Jason Wolfe

Speaker Curator / Teacher, TEDxTokyo

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What is the best way to use a TEDx event to motivate teachers to be more creative, entertaining, innovative, enthralling, etc.?

I am starting to think about the next TEDxTokyoTeachers and I would love to hear what the TED community has to say about motivating teachers TED style. I know there are a lot of workshops and education seminars that focus on making better teachers, but what can I do with a few hours, a few drinks, and a TEDx format to make better teachers?

If you are in the Tokyo area in March I would be more than willing to get your idea on stage.

  • Oct 7 2012: Get some motivated students to deliver talks where they have been inspired to greatness by something a teacher did or said. It may be hard to find one of these students that has not at least been partially inspired by a great teacher. Might also be neat to fly the teacher to the presentation to hear the talk, and perhaps introduce them at the end.
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      Oct 7 2012: Hi Robert, I love this idea.

      I think at the last event there was talk of this but because of a few reasons, including that this was a later evening event with alcohol served, it was shelved.

      But having a student identify a truly inspirational teacher and then have that teacher come out and do a talk would be a great way to kick off the event. I also help out with TEDxYouth@Tokyo so I know some youth who are familiar with the TEDx format.

      Thanks for this inspiration!

      When I get this happening I will contact you and you can watch the live stream. Cheers!
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      Oct 9 2012: I was thinking also about putting the students on the podium. However, I would interview even younger students and ask them what THEY think school should be. Very open ended question. I'd be interested to see what they have to say.

      I may have stated this before in another education post, but I think it's worth offering up again: I would propose to let students choose from a list of mini-courses...early in their education. After completeing a balanced portfolio of these courses, the students might have an idea of which specialties the wish to go further in. At this point let them aquire all the skills necessary to acheive "chosen specialization". Now the student has a reasonable interest in improving his/her education. Learning for learning's sake can be quite bland and over-reaching. Let the student s direct their own curricula.....why wait till college?
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    Gail .

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    Sep 25 2012: I can only speak of the US educational paradigm, and what I have to say is not good. Educators seem to be the biggest deterrent to educational reform. They cling to the pedagogical view that teachers are there to teach and students are there to learn. It is a rare teacher (I've never met one, but I love the videos you present and have seen others) who believes that teachers are there to inspire the joy of learning. They simply do not see that as an objective. They use excuses like standardized testing, but a rare few "get it". One can compete in standardized testing while inspiring the joy of learning. It's more challenging. It requires more of a teacher.

    Two weeks ago, I was in my knitting circle and the issue of the Chicago teachers' strike came up. The majority of the group are retired teachers who supported the strike. They also realized that there has to be reform in education, but from their point of view, that means ending standardized testing.

    I mentioned that I had only recently understood why that is a bad thing, and that the teachers would do well if they would educate parents about why it is a bad thing. No one in the group would let me continue. They didn't want to hear about Dr. Kaku as he explained it. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LelNYqVEOZQ&list=PL89DA217D574A8362&index=8&feature=plpp_video ) Turns out, they don't know what's wrong with it themselves.

    I started to mention a TED video where research is showing that if you put kids in small groups (pods) and allow them to talk about what they are learning, that the kids seem to have visual memory of the events, and they remember things far longer. The group was outraged. Put the desks in a row facing the teacher and let the teachers teach - that's what they're there for.

    I've become pretty convinced that teachers should have term limits. A year of volunteerism. Either that, or teachers should have to compete for students like businesses have to compete for clients.
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      Sep 25 2012: TED Lover,

      It sounds like you were in a very conservative group of teachers/people and as an educator I know some teachers like that, but, and here comes the good news, there are a lot of great teachers out there moving away from just memorizing and testing, and getting kids to work together to solve problems, learn from each other and then later reflect on it by writing it down and learning it again. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) http://www.ibo.org/ is one very large group that has some great ideas around learning.

      I like your idea of competing for students, could be a great way to stay motivated and in the game. Term limits would also limit really good teachers...how would you keep them in the system?
      • Oct 8 2012: I've heard myself saying "term limits" too and share the fear of losing good teachers, but what if we had an educational system where there is encouragement to move up? For example: a teacher fulfils the term (say 10 years) then moves up into a position of training and mentoring, administration (school level or higher) or curriculum development?
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    Oct 22 2012: ...continued...
    This is because outside stimuli activates the internal processes needed for learning. The brain must be “in the mood” to learn. We must focus on enhancing the positive “moods” in our child’s emotional circuit. In a positive “state” a child will be more apt to absorb, respect, and analyze information being presented.

    Another great tool is one on one conversations. Don’t just ask a question and wait for the first few to raise their hands. Get involved. Pick a student you know understands the material first when asking questions. This will ensure nobody feels stupid for analyzing the data incorrectly.

    Teachers need to be aware of how sensitive children are to information flow. If you project information you better be sure it is “encoded” correctly. If you fail to do this…one confrontation with a child can close him off to you forever. Ensure you have positive relationships with students that aren’t superficial forms of “hello and goodbye” . Understand they want your approval and need your attention as they may not be getting it elsewhere.

    Target the children who love learning and facilitate more difficult tasks to challenge them. Motivate other children to join these groups that do more difficult work…inspire them to understand the benefits of “difficult work” and “critical thinking”. Don’t allow them to use social procedure outside of the classroom…inside of the classroom. Take control….do your thing!
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    Oct 22 2012: The best way to motivate teachers is vision. Give them vision if they lack motivation to create or become more entertaining. I would like to believe that anybody taking a lowly wage to teach...loves the job. That's why teachers inspire me. It is not a glam position...but should be.

    Vision is not something easily aquired. It is the projection of possibility through a complex web of "what if's". It takes focus and critical thinking to uncover better teaching strategies. The teacher should understand the material...and then understand how to manipulate the data....just that raw data the student needs. We need not format every idea....creative designs can have greater impacts in the academic arena than any text-book.

    Let's take a history class.

    Teacher A - Mrs.Doubtmired
    Teacher B - Mrs.Gogettums

    Teacher A has a problem motivating students to stay awake. Her class constantly comes back with bad test scores...and the school staff is begnning to question Mrs.Doubtmired's ability to teach.

    Teacher B has no problems motivating her class. Her classes constantly score higher on tests than any other class in the history of the school. Mrs. Gogettums is respected and loved by her peers.

    We can think of math...and then reveal a real formula behind teaching strategies.

    Mrs. Doubtmired = (d)
    Mrs. Gogettums = (g)

    (g) - (d) = Solution

    (d) Mrs. Doubtmired shows no emotion when she speaks. She uses no visual aids and doesn't seem interested in the material herself. She doesn't mean to be this way. However, she has never taken any time to better her communication skills.

    Mrs. Doubtmired doesn't take the time to analyze the raw data. Let's take a look at the raw data and then formulate a solution to our problem.

    Raw Data - Children are not recieving/storing an appropriate amount of data.

    "Raw Problem" - I need to analyze strategies to increases data flow in my classroom.

    Solution Example - Decorating a classroom is shown to have positive impacts on learning.
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    Oct 10 2012: Too often we stray from the central purpose of education which is to foster learning in our children. Have the teachers learn something new at the workshop. Maybe it is how to juggle, how to knit or how to throw an american football. The actual skill does not really matter. Set it up in a way that the teachers will be successful and then engage them in listing the factors that helped them achieve their goal. Then ask them how they can promote those same factors within their own school and communities.
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      Oct 24 2012: Great advice.

      This year I am hoping to have someone teach us how to replace the inside of a toilet, or fix a leaky faucet.

      Last year we wanted to have someone show them how to install a window, but ran out of time. But you are right, teaching is for learning, and if they can learn something new, then the event is a success.

      Thanks for your reply!
  • Oct 8 2012: Presentations that follow the old chinese proverb: tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand. It won't be neat and orderly, but it would be so much fun! Get their hands dirty with resources, break into quick discussion groups immediately after presentations, give them activities to do in their seats related to the presenter's topics. Best of luck, Jason!
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      Oct 22 2012: Hi Cara

      I really like this idea! I have been thinking about getting the audience to do something in their seats with the people around them...but what to get them to do is the question. Any ideas? What kind of activities?

      I was thinking to get them to talk and see who in the group has a great idea worth sharing and somehow getting a round robin where the 'winner' could have the chance to speak stage during the second session.

      How to organize this is the question...I will keep thinking.
      • Oct 23 2012: How about presenting your suggested opportunity to the audience before lunch? You could designate some nearby eating establishments based on areas of interest/expertise so attendees with ideas regarding science could meet at Banzi Sushi (for example) share their insights and vote for a member of their group to mini present at the end of the day? Still a lot of logistics to work out, but something to consider.

        One of the best teacher trainings I have ever attended was a full day of presenters walking their talk. The training on collaborative teaching was collaboratively presented, the "keep kids engaged" idea involved us folding and tearing paper into "notebooks" and taking lecture notes as directed by our presenter, a variety of graphic organisers were in our hands for our use as yet another presenter shared with us his experiences in using them. We emerged with presentations, resources and first hand use in trying them from the learners perspective. That was awesome. Maybe some of your presenters would be able to do this as well?
  • Sep 29 2012: I have been teaching in international education for 29 years, and I can assure you that there are MANY teachers who value innovation and alternatives to standardized testing! I view my role as a facilitator in the classroom, while my students work collaboratively to explore big picture topics through guided inquiry. The most valuable learning occurs when they are doing the talking. I also see the relationships within the school community as being paramount to creating a learning environment where children feel free to take risks, make mistakes and learn. Children need to be able to play a significant role in the decisions about how they learn best, and to have experiences discovering this. And parent education is essential in creating a community focused on partnership and mutual respect. I am currently working on a book about these most important aspect of education.
  • Oct 24 2012: have been a Special Education Teacher for 30 years. I never tell my students that they have made a mistake.
    I say it's a Miss Take. You can try again! I also sing to my students. Around here we always sit up tall. I say O they say K. One teacher I know sings class class class and the students say yes, yes, yet. A muti-modality approach is best. These strategies are very apparent at the elementary school. We must empower our students
  • Oct 22 2012: haha thank you Jason :)
  • Oct 20 2012: Maybe to involve them by asking them to go back to their childhood and tell about their most exciting, creative moment?
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    Oct 16 2012: Creating a culture of psychological safety is key, too many approaches to school improvement start from the premise that teachers need fixing. I have had incredible success using a novel peer observation tool linked to executive coaching techniques that have changed teachers lives and created sustainable results. This needs embedding in a structure which uses practitioner research to improve learning for adults and students.
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    Oct 15 2012: Work your butt off ! Know the hell out of the subject matter. Express to the children that you feel honored to be their teacher. Use every discipline control technique available to maintain order. Be most frugal with humor and juvenile joviality; but don't completely be a prude. Once in a while stray from teaching to explain about appropriate facts of life: How to use Kleenex to muffle a sneeze and cough and why. Teaching the facts of life that are not in a book are golden for gaining respect from children.
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      Oct 22 2012: Frugal with humor and juvenile joviality? That is something I am not doing at all...

      Can you expand on our Kleenex advice. I am not quite following but am interested.
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        Oct 22 2012: re Frugal: I am of the school that young students look for serious adult leadership, not a pal. I'm not advocating being unfriendly, just that school time is for learning and not so much for telling jokes and laughing away valuable learning time. Tell a joke at the end of class on Fridays that's AOK with me.

        If you use a kleenex like a flat sheet it is ok for collecting mucus but it will not muffle sound. It needs to be turned into what I call, "a rosette" that is: wadded so that it is a fluffy ball. Then use that to sneeze into or cough into. It muffles sneeze sound and cough sound very nicely. AS such it shows respect for a lecturer or teacher or minister etc. It also teaches those around you that you are a caring person; and it teaches them "good manners" and it shows that you have good manners.
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          Oct 24 2012: I agree with you on the frugal part, but I slip down the slippery slope joviality too often and see what you mean. Something to improve on!

          I will try to get that tissue lesson in...we have some serious hay fever seasons here in Japan so it will be useful!

          Thanks for that advice.
  • Oct 10 2012: Inspire by example and bring some kids / students and have them tell their side of the story and how their teachers impacted their lives would be my method of choose.
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    Oct 4 2012: Jason, The US educational system is struggling. I read comments about bad teachers. To be fair there proibally are some. However, the system does not allow a lot of wiggle room. Due to Federal and state intervention, high stake testing, and the need to teach the test to satisfy the new STEM and common core curriculum requirements that have been imposed teachers are stretched to meet the students needs. The result is that to solve the problem has become the goal. The goal IMO should be application. Graduates are not expected to "know" the subject only to pass the test.

    The US system is driven by the text book writers and the test developers. All syllabus will reflect what they provide. We can learn a lot from the high results that Singapore achieved in the last PISA exams. The change in philosophy that made the success that they currently enjoy should be explored and the lessons taken to all systems to be evaluated and integrated where possible.

    Through legislation and unions the public has been taken out of the public school systems. Parental involvement is limited and volunteers are put in their place and treated poorly. Budgets are dwindling and requiremenrs are growing.

    Great teachers have great administrators that support their efforts ... great parents that support the teacher ... and great students that have the desire to learn. Great teachers find a way to involve the parents, community, and bring the administration into the effort.

    The answer is not money, motivation, or resources .. the answer lays in finding a path through the maze so that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an on coming train.

    We also need to admit that college is not the goal for everyone. We need to embrace manual trades as well. Having a dual track available would resolve many issues and faciltate many students needs in both college prep and manual trades.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Oct 4 2012: I understand what you mean by maneuvering through the maze. Great teachers tend to try to "fly under the radar" of short-sighted administrative requirements as much or as long as they can.
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    Sep 25 2012: I would include a qualified speaker who can address what the learning sciences have revealed about how children learn as well as some speakers presenting concrete examples, with video, of effective teaching strategies and tools for a population mix such as your teachers have.

    As part of your planning for the event, take a look at the Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences. I am certain you will get ideas for what sort of speakers to invite from the articles you read there. It is not "scientific" material in the normal sense, but it is state of the art in terms of what we know about learning, effective classroom organization, and pedagogy.
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      Sep 25 2012: This sounds great, but maybe more suited for a traditional conference or a workshop.

      We are short on time and last year had speakers max out at ten minutes, most averaging 8. I need speakers who will motivate teachers to seek out this material, either at a workshop, book or online.

      I suppose they could do it as a teaser trailer.

      Thanks for reply...I will definitely look up that book!