The Online Standing Ovation: Students Empowered

Over the past few days I have been listening to amazing TED speakers hour after hour as they discussed the broad topics that TED so wonderfully curates for us. After each thoughtful presentation it has been great to see how it was received through the audience’s reaction. Some presenters over the past couple of days moved us to our feet immediately and others only received a sitting clap of acknowledgment.

The standing ovation is the original test of crowd wisdom. The audience reaction (and soon the online reaction) seems like a good predictor for which ideas at TED will stick and have a lasting impact on large scale. When others in a crowd stand with me to applaud an idea then I believe the presentation touched a nerve within us all- it spoke to a deep common need for understanding or a solution we were all looking for. Once it is evident that the presentation addressed a common concern then the people who have the resources will see it clearly and will do what they can to support the cause. And as we have seen from many TED talks the idea will spread like a wildfire, people will rally and support the cause and the talk will have had a huge positive impact.

Yesterday, Salman Khan’s work on how to improve education touched a common nerve and brought everyone to their feet. It is common for people to believe that education needs an overhaul, that our current methods need a refresh and that the technology of today can play a huge role in making better instructional decisions. He shared how his program can make a difference one classroom at a time, through self guided lessons and plenty of data for teachers to make decisions. It brought me to my feet because we have been doing work to get this “real time data” through manual grading and google docs over the past three years and I immediately saw how his work would save us hundreds of hours of time and help us make better decisions faster. I assume others saw that as well. He touched a nerve in all of us and I am excited for the future of Khan Academy. Then, this made me think about how we can empower our students to change education in a similar way.

What if there is a way where students can present to us a solution to a current challenge in education that can potentially touch a common nerve in us all and cause us to rise to our feet in approval and call us to action? What if there is a student who speaks about their insights into online bullying and how they plan to overcome it? What if that speech touches a nerve and gets 1M “likes”, the online version of a standing ovation? Imagine how that can impact the decisions made by educators and students across this country?

It hit me last night that TED empowers us all to listen to the best thinking out there and make our own decisions about what ideas are worth supporting. That is a forum we should provide for our students so they have a voice in education reform. Maybe we should curate the best students around the world who can articulate a challenge and their solution or thoughts around that challenge in an online forum. I can only imagine the topics students will talk about and how that will give us insight into the decisions we make a educators, school leaders, parents, policy makers and anyone who works with youth. Maybe they will give us insight in to their social dynamics, how race plays a role in their learning, how relationships affect their attention into the classroom, how not having enough food to eat affects their learning…it could go on and on and I can’t wait to see who gets the online version of the standing ovation. As a school leader I will definitely pay attention to the online reactions and will be ready to take action.

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