Monday, March 12, 2012

Lessons Worth Sharing

TED is a nonprofit that began in 1984 and is devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. With two annual conferences a year based on 18 minute talks, TED brings together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design. This morning, TED-Ed was launched and is a resource of short lessons designed to spark curiosity and promote further learning in and out of classrooms. You can read the entire announcement here, but here is an excerpt below. Do you or any of your teachers have lessons worth sharing?

One of the most thrilling developments at TED in the past few years has been seeing some of the world's best educators (in the broadest sense) reaching the size of audience that they deserve...And so the question we've been asking with increasing urgency the past couple years is: could we do something similar to TED Talks that would work better in schools? Something that would give teachers a useful new tool. And more than that, could we create a platform that would allow teachers to share their best lesson to a much wider audience?

15 months ago we hired Logan Smalley, a TED Fellow with a proven passion for teaching and technology,  and together we've spent a lot of time this past year listening to educators, and members of the TED community, and figuring out what TED could best offer.  Here is some of what we heard.
- Video does indeed have a powerful role to play in education.  
- It allows great lessons to be shared online with vastly bigger audiences.
- It allows teachers to show things that would be hard to show live in every class.
- It also can allow kids to learn at their own pace (hello, replay button).
- The best length for a video to be used in class is under 10 minutes.
- The best videos often use animation or other visualization techniques to deliver better explanations and more compelling narratives.

HOWEVER, none of this, for a moment, displaces the teacher. On the contrary, it amplifies teacher skills. It may also facilitate the ability for teachers to play to their strongest card:
- Teachers who are great instructors can create lessons that may be seen by thousands or millions, and, like a text-book, be reused year after year.
- Teachers who are great coaches can invite to their classrooms, via the web, and without cost, the perfect instructor to ignite interest in a topic or to meet a specific child's needs.

We also heard that the deepest desire of many teachers is not to prepare their students for an annual standardized test, but to inspire them to become life-long learners. And so, our vision gained clarity. TED should invite great teachers to help us create a new video collection, made up of short, memorable lessons. We should not try to recreate what Salman Khan of the Khan Academy and others are doing so brilliantly, namely to meticulously build up entire curricula on video. No. TED is known for its ability to evoke curiosity, wonder, and mind-shifting insight.  That should be our prime goal here. Short lessons that spark curiosity. That deliver memorable "aha" moments. That make learning thrilling. If we contribute just one iota to doing that, it would be a worthwhile project. 

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