When we come into this world we don’t know much; in fact, we don’t know anything. We don’t come with built-in knowledge. We are like blank canvases, that will be filled with the knowledge we acquire during our lifetime and which will form us as an individual and as a productive member of society. Some of this acquired information will stick with us permanently but some won’t stand the test of time and will be wiped from our memory and forgotten forever. It all depends on relevancy of the information and the way we learn it.
Although babies and children don’t have much to show for in terms of knowledge, they have an amazing trait: they are curious. They have a strong instinct to discover the surrounding world and they want to learn about it through all their senses.
It’s fascinating to observe little children in unfamiliar situations. They are alert, they keep their eyes wide open, they pay attention to every noise, they move around and they touch and taste almost everything until they find that one thing that grabs all of their attention. When they find their item of interest they start to fiddle and play with it and they become so focused they almost forget about everything else, until they learned all the secrets of that thing.
If I had one wish as a teacher I would wish that my students retain their childish curiosity and their desire to learn and discover.
I come to realize that students don’t learn because they have a strong desire to know more. The majority of them learn because they were told to. They were told to by their parents, by their teachers and by society to learn more to get good grades so they can have a chance to a good career.
This is the beginning of a never-ending circle that ultimately leads to disengaged students who don’t go the extra mile to use their imagination to find out which field of study suits their learning needs. They will study for grades and not for mastery and the most part of the learning will be superficial and the acquired information will be forgotten relatively quick.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are true pioneers of the education landscape who are telling us for quite some time now that the age of these traditional teaching strategies used across the globe has passed. These strategies worked well but they were developed to fit the needs of a different era and now in the age of information and technology they simply can’t keep up. The society needs people who are creative and who can use their knowledge and imagination to solve the most complex situations in an ever changing environment.
If we want education to keep up with the fast-changing world we have to listen, and listen well to researchers who are searching for innovative solutions in the education landscape. The best way to hear their ideas is to attend educational and ed-tech conferences where these ideas are disseminated, discussed and debated. If it is difficult to attend such conferences, there is a simpler and inexpensive way of keeping up with ideas and trends by watching the videos from the conferences that are made available online.
Top TED Talks for educators
One such source of information are TED Talks and their videos are largely available online for free. There were numerous occasions when pioneers from the field of education displayed their point of view, their ideas, and asked important questions about the future of education. It is important that these videos are watched and re-watched by an increasing number of educators who are the drivers of change in this field.
Bring on the learning revolution, Sir Ken Robinson
One such educational pioneer and TED speaker, whose name is well known among educators, is Sir Ken Robinson. He is one of the many educationalists who remind us from time to time that the education system needs to go through a revolution in order to keep up with the requirement of the digital era. In his speeches he asks important questions about the current educational strategies and tries to show us the way how we can keep students focused and engaged in the learning process.
Do schools kill creativity?, Sir Ken Robinson
One important question he asked in one of his early and most watched TED videos refers to students’ creativity. He questioned if schools harm students’ creativity by teaching them overly standardized materials that help the school system to achieve a consistent output. He stresses that intelligence is diverse, dynamic and distinct. Being so different students can’t be judged by the same measure. One size doesn’t fit all and teachers have to encourage students to use their imagination, to dream and find their talent so they can learn it and they can be good at it.
Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores, Sal Khan
Another issue of standardized learning is pointed out by Sal Khan. In standardized learning the results are measured by standardized tests that will decide if the student acquired the sufficient knowledge to move to the next chapter of the learning process.
This approach inevitably leads to a race against time to reach the best possible test score. Although students are different and have different capabilities, they will have the same material and same amount of time to prepare for the test. Needless to say, their results will always be different: some will get a better result than others and some students may fail the test. If they manage to pass the gateway score they will continue the learning process with new material that is built on their existing knowledge. The problem is that students have different levels of knowledge, some students passed the test with 100% but some passed it with 70%. 30% is a big difference that will be further increased in the learning process if it won’t get the required attention.
In his speech, Sal Khan points out that the teaching strategy should focus on mastery rather than test results.
Let’s use video to reinvent education, Sal Khan
Thanks to modern teaching frameworks, such as the flipped classroom model, coupled with modern technology, this can easily be achieved. In a flipped setting, students can take their time and learn the material in their own pace. Schools can invest in an LMS that has built-in mastery monitoring system and offers possibilities for teachers to make their classes truly interactive and engaging so their students can acquire the desired mastery level even faster.
Teachers can use also videos to transform the learning experience and make it more interesting for students. When they watch a video instead of attending a lecture, students can pause and repeat what the teachers says, without feeling like they’re wasting the teacher’s and the other students’ time. If they have to review something that they should have learned a couple of weeks ago, or maybe a couple of years ago, they don’t have to be embarrassed and ask their teacher. They can just watch those videos; if they’re bored, they can go ahead. They can watch at their own time and pace.
What we’re learning from online education, Daphne, Koller
It is true that education has to be transformed and revolutionized to fit the needs of the current environment, but this isn’t its most important issue by far. The greatest problem of education and good quality education is its availability. Millions of people in less developed countries don’t have access to quality education and many struggle to get education at all.
Daphne Koller points out this problem and offers a possible solution in form of online learning. With the help of technology, it is possible to offer high quality and free education for everyone. This gives a chance for less fortunate people to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge so they can pursue their dreams and they can have a chance to a better career and life.
These TED talks are just a few among many that can help educational designers and teachers to realize that with the help of technology and with the right set of priorities the whole education system can be revolutionized and transformed and it can be the cradle of future innovations and personal development.
What other TED Talks would you add to this list? Do share your opinions in the comments section.
Zsolt is a Content Marketing Specialist at CYPHER LEARNING and a University Teaching Assistant. When he’s not in the classroom — nor on a motorcycle — he learns about new ways of teaching, education technology, and everything about e-learning.