Wednesday, February 27, 2013

TEDActive 2013 – Day 1

The theater at TEDActive before the start of a session
Generally, it was a good day of sessions. While none of today's talks were ones that I considered amazing, there were quite few good ones. At least initially, the talks are not available on the TED Web site, but over the next few days some of them sill start to appear. I'll put up pointers to some of them as they come online. 

Some of the talks that stood out to me were
  • Jennifer Granholm (former governor of Michigan) speaking compellingly on an idea to spur job growth by creating a Race to the Top for Clean Energy Jobs program. Her ideas seemed fresh and she definitely is someone to watch on the political front over the next few years.
  • Robert Gordon presenting his case for why economic growth is over in America contrasted by Erik Brynjolfsson (author of Race against the Machine that I found very thought provoking when I looked at in one of my quick book reviews) making his case for how technology and innovation will lead to even more growth. Sadly, however, both agreed that some percentage of the population would fare poorly.
  • Freeman Hrabowski explaining that it is possible to get minority and poor students to succeed at math and science degrees based on his experiences at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
  • Meg Jay describing the importance of their 20s for young Americans and why it is essential that they not treat those years as extended adolescence.

The best session, however, was the one by the TED Prize winner, Sugata Mitra. He is an educator who has done research on how children learn. The basic conclusions of his work are that children, given resources, curiosity, and encouragement, can learn just about anything. He explained this in more detail in a TED talk from a few years ago.

While I’m not sure how his ideas will work out in practice, it is exciting to see someone attempting to rethink learning. He claims our current system is based on the British Empire’s bureaucratic administrative service whose goal was to create interchangeable civil servants. He contends that such a model of learning is obsolete in the twenty-first century.  

The TED Prize will give him one million dollars to implement his wish to create what he calls a School in the Cloud. This would initially be a learning lab in India where he can put his ideas into practice. Schools and individuals around the world would also be able to create their own learning environments based on this model.

Dinner party at Old Town La Quinta
The evening activities included a dinner party in Old Town La Quinta with good food from food trucks and live music from a Cuban band. Later in the evening, I stopped in for a TEDActive veterans gathering. Between those two events, I was able to meet my requisite three people. All of the sessions and other activities from the day have left me rather exhausted. I did get to ride a few miles this morning, but I think I’ll try and get a bit more sleep tonight. 

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