TED Conversations

Kyra Gaunt

Speaker, Author, Entrepreneur, Assoc.Professor, Kyraocity Works


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How does the status quo design of student - faculty interactions diminish innovation in the classroom? How to hack higher ed?

This Live Conversation with TED Fellow Kyra Gaunt will open on June 15th, 1pm EDT.
Note: Conversation has been extended until June 17th.

There are many TED talks about innovation in education, but most focuses on K-12 education. There are also amazing talks about breaking the code on our relationship to work, to learning, and to our application of knowledge (aka wisdom).

Students call me Professor G. I am a professor of anthropology, ethnomusicology and racism studies. I am also a 2009 TED Fellow. My students in cultural anthropology are interested in engaging the TED community in a conversation around how to hack the design of the higher ed classroom where emerging adults and their supposed mentors, if a design was scalable, could truly become the consumers of their own productivity as students.

My aim as a professor is to help students realize they are great students, great citizens and great human beings NOW not after graduation.

To truly explore this question, we need diverse perspectives and we intend to discover the power of extending the classroom beyond its four walls with a weekly TED conversation around a question related to hacking the higher ed classroom.

What if the classroom interactions were designed for sustainability, for curiosity, and for innovating thinking? What would we talk about? What could we talk about? And wouldn't we talk about anymore?

Consider grading (but we do need so way to measure accurate thinking). Consider the power dynamics of the student-teacher conversation around grades, assignments, and dialogue. And consider the role of the repositories of knowledge and experience that often goes unnoticed, the students themselves.

Do we need textbooks anymore? Would Google and the students' experience be enough in an anthropology or social science course? #justaskin

Also consider issues of ethnic and gender representation relative to issues of power and training emerging adults to be leaders in a globalizing world.


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  • Jun 17 2012: (Continue) I still remember a report said that “China’s best schools may produce the world’s best test-takers, but the United States’ best schools produce the world’s most creative talent.” Even though, I hate to admit it but it really react the difference between this two countries. In my country, students learn through memorization. Teacher enjoys a very high reputation and student believes that what he/she says or does is always the truth. In American education, however, much emphasis is placed on problem solving and discussion. Students are taught to think for themselves. The role of the teacher is to stimulate their thinking, to get them to ask questions, challenge and even argue with the teacher and come to their own conclusions. This is why I like American education better.

    Furthermore, we still need traditional teaching tools such as textbook, homework and exam. Isaac Newton said that he saw further than others because he stood on the shoulder of giants. So we need read the textbook to learn what we don’t know and then explore the unknown. Moreover, we cannot be an armchair strategist. We need to turn our knowledge learned from the textbook and others into practice, and we need a way to test it. That is why we still need homework and exam.
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      Jun 18 2012: I continue to believe that Amerucan education is a hybrid of different styles, with a great deal of interaction and discussion in social sciences and in humanities in the lecture and weekly discussion sections and less discussion in a course such as mathematics or physics that is less centered on interpretation and multiple perspectives. Science classes have discussion sections for clarification and questioning about ideas more than to address diverse perspectives. They often have laboratories, because the skills of inquiry in those fields can be learned only through practice. Social science and humanities classes emulate the processes of the field by engaging students in research and field work.
      I continue to have trouble with the idea of a status quo design of student-faculty interactions, as I believe interactions vary depending on the personalities of the people involved, the subjects they teach, the emphasis in the institution of research relative to teaching, the typical load a teacher carries of courses in a year at that school, and so forth. I would guess that if one talks about typical scenarios, there will be more faculty student interaction at a liberal arts college or small state college than at a major research university, but I have seen a lot of individualized attention at major research universities as well.

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