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What if the coolest thing about a 21st-century school wasn’t technology?

At TED2016, a room of TEDsters convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brainstormed the school of the future -- a surprisingly low-tech affair.

At TED2016, a room of TEDsters convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation brainstormed the school of the future — a surprisingly low-tech affair.

 

Sometimes technology isn’t the answer to every problem. Even at the TED conference.

At TED2016, TED partnered with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to run a blue-sky workshop session on creating a new healthy school from scratch, imagining new solutions to problems that plague educators, students, schools, and the communities that surround them.

A diverse group filled the room, including a university president, a child psychiatrist, an architect, a hotel CEO and a venture capitalist. The group tapped into both what they experienced as children and what they envision for all schools.

The suggestions we got surprised us a bit.

At TED2016, producer Richard Yu brainstorms ideas for future schools at a conversation supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Photo: TED

At TED2016, producer Richard Yu brainstorms ideas for future schools at a conversation supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Photo: TED

While the group came up with some interesting concepts that tapped into technology, the most compelling ideas were founded on innovative ways to inject schools with a better quality of life, building the modern-day skill set — and mindset. Imagine a school that:

  • bakes a makers-and-doers function right into the curriculum. Hands-on activities would offer context for concepts — and build collaboration and creative skills.
  • addresses the lack of nutritious foods and healthy meals not with meal cards, but with a garden on the roof, sparking a vibrant community connections.
  • adds mindfulness to the typical triplet of reading, writing and arithmetic; it’s a skill never more in demand in today’s relentlessly media-saturated lives.
  • integrates families into schools, not just for conferences with teachers, but for family nights in school that connect them to the larger community.
  • injects wisdom into schools with a free and often neglected resource: connecting senior citizens with students. An idea that delivers equally compelling value to both young and old.

This team of dreamers united their diverse expertise and collaborated on a dream school with a surprisingly back-to-basics approach. The secret to a healthy school? Reconnecting with our bodies, with nature, and with each other.

Below, a video that captures additional insights on health and our ever-evolving relationship with technology from TED and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: