When I first heard about TED talks, all I could think of was the ads for the movie about the talking teddy bear. Although I never even saw the movie, this is the only image I can conjure…
So if it is not this talking teddy bear, what the heck is a TED talk? TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and it started as a conference to get professionals in these areas together. TED talks are a way to share what happens at TED conferences with the world under the phrase “ideas worth spreading”.
I had watched TED talks before, but didn’t even realize that is what they were (see July 16th post with Chris Lehmann video about education being broken). Realizing to greatness of TED talks I explored and watched two more. I found them both inspiring and thought provoking, but most interestingly possibly conflicting.
I am a math nerd. I know, I accept that is not a typical response to math, but I actually like it, and given the choice I’d love to teach math all day! So, I was drawn to a TED talk by Dan Meyer titled Math Needs a Makeover.
He made some fantastic points about how we teach math, and how the system we currently use doesn’t apply to life. I immediately thought of this cartoon:
If what they are learning isn’t relevant to their lives, student interest and motivation plummet, and our students grow to hate math. Dan tells us to take the conditions out of what we give the students, and make the problems as short as possible. At first this sounded crazy to me, but then I had an ah-ha moment. When you do this, then you can teach with a conversation and not a lecture. You won’t GIVE your students information, but rather LEAD them to discover it themselves.
I am new at this teaching thing, but one of the best learning experiences for me so far occurred when I was learning from Michele Bowman as a student teacher in her 5th grade AAP class. She is gifted in inquisitive teaching, and I worked hard to learn from her guidance. I found when I used questions I could teach the class so much more than I ever would have prepared in a pre-packaged lecture. They learned the essential knowledge plus more and I didn’t have to TELL it to them! There was NO lecture, but just discussion.
This talk connected with me, opened my eyes and inspired me, so I went back for more.
Still following the math idea, I found a talk by Salman Khan titled Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education. I knew the Khan academy originated as an online site with videos that helped math instruction, so I was interested in what he had to say.
He spoke with great passion and showed marvelous results. In many ways I heard from him what all the supporters of flipped classroom state about getting more class time to work with the students and not giving a generic lecture. The great way this system of video instruction allows differentiation for the students to be able to pace the lecture themselves.
Then I had another ah-ha moment that unfortunately brought me more confusion than clarity. The videos allow students to play and repeat at their own pace, but it is still a LECTURE. It is still sage-on-the-stage instruction where the person who created the video is GIVING the information to the viewer. This caused me to think more critically. If I tell the students the info in a video, then I loose the ability to lead them to develop their own knowledge. I take away that ability to question their thoughts and let them figure out the concept themselves. Does this “new” system using videos lead to the same pitfalls that include lack of relevance and motivation as the broken system we are using now?
I believe there must be a way to fuse the two systems together, but I am going to have to take some time to work out how. Maybe I need to listen to my teddy bear some more…