TED Conversations

Erik Richardson

Teacher, Richardson Ideaworks, Inc.


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How do we re-embody the education system?

We are embodied. We are not just minds but our education system (and the cubicle farm waiting at the end of it) treats us as if we are. Exploration and adventure were once ways that the more restless souls among us could break out and push back our frontiers in one way or another. As many of the talks above show, that particular part of our worldview has been lost-even when talking about explorers. (Wolfe's attempt to compare microbiology research to exploits in Egypt or the rainforest are a good encapsulation of that loss.)

As a teacher, I constantly see students who are restless and brilliant but are stifled by being trapped in a room, in a desk, listening, or scribbling words and numbers down on paper. These restless kids are all too often our best thinkers, our future innovators, our Columbuses and our Florence Nightingales; but we hold down their bodies and that holds down their minds. Ken's talk is great, but it misses it's own best point: it's not creativity that saved the dancer - it's recovering the body.

The question is, besides just adding more physical education classes back into the curriculum, how do we create an education system that is embodied? How do we recover physicality to open up our mind's real potential?


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    Jul 1 2012: I'm not just talking about another structured class, like a hand-on intro to engineering principles (an awesome substitute for part of the regular science curriculum at every level, btw), but also about physical expression, outdoor exploration, maybe changing how classroom environments are configured, and hands-on learning.

    Why don't/can't we give kids the opportunity to use the shop class tools to build a project for math class?

    Why don't/can't we include hiking as a part of gym?

    Is it really so hard to require living, breathing, green spaces in our classrooms?

    Fill out a moon-journal or weather journal, connect kids to the outside world. Don't pretend they magically teleport from a room in their house/apartment to a room inside the school building.

    No, 15 minutes is not a real recess and a parking lot is not a playgroud.

    Give me more, 'cause that's just barely getting started. :-D
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      Jul 1 2012: Me thinks that if you focus on the idea that education be directed to application you will solve a lot of what you are talking about.

      I remember in high school when they showed a slide show for construction technology I lit up as this was the promise of something I could get my hands on.

      I'm not sure that a prerequisite to education is getting mentally squished? As with the librarian or a bookeeper.
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      Jul 2 2012: I love all of your ideas to get kids thinking!

      I think that a way that we can restructure the class room is by finding a new way of holding teachers accountable. I grew up in Florida and although my early childhood education was amazing as I got older a thing called the FCAT's came about. A standardized test that you were forced to pass to graduate. This test was taken from elementary school to high school.

      I understand holding teachers accountable to make sure the kids are learning at the right speed but from the teachers I know they are losing the freedom to teach in a way that is creative and it's all about passing these tests.

      Find a new way to keep teachers accountable and bring back creative teaching!

      Example: my uncle is brilliant. Started out in journalism and is now a 5th grade teacher. He has to follow strict regiment of curriculum that stifles his brilliance and love of learning in his class room. He spends so much time trying to sneak fun creative activities into a mundane curriculum that he's starting to feel like his choice to teach was a bad one. We might lose a GREAT TEACHER!

      My suggestions are:
      -new way of keeping teachers accountable
      -bring creativity back into the teachers hands with open approved curriculum (hopefully by a principle not a bureaucrat)
      -Put emphasis on critical thinking and innovation in the classroom!
      -(Cliche as it sounds) connect problems in the world to things that we students are experiencing today....show TED videos and let students understand issues that we are facing! Even at a young age I feel like some of the videos can connect to the students. Especially the one's on technology. Younger students are much more tech. savvy than most people would like to think!
      Everyone loves space!

      I want to see less content and more substance in the classroom! More thinking less calculating but you know like everyone I want them to learn stuff too. =]
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        Jul 23 2012: Research is showing that a little laughter and happiness can have a big impact on performance across a range of subjects and skill sets. (Anyone who hasn't seen Achor's TEDx presentation on happiness really should!) If we can leverage that a little, and give teachers room to put some of the fun back into the process, we might create a snowball effect.

        For that to work, though, we also need teachers who-themselves-see that math can be a lot more ice cream and lot less lima beans than they usually see it. That, too, means giving them some room to play with a project or game, rather than racing to slog through another section of the exit expectations grid. (Don't even get me started on that bureaucratic whale-bone corset!)
    • Jul 23 2012: I moved from teaching in a private high school to teaching in a private middle school and thought that I would be free at last from having to prep my students so much in SAT skills. I was thrilled to get the chance to let my middle school students explore all sorts of mathematical relationships outside of the class room as well as build models for bridges, towers, buildings, catapults, etc.......actually PLAY with math. As it turned out, I found myself having to cover too many skills in too little time in order to prepare my students for the SSAT to get them into competitive high schools....which 70-90 percent of my parents wanted!! Changing entrance requirements by eliminating standardized tests would go a long way toward freeing up teaching/mentoring time.
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        Jul 23 2012: Yes, I think it's sad that we measure teaching success 100% based on math scores on entrance exams and 0% based on whether the students would ever, say, voluntarily tackle a math puzzle in their free time, or look for a creative new way to explain a concept. There's obviously some room to move between 0 and 100, but there's a bootstrap problem, because - as you point out - there are parents and politicians driving the system. Since they don't love or play with math, they don't see the importance. (We could transpose this same point to other disciplines.)

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