The Identity Crisis

Imagine a classroom where content from every possible discipline is explored. Where diverse individuals have dozens of entry points to inspiration. Where the teachers present the most relevant, compelling material – with the invitation to take action.

Sound familiar?  TED’s learning environment not only nurtures “ideas worth spreading” – it enables a diverse crowd to take ownership of this mission. Just as teachers utilize TED talks to engage students, the collective identity of TED can be used to empower them.

There is no “textbook” answer on how to empower students.  The question itself is an invitation to explore how the full spectrum of contributors can get involved – teachers, students, and communities in every corner of the world.

The learning environment at TED takes us on a journey from inspiration to action. The result is transferable; the product is a collective identity.  DarrenTrent and I sought to define a process through this lens:

Inspiration. Students need to learn how to dream, to discover the breadth of possibilities that exist and the way forward. This is not just the realm of teachers, mentors, and experts, but of the community as well.

John Hunter’s World Peace Game provides students a venue to delve into real-world problems, realizing the depth of challenges they will face in their lives and how they will need to work together to solve them.

Choice. Decisions are a fundamental component of life. Students need to understand their identity and feel safe making mistakes.  They should be able to learn and grow without fear.

The Khan Academy enables students to discover at their own pace – creating a virtual classroom that supports learning inside and outside of the classroom.

Action. Choice begets action. If a student has the confidence to create change in the world, they are empowered. This intersection of teachers and students creates an environment for action.

TED Prize winner, José Antonio Abreu, has inspired millions of students to have dreams – providing them a voice through the orchestra.  His program, El Sistema, uses music as a vehicle for social action. Maestro Abreu inspires participants to give back – to teach and spread the message.

Gustavo Dudamel, Maestro Abreu’s most famous student, did just that. In 2007, Gustavo became the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  With this appointment, Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) was born – the adaptation of El Sistema in Los Angeles.  Today, hundreds of students participate in YOLA from communities that wouldn’t otherwise have access to music education and its social benefits.

Our education system is in an identity crisis – a cycle of educational-poverty in our schools.  We have a responsibility to support our schools, to inspire our students and support their choices. We need to allow students to create their own identity – as individuals, classes, schools, and communities.  This sets them free from other pressures.

How?  Each community has relevant problems to solve and classrooms that could connect to solve them.  What if you identified a community need and engaged a local classroom or school to solve it?  What if you introduced a new game or resource to a classroom teacher?

The next generation of innovators is sitting in classrooms right now.

How will you help them find their voice?

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