Friday, May 13, 2011

How might this apply to education?

Yesterday, I attended the TEDxGrandRapids Conference. This was my second TEDx conference. I attended and presented at the TEDxGrandValley Conference last year, but I was unable to stay the entire day because of a teaching conflict. Fortunately, I was able to stay for the whole conference yesterday. 

At TEDxGrandValley, I was able to stay engaged because I was the last speaker of the first session. The expectation is that TED Talkers will try to make connections with the content of previous speakers. Consequently, I kept asking myself, "How does this relate to what I want to share?" I was not presenting yesterday and I was unfamiliar with any of the speakers (besides what I read online), which meant that I needed to come up with another question to provide me with focus: "How might this apply to education?"

Because of a lack of internet and poor cell reception, I was unable to Tweet much during TEDxGrandRapids. Instead, I decided to share the notes I kept on Evernote on my blog (keeping them short a la Twitter). Please keep in mind that I was looking for connections to education. The fact that I was unable to do this in every case is not a criticism of the speaker. They had no idea what I was focusing on. Here are my notes, with some connections detailed in parentheses:

Session 1:
Sheryl Connelly
Innovate Uncertainty
• Uncertainty cannot always be predicted but we can be prepared (Planning)

• Alternative scenarios - writing more than one story (Planning)
• "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."' Malcolm X

Innovate Ultra-Rapid Renewables
• Sustainability: consider impact, energy, and time. (Styrofoam or teaching)

Innovate Innovation
• Reflect on how far we have come (Reflective practitioner)
• Path to meaningful innovation [slingshot framework]: striving for more, enhancing seamlessly, unconventional thinking, audience [narrow to broad], & systematic implementation (Educational reform) - world awaits your invented game

Innovate Education
• What is the right thing to make? (Self-directed learning)
• LUMA Institute - teaching creativity through design (Education reform)

Session 2
Jeffery Kimpton
Innovation Art
• Innovation takes imitation and intention (Instruction)

Innovation Curation
• Gather material to tell a story (Planning)
• Your choices matter (Decision making)
• Be clear in your purpose (Instruction)

Innovation Entrepreneurism
• What are learners' pain point? (Assessment and evaluation)

Innovation Justice
• Birth pains - closer together and more intense (Education reform)

Session 3
Steve Frazee
Innovate TEDxGrandRapids

Innovate Cyborg Musically

Innovative Your City
• Vibrancy - stumble onto the fun (Planning and Instruction allowing for collaboration)

Innovate Philanthropy
• Corporations are good at creating powerful solutions to things that aren't really problems (Authentic teaching and learning)
• We don't think about success factors we've received (Reflective practitioner)

Session 4

Amy Davidsen
Innovate Clean Revolution

• We undercut efforts to innovate because we are afraid (Education reform)

Innovate Wonder
• Developing a sense of wonder (Planning and instruction)

Innovate Experience
• What do we want for the world? (Planning)
• Flow and Meaning - ways to happiness (Conditions of Learning)
• What sucks and how do I fix it? (Action Plan)

Musical Guest
• Check out his TEDx freestyle when you get a chance

I hope that these brief notes do justice to the TEDxGrandRapids speakers. I know that this post does not capture the whole experience, which was also about the people I met and the conversations I had around innovating education. Perhaps once I've had more time to process the day, or if you have any questions about the connections I made, I can post more about what I learned and how I plan to apply it to my teaching practice.


  1. I am curious what you thought of Mickey McManus' presentation and statement about education being broken. There was a buzz at the break about his presentation, and though I am not a professional educator I found his remarks evocative.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Stuart,
    Words matter and I think "broken" does not adequately describe what is going on with education. The current system is outdated but it essentially does what it was originally meant to do - deliver content. Unfortunately, this is no longer an adequate approach to preparing people for the 21st century. Mickey's ideas could update education, but without significant policy changes the workshop he described would be relegated to an extracurricular activity.

  3. I think this is exactly right. The workshops that we run in the business world are about culture change to very large organizations that can't stop to change plans. They are done in concert with coaching and project work that continues after the overview workshops and often later workshops focus on deep dives into particular areas. I think those are working really well for what they are but they aren't an answer, at least not in workshop form, to the real challenges.

    I do think the question of, "if there were only one superpower I'd bestow on kids now that will make them ready for the future, what would it be?"

    Is answered with design AS a literacy. But you don't teach literacy in a 5 day workshop. It's an integral part of what you're doing. I could think of other superpowers that would be great, but from small things big things come and I think this is high leverage. As Buckminster Fuller once said, "I am a trimtab." We need to look for leverage and can't expect wholesale change to happen fast enough. One thing I noticed in that short experimental summer camp was that one of the teachers noted something along the lines of, "now that you've learned that things are designed, and designing for people is hugely important, look at your own class, be a designer of how you and your peers and teacher work, step back from the system and see it for what it is." "When a teacher says they've done everything right to teach the kids in a class and the kids just didn't learn, it may not be the kids fault." A design perspective would make this typically invisible activity visible. Imagine suddenly having an entire generation of kids that had the metacognition that comes from design thinking. In the land of the blind...
    When we teach kids that they can change things, by making things, by taking something and taking a part off and adding a part, we teach them that they aren't just passive consumers of what the world gives but can change the world. When we teach them that they can take on other people's challenges and gain energy and insight from the effort we open a big world that can't easily be hidden from them ever again. I learned that as a child in the inner city. Design was my gateway drug. It got me out. I won't stop believing that but I will agree wholeheartedly that it's going to be hard.

  4. Mickey,
    Thank you for sharing this information. It raises two points.

    First, I appreciate that you recognize the need to change the culture as well as the approach. This will be hard work but not impossible if we join together. Schools, universities, and businesses can work in concert to educate the public about the need to update education and push politicians to support necessary changes. Here is an idea I share whenever anyone will listen:

    Second, I agree that a design mindset can be helpful in considering approaches to teaching and learning. I was a computer programmer before I was a teacher and elements of program design continue to inform how I develop units of study. Here are two examples:

    It is my hope that forums like TEDxGrandRapids will continue to provide opportunities to discuss (and when needed debate) ways to innovate education.

  5. 1) Instructional design hasn't caught on in education largely because it goes against the established wisdom of 'curriculum design' that is in education. Heck, 'Curriculum and Instruction' is a common unit or department in most Colleges and Schools of Education and they won't give "design" a chance.

    2) Most teacher educators erroneously assume that implementing ID principles in K-12 instruction will be prohibitively time-consuming. This is a perception issue that is difficult to overcome.

    3) Gordon & Zemke wrote an article in 2000 that criticized ID that was fairly well read. Sadly, it reinforces an outdated view among many that ID is a linear, inflexible, lock-step model that results in bad instruction. This did ID no favors in education even though many folks have responded and discredited the article.

    I enjoy discussing instructional design. I even teach a course on online instructional design and also have a lesson on universal design in learning ( ) that I promote. However, the barriers I noted are very difficult to overcome. I try 15 teacher at a time, more or less. Hmph!