, but I wonder if it wouldn’t end up being a larger version of Accelerated Reader, with learning based on the reward rather than for its own sake. Perhaps I misunderstood… wouldn’t be the first time.
Dan Cohen gave a talk entitled “The Last Digit of Π“. I’m not a huge math fan, but I am a huge Kate Bush fan, so during his talk this was all I could hear (and yes, I’m aware that there’s some question about how far she actually sang Π).
Can you tell that by this time I was a little on overwhelm? Yeah, well… that’s the glory and the agony of TEDx.
Oops – I made a mistake. I said I wasn’t a math person (my father thinks I just don’t work up to my potential). Well, if I’d had a math teacher like Dan Meyer, that might not be the case. One of my biggest complaints is that no teacher ever gave me reason to believe that anything other than, oh, basic computational skills was going to be relevant to my life. Seriously, have I ever knowingly used calculus? I don’t think so.
Back to Dan Meyer. He asks an incredibly important question: How do we fix Math Ed? (uh, getting rid of NCLB would be my first suggestion) One thing we Americans, and we educators, have is an impatience with irresolution: we expect problems to be resolved quickly. Another problem? In the US we don’t involve students in the formulation of the problem, and we should. Why? Because math makes sense of the world. If I’d had lessons like this one, I might actually believe him.
(we’re almost done)
Finally, Chris Lehmann spoke. His vision of education, and what he’s doing at the Science Leadership Academy is inspiring. He reminded us that technology may not help you (or your students) pass the test, but it can help you learn. In this day and age, that’s important. One problem is that the school day doesn’t make sense (he cited his following a student’s day and realizing that at the end, he not only couldn’t remember what the homework from 1st period was, he couldn’t remember what class 1st period had been).Creating more coherent, fluid days that group topics together, with cross-curricular instruction is the best way to battle that.
The big takeaway? Don’t say you’re teaching [subject]. Say you teach kids. Because honestly, isn’t that what we do?
And then we were free to leave. Minds buzzing – lucky for us, there’s a wiki with links to the presentations, and other reflections.