My 7 Great Ideas and Themes Behind #TEDxNYED 2011

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose

Despite my expected candor about the state of education conferences like these, I also reserve the right to speak on the ideas without attacking the person (because, for some reason, using the name of anyone in the edu-tech pantheon makes you vulnerable to fan-boy snipers and gasping doubters clutching their jewels). My TEDxNYED experience started off well enough because a) I live in the city so b) it only took me 30 minutes to get there c) the views at the New York Academy of Sciences were tremendous and d) friends like Diana Laufenberg, Stephen Lazar, and Tara Conley all made the side conferences that much more interesting. Last year, I was a newbie seeking a map to the views and faces who congregated upon The Collegiate School.

This year, I knew the territory too well.

1. I noticed the general theme of making technology human. I appreciated the idea of humanizing technology. Staying connected is important, but it has to be in the context of making those human connections more real, not hiding behind a computer like a modern-day Wizard of Oz.

2. I liked the fact that kids got to read their poetry in front of adults, even if it was teleconferenced. The presenters actually involved kids. In a presentation. With adults! That’s important. Yes, I’m aware there’s a TEDxKids, but the presentations I’ve been to sound like a me-me-me fest. Speaking of which …

3. I fear whenever any presenter uses “I” and “me” a lot. It speaks volumes about their school environment and the possible facades they’re presenting about their “impact”on our future citizens.

4. We (and by “we”, I mean me and my fellow peanut gallery observers) couldn’t help but notice how powerful not having a PowerPoint at a presentation can be. It will either make you look severely under-prepared or supremely confidence and awesome. In both instances, the latter was true.

5. Never mistake popularity for inspiration or relevance. Ever.

6. For that matter, never mistake aloofness or obstinacy for fallacy. For instance, before the conference, I already held certain views about a few speakers. Most of them proved me right, but one in particular made me see my own failures in objectivity. The person can be a jerk or any other set of names I won’t mention on a Sunday, but if they share the same viewpoint or idea I share about the current state of education, then they too are an ally. Which brings me to …

7. Diversity talk is a litmus test … for their openness to new ideas. Yes, I was the first in the Twitter back-channel who brought up the lack of diversity in the audience (the speakers came from all walks of life). Yet, what ensued was two separate discussions: one about problems and one about solutions. I lean more towards the latter. I met others in the conference who knew how to market a typical edu-geek event to more colored people. I even found others with a similar mindset as me who weren’t colored, but understood the need to find different voices based on race, class, gender, and occupation.

Overall, the experience reminded me of the work people like me have to do in order to push the conversation to a more inclusive dialogue. I have to use my bit of influence to ensure that more people who want to open these conversations up come with me.

What did I miss?

Jose, who just wants to talk the ideas out …