TED Talks

A Bright Light

Yes. I skipped a week of writing. Essays, report cards, and the grade 8 graduation trip have taken over my life.  So I am making a concerted effort to get something written today. My adventures of the weekend, albeit limited due to school work, have given me something to write about.

Yesterday afternoon we bought a Boxee. I will explain for those of you who may not know anything about it. A Boxee is a digital box that attaches to your television, and it finds content (movies, series) that is available on the internet and shows it through your television. You can also browse any website on the internet, and it has 182 apps….so far. There are many apps that I still need to explore, and some of them I have never even heard of. Some of the most popular ones are the Khan Academy app, You Tube app, and of course, the TED talk app.

And this leads me to what I want to highlight today. One of my favourite TED talks that I was reminded about was that of Benjamin Zander, a classical musician. He plays the piano onstage, but it is the vibrancy and excitement in his explanations that help to bring the music alive. His passion and enthusiasm for what he does is a bright light at this particular time of the year, when the end of year workload makes it harder to get through each day.   

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Don’t think better, think different.

At the beginning of each school year, parents pour into my science classroom on curriculum night, eager to hear what their child will be learning in the coming months. About three years ago my message to parents changed. I have begun telling them that I still teach content in my science class, but it is no longer the focus of our curriculum. Content is now everywhere, and in today’s world it is not something that a student must rely on the teacher to provide. Skills, however, still need to be learned. And so I tell parents that my job is to teach the students how to find the content, how to use the content, and when to believe the content.

This does not mean that I do not teach them scientific concepts. Biology, chemistry, and physics are still active parts of my classroom curriculum. However, my focus is on them learning how to carry out a lab and connect their results to the world around them. I teach them how to brainstorm, design, and build various items that will achieve a meaningful purpose. I let them explore various opinions on topics and then explain where they stand on these issues.  I make them think about their every day actions with regard to the sustainability of our world, and I require them to consider the repercussions of their choices. I let them create with technology so that they are prepared to engage with a world that is changing by the moment. And I learn that new technology myself, because I believe that if I don’t attempt to keep up with my students, then they will leave me far behind.

And so for today’s post I thank Thomas Whitby for directing me to this TEDxNYED video of Will Richardson. Hearing his thoughts have validated my own. Despite our own personal ideas of what education should be, sometimes a little validation goes a long way.

Below is Will Richardson’s TEDxNYED speech. Check out his blog at weblogg-ed.

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A Starting Point

In my quest to engage students and encourage them to think creatively and with inquiring minds, I have spent many hours this week reading blogs, internet sites, and tweets and listening to various TED talks. So far, these are my faves, in no particular order:
This site has extensive resources for K-12 classes with a focus on engineering, or how humans have designed our world. You can search by individual lesson, activities, or entire units. The plans are detailed, providing learning objectives, a materials list, background information for teachers, step-by-step procedures, and extension activities. Assessment ideas and worksheets are also given. All of these things are provided free of charge.
This site focuses on developing rich mathematics tasks. Once again, all resources are provided free of charge. It is based in the UK, so check out the key stage/age equivalencies on the help page. They put out a monthly publication with new tasks, or you can search the archives in the “For Teachers” section.
3. Sir Ken Robinson on TED talks
Humorous and thought provoking, he speaks about creativity, or lack of it, in educational settings.
4. Dan Meyer on TED talks
Asks us to consider a new perspective on teaching math – check out his blog when you are done.
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