Short Notes: 14 Things I Learned from #TEDxNYED 2010

Jose Vilson Education, Short Notes

TEDxNYED, Apples

This past Saturday, I had the fortune of attending the TEDxNYED conference, an independently run conference based on the TED conferences where they speak on an idea for a good 18-20 minutes about whatever topic they like. While some critics have come out in full force against the latest TED conference, wondering whether these events actually promote ideas for others or if they’re invite-only silos for information, people like me enjoyed the conference for simple reasons:

  • We never met any of these people before.
  • We actually understood the idea of this event.

I’ve learned tons of stuff. Here are 14:

Andy Carvin taught me about the potential of openness and allowing people to hack your stuff in the name of crisis prevention building. There’s something thoroughly revolutionary about letting people have all this information with no restriction in the name of mobilization.

Michael Wesch taught me that, when we think that we’re the creators of new media, the new media actually controls us. “Thus, we’re living in a razor’s edge” where the Internet can engender openness or it can be a system of control. Also, we have to take children from becoming “knowledgeable” to “knowledge-able” (the learned to the learner, a process of constant learning).

Henry Jenkins taught me about the idea of using popular culture to promote unrelated ideas, i.e. using Avatar the Last Airbender to discuss issues of race in Hollywood remakes, for instance.

David Wiley taught me that we should transform our definitions of education from an exclusive one to an inclusive one. Education should be defined as a relationship of openness and sharing, and successful teachers are those that do the most sharing with the most students (knowledge-wise).

Neeru Khosla taught us that textbooks need not be costly nor outdated. We can innovate in huge ways by just allowing us to throw out our convictions of what a textbook should be and using the right tools now to make this happen. And best of all, we can do this all for free.

Lawrence Lessig taught me that conservatives can teach liberals a few great things about being free. At least true conservatives anyways. (I don’t know if I took him up for this lesson, but I’d love to do more research on this).

Jay Rosen taught me about the idea of finding compensation through other methods than money. Sometimes, motivation and a “gift economy” is enough to spread the work around.

Jeff Jarvis taught me that the standard lecture need not be. We’re constantly puncturing holes in the one-way structure of current teaching with social networks and tech use in the classroom. Thus, the learning itself needs to be participatory for it to work well. (And of course, he reinforces his theorem by using the one-way model of lecturing. Hilarity ensues.)

Chris Abani, who TEDxNYED showed through video, taught me that the narrative of a people is just as important as looking at the geography. In other words, when we listen to the stories of a people, it matters less that you can identify their country on a map, for instance.

George Siemens taught me that networks, and not individuals, solve large problems. When we’re connected, we’re better educated as a whole. Fragmentation is easy to do, but tying it all back together is the hard part.

Dan Cohen taught me that the new millennium has a lot to teach us about the new order of information. Sometimes, even when chaos looks disorganized, it can actually provide the precision and order we need. (Think: 3.1415926535 …)

Amy Bruckman taught me that it’s important to help theory catch up with practice, and in that vein, value our students’ agency.

Dan Meyer, who I’ve discussed at length on this blog, taught me to encourage student intuition and be less helpful. Not that I didn’t learn that from his blog, but he does this so much more effectively in person.

Chris Lehmann, who I’ve also developed a good acquaintance with, taught me that children should never be the implied object of their own learning, so we’re teaching kids the subject we’re teaching them, not strictly teaching the subject.

The speeches varied from impassioned to collected. From mind-tickling to mind-blowing. And yet, all of them had this great idea and simply wanted to share it with everyone. It went off so seamlessly that it seemed less like a self-agrandizing conference and more of a meeting of the minds.

Now, if we can include the people who might never make it to these on purpose …

Jose, who wants to do one himself …