The Education Project, Day 2

While we have a late-night meeting for our education group still to come, it’s been a fascinating day two–one of the highlights being the announcement of a TED ED program, leaving us all excited to see what and how that will evolve.

Day one for the education project group here at TEDActive didn’t feel as productive as I think many had hoped, but I thought it was a brilliant start. While we had a hard time getting centered on the question we were offered at the start–“How do we empower kids to impact education?”–I think our need to grappled with core questions about education is reflective of a larger need to hold conversations about education. Just as we dug deeply into assumptions and ideas about teaching and learning, I sense a growing and widespread need for us to do so in our own cultures and communities.

The conversation that we had yesterday in our small group about education represents one of the *great* conversations of the ages. This conversation is critical right now for two reasons:

1. The Internet and social media are actually changing our information world dramatically enough, like the printing press did, that teaching and learning are actually going to change.

2. The Internet and social media are also changing who has voice in conversations and narrative-building, especially where institutions has previously been able to control the message (of course, the Middle East right now, but also Wisconsin, or the students in California and immigration). We are going to need to construct new stories or narratives about teaching and learning, and those stories will no longer come from the top, nor should they.

(There is a fascinating delicate balance to this narrative piece. The temptation is to promote the student voice in changing education. I agree. And I also believe that we have to do so in a way that doesn’t abdicate the adult responsibility to provide structure for that energy, and that allows students to focus first on engagement in their own education.)

So, about building conversations and narratives. We tend to view education from the standpoint of “outputs,” but in truth education is about the “process.” In the same way that we believe in Democracy as a process, where the value is in participation as much as the ultimate resolution, I would argue that we need to find a way to respect eduction in a similar fashion. For me, that starts not with drawing conclusions for others, but in helping provide the opportunity/platforms for the same kind conversations, at as local a level as possible.

The power and passion of the TED network seem uniquely placed to help encourage these conversations all over the world. At the same time, it’s also important to recognize that the conversation about teaching and learning is not a new one, and there are many deep and thoughtful voices who have addressed education over the last decades, even centuries. We need to figure out how to bring these voices and ideas together with the passion and power of the TED network to a broad audience.

In a meeting this morning around one of the pool-side firepits, I think we made some progress in thinking, and that an idea is brewing. More to come.

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