Education TED Talks

10 talks on making schools great

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With just over a month to go before the 2012 presidential election in the US, eyes around the world are on the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The election may well come down to a few key issues. So what matters most to Americans? The TED Blog read this Gallup poll from late July on issues that citizens want the next president to prioritize. Conveniently, these are topics that speakers often address on the TED stage. So, every week until the election, we’ll bring you a playlist focusing on one of the top-rated issues.

Among the most important questions in the upcoming election is, “How can we improve the nation’s public schools?” — 83 percent indicated that improving schools is “very important” or “extremely important.”

To get you thinking, talking and voting, here are 10 talks from speakers with some very big ideas about how to reshape our school environments.

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Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!
Sir Ken Robinson gave the most watched TEDTalk of all time at TED2006, “Schools kill creativity.” In this followup four years later, Robinson shares how schools should approach the education process — with personalized learning, where students are encouraged to explore their own interests and talents.

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Emily Pilloton: Teaching design for change
Education challenges can be met with design solutions, says Emily Pilloton. In one of rural North Carolina’s poorest counties, she created Studio H, a modernized, humanitarian shop class that’s “growing creative capital within the next generation.” She shares her story at TEDGlobal 2010, showing how a whole community was transformed by a little design thinking.

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Stephen Ritz: A teacher growing green in the South Bronx
Inveterate educator Stephen Ritz saw his students getting more unhealthy by the year, so sprang into action and created The Green Bronx Machine. At TEDxManhattan, he makes it clear — a passionate teacher and a fresh idea can improve kids’ physical and emotional well-being, not to mention their prospects for the future.

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Daphne Koller: What we’re learning from online education
Universities should not be closed-door institutions, says Daphne Koller. At TEDGlobal 2012, Koller explained Coursera, a website where anyone can take real college courses for free. But while providing a unique service, Coursera also has a larger purpose — mining a wealth of data about how students learn.

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Ann Cooper talks school lunches
It isn’t only in the classroom that students are struggling; in the lunchroom, there’s a shortage of healthy, sustainable things to eat. School meals are an opportunity to nourish and to educate, says food activist Ann Cooper, and we need to seize it now. (Read the TED Blog’s Q&A with Martha Payne, who blogs her school lunches.)

Taylor Mali: What teachers make
This must-see three minute slam poetry piece tells it like it is – teachers are undervalued in every sense of the word. At the Bowery Poetry Club, Taylor Mali raises his voice in protest and pays homage to the educators who make a daily difference.

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Dan Meyer: Math class needs a makeover
No problem worth solving comes in a simple formula, says math teacher Dan Meyer. He insists that conversation is key, and that real-world thinking skills require the kind of complexity not offered in most textbooks. At TEDxNYED, he shows how math can be “the vocabulary for your own intuition.”

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Diana Laufenberg: How to learn? From mistakes
Diana Laufenberg knows that her students aren’t going to love American history as much as she does — unless she gets them involved, making movies and holding mock elections. At TEDxMidAtlantic, she praises an approach to learning that doesn’t just ask for right answers.

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Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course
Great educators don’t have to teach — they can provide a context for self-guided learning. Shimon Schocken and Noam Nisan noticed that their computer science students didn’t have the most basic understanding of how computers work. So they developed a course for students to build a functioning computer, from the ground up. The two put the course online — giving away the tools, simulators, chip specifications and other building blocks — and were surprised that thousands jumped at the opportunity to learn.

Ken Robinson: Changing education paradigms
With the help of RSA Animate’s vivid illustration, education visionary Sir Ken Robinson explains the industrial-strength problems with our model of education. We are anesthetizing our children through their schooling, he warns, and it’s imperative that we update immediately.