Education TEDTalks

Playlist: 7 education ideas from unlikely places

Posted by: Jessica Gross
Geoffrey-Canada

Geoffrey Canada rocked the audience at TED Talks Education with his passionate talk. Photo: Ryan Lash

Geoffrey Canada gives a very interesting analogy in today’s TED Talk: He compares the current education system in the United States to the era when banks were only open between the hours of 10am and 3pm.

Geoffrey Canada: Our failing schools. Enough is enough! Geoffrey Canada: Our failing schools. Enough is enough! “Now, who can bank between 10 and 3?” asks Canada to a big laugh. “It went on for decades. You know why? Because they didn’t care. It wasn’t about the customers. It was about bankers … Now one day, some crazy banker had an idea. Maybe we should keep the bank open when people come home from work?”

What do “bankers’ hours” have to with education? Well, Canada says, many of the US education system’s similar ingrained habits — long summer vacations, testing at the end of the school year — go against everything we know about student learning. And yet these old habits continue. As Canada puts it: “Here’s a business plan that simply does not make any sense.” Among his ideas: Shorten vacation so kids don’t backslide academically during the long summer; and test early in the school year, when there’s still time to correct course.

To hear his passionate plea for educators to start looking at data and to think more about the customers — students — in order to curb the United States’ abysmal dropout rate, watch this powerful talk.

And here are more fascinating TED Talks that suggest ideas for education from other seemingly unrelated fields.

Susan Cain: The power of introverts Susan Cain: The power of introverts Susan Cain: The power of introverts
Idea: Make time for solitary work, not just groupwork
From: Psychology
Susan Cain’s blockbuster talk from TED2012 focuses on the wondrous, largely ignored skills that introverts have to offer. She points out that schools are unabashedly built for extroverts, with their emphasis on group exercises and group activities — and urges classes to leave time for solitary work to capture the best of introversion.
Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree Margaret Heffernan: Dare to disagree
Idea: Teach kids how to debate
From: Business
In this talk from TEDGlobal 2012, Margaret Heffernan contends that conflict, challenge and openness to changing our minds are all key to progress. The problem is, we tend to avoid disagreement at all costs. How to counter that? Heffernan describes a Ph.D. program that requires students to submit five statements that they’re prepared to defend in the face of authority. “I think it’s a fantastic system, but I think leaving it to Ph.D. candidates is far too few people and way too late in life,” she says. “I think we need to be teaching these skills to kids and adults at every stage of development.”
Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness Carl Honoré: In praise of slowness
Idea: Ban homework (or ease up on it)
From: The Slow Movement
We’re trying to do more and more with less and less time — and Carl Honoré explains why this isn’t a good thing. “By slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better: they eat better, they make love better, they exercise better, they work better, they live better,” he says. And, of course, they learn better. Kids, Honoré says, are overworked to the point of burnout. He proposes that we embrace slow education, easing up on (or even banning!) homework to allow kids time to process and relax after school.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist Jarrett J. Krosoczka: How a boy became an artist
Idea: Drawing helps kids deal with emotions
From: Art
At TEDxHampshireCollege, Jarrett Krosoczka, an author and illustrator of children’s books, says it’s essential that kids get the opportunity to flex their drawing muscles through extracurricular classes. He talks about the emotional outlet that art and writing gave him as a child — even as he dealt with hard emotions surrounding his complicated parents.(Check out Krosoczka’s picks for 10 great children’s books that are destined to be classics.)
Dave Eggers: My wish: Once Upon a School Dave Eggers: My wish: Once Upon a School Dave Eggers’ wish: Once Upon a School
Idea: Multitasking can make for a better education
From: Practicality
Dave Eggers kept hearing about the stresses of teaching — the overcrowded classes, the inability to give students one-on-one attention — from friends and family members in the profession. At the same time, Eggers also noticed other pals especially skilled in language arts — writers, editors, graduate students — in need of a space to write. At TED2008, he shares the story of how he opened a combined writers’ space and tutoring center, where the writers would write until school was out, and then become tutors.

And a bonus unreleased talk:

Stuart Firestein: Celebrate ignorance
Idea: Don’t just teach answers — teach questions
From: Science
In this yet-to-be-released talk from TED2013 — about the necessity of high-quality ignorance to scientific discovery — Firestein proposes a model of education based on evaluation rather than weeding out. Instead of feeding kids facts that they can then repeat, he imagines a system in which we encourage kids to ask, not answer. (Watch for the talk this fall!)