The lessons today’s educators choose to emphasize will be the lessons that either inspire or dampen our generation's intellectual curiosity.
So when English classes started teaching FCAT prep instead of self-expression, and math classes focused on logarithmic graphing instead of problem-solving, some big-picture thinkers began to furrow their brows with worry.
That includes the folks over at TED.
TED, a nonprofit whose YouTube channel has over 2 million subscribers, stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” and it provides the world with knowledge that would be otherwise inaccessible.
Now, however, TED’s challenge goes beyond delivering information to as many people as possible; it is inspiring students to think outside the classroom and to consider and value ideas with a more global perspective.
In order to combat the school system’s deficiencies, TED introduced TED-Ed Clubs in January. TED-Ed Clubs is a school-based companion to TED’s hallmark program, TED Talks, that supports active discussion among students with the goal of inspiring them to pursue and present their big ideas in the form of short TED-style talks.
Before the launch of TED-Ed Clubs, 100 schools piloted the program. The pilot schools found that, in the clubs, students’ ideas were celebrated, not suppressed, regardless of obscurity.
Why such a drastic difference from the traditional classroom environment? Well, the program’s 13-meeting lesson series prompted students to identify their nascent ideas, develop them further, research them and share them in a forum that fostered creativity and collaboration.
Maria E. Sinett, a teacher at Morikami Park Elementary School in Boca Raton, called this process a “wonderful crusade.”
“It gets students thinking outside the box and thinking of ways that will solve…current and future problems,” she said.
Indeed, TED-Ed Clubs may be the key to enabling youth to develop intellectually at the same pace as technology.
Dr. Laura Mardyks, former Johns Hopkins University psychology and neuroscience lecturer, said, “The TED-Ed clubs are invaluable in cultivating the literacies for a digital age skill set: creative and critical thinking, innovative problem solving, collaboration [and] communication.”
Public speaking and presentation literacy are also largely neglected yet pivotal ingredients in the melting pot of developmental education.
Kelly McManus, the TED-Ed Clubs facilitator at Groton Dunstable Regional High School in Massachusetts, said, “I’m most excited about building confidence in my students to follow their passions and knowing that their ideas are worthy, valued and needed in a global conversation.”
By transforming a standard classroom into a positive idea-sharing environment, TED-Ed Clubs evokes that confidence in a way Scantron-bubbling just can’t.
“Kids always enter kindergarten as excited ‘question marks,’ ” Mardyks said, “and [schools] bleach them into rather dull ‘periods’ by high school graduation.”
In exciting kids about finding the answers to their questions, TED-Ed Clubs is reversing the effects of a standardized school system; it turns today’s question marks – instead of bleached periods – into bold exclamation points.