Written by:

Holly Macdonald


October 28, 2010

A picture of William Kamkwamba and Bryan Meale...

Image via Wikipedia

On Saturday, October 23rd, I was lucky enough to be one of the select participants at the TEDxUBC event – themed FastForward Ed.  It was a great experience, although I definitely had some talks that I preferred to others. 

Chris Kennedy kicked us off in style, talking about Students Live – a junior reporter program that covered the Winter Olympics earlier this year in Vancouver.  Some of the things I took away from Chris’ talk were:

  • Kids need good writing skills more with social media, publishing to the world (web) needs higher standards
  • We need to help kids use the tools for community building, not to simply collect friends like baseball cards (a comment I saw on Twitter that I really liked)
  • Publishing to the world made the kids better writers, observers and youth representatives

Elyssa Hogg rocked her talk. No notes, no slides, just a monologue from the heart about how she felt as a student.  How demotivating 200o word essays were.  How she wanted her profs to give her things to do, things like that.  I overheard more than one person in the audience say they would hire her in a second.  I’m watching for a future PM…

I also enjoyed Matt’s Remix your Education talk.  He had 3 rules:

  1. Sample from everyone
  2. Don’t wait (which when I read my notes said “don’t wail”! A whole different spin on the talk…)
  3. Stretch

Paul Cubbon demonstrated a subtle subversive side, wielding an inflatable yellow banana and dressed like a poster child for Bennetton, not your typical university professor.  He described his course and the best part was when he described that they were going for approval to the course (that had been running as “pilots” for the past two terms).  My favorite quip in his talk: 

“Pragmatism beats perfection”.

Jeffrey Piontek had the best title: “Teaching Jetson kids in Flintstones schools”.  

Dan Pontefract had us chanting (in unison) “Tear Down This Wall” at various points in his talk.  Loved the audience participation!  But, I did expect to hear Pink Floyd strumming in the background.  He talked about a model that would serve education and workplace learning, which he called 50-50 DNA, splitting “learning” time between theory and application beginning in high school. 

We also saw some great videos from the TED collection:

  • William Kamkwamba – who described how he invented windmills in Malawi – a very insprirational talk!
  • Sir Ken Robinsons’ Changing Education Paradigms (RSAnimate version), which has been making the rounds.  I was telling a fellow participant about it earlier in the day, so was pleased that it was shown. 
  • OK Go: The band “OK Go” dreamed up the idea of a massive Rube Goldberg machine for their next music video – this TED Talk describes the making of the machine.  Very cool.

One theme threaded through that wasn’t explicity mentioned, but to me is at the core of learning.  Motivation.  As much as we want to shift education and workplace learning away from teaching/training, one critical factor that we can’t manufacture is motivation.  Curiousity.  Self-directedness.  Chris’ talk showed that kids who participated on the project were really motivated to do so.  Mark talked of the need to own our own learning, which we do when we are motivated, not when we are told we should.  Many spoke of the fact that technology fuels this for kids outside of school, and they are clamouring for tech-savvy schools.  Personally, I think kids people are looking for inspiration (when you can’t get your own motivation, you turn to inspiration).  Technology is great, can’t argue with critical thinking skills, problem-based learning, application instead of theory, treat your students as customers, but I think the real missing ingredient is figuring out the motivation. 

What do you think?  Is motivation the missing ingredient or secret sauce?  Or am I just an idealist?