• TED
  • New York, NY
  • United States


This conversation is closed.

TED Talks Education: The PBS special

Earlier this week on PBS: TED Talks Education, our first original televised event!

We're absolutely delighted with how the show turned out. Rita Pierson, Geoffrey Canada, Bill Gates and Sir Ken Robinson brought the house down with powerful talks, and host John Legend was truly inspirational.

The show is now available globally on the PBS website (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ted-talks-education/) and, starting at 11am (EST), we'll be posting full-length versions of the talks from the show on TED.com. Several of them clock in at 18 minutes.

But enough about us. What questions and thoughts did the show bring to mind for you? Use this space to discuss.

  • May 8 2013: A little disappointed that Parent Education was not brought into the equation of education reform. In particular, working with at-risk students, parent education is a vital component in supporting education reform on many levels. Sir Ken Robinson briefly touched on community, but did not identify parents as a source to educate and stimulate their own child, and as a source to aid in reform.

    Here is an example of a conversation I had with a High School student wanting to attend college; he informed me his parents would not allow him to attend college. His family wanted him to work full-time to assist with the finances. His parents had no knowledge that education could lead to higher wages and that Financial Aid was available. Unfathomable? You would be surprised. This is just one example.

    I do want to reiterate on an earlier comment - college is not the answer for all and we as advocates must recognize the individual and provide them with options outside of the box.
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: Ken Robinson's summing up was really on the dot. Schools should be places where we educate to learn and not teach to test. Be great if teachers and schools could have the liberty to do just that...so that children learn to love learning and their natural inclination to innovate is given room to breath.
    Well done TED for sharing this...more of the same please!!
    • thumb
      May 13 2013: I totally agree with Sir Ken Robinson, usually 100% of the time. However, this speech was the only time I took exception with one thing he said. Everything was so eloquent and his analogies were exceptionally clever. However, one analogy was a off target and I only know this because of the amount of reading I have done in regards to education reform. He made a comparison between testing in education and medicine. It was not accurate A cholesterol level would align to the idea of a norm-referenced test. However, this is an entirely different type of assessment than those given today in the U.S. Today's high-stakes tests at the state level are standards-based assessments and they are an entirely different beast.
  • thumb
    May 13 2013: I really enjoyed watching all of the TED talks on education. (Side note: As an American not currently living in the US, I really appreciate the availability of all of the videos.) I am an engineering undergraduate student who is very passionate about education. What stood out to me the most from the talks that pertains to me and fellow students was this: We need to make students more involved in their own education.

    Students should be stakeholders in their education. This will hold them accountable for their education and make students' education what they would like to learn while teaching them what they need to learn. How do we do this? I don't know yet, but I want to figure it out. Instead of losing students because they think school has little to no value, we need to engage students by helping them learn subjects that interest them in a method that fosters creativity.
  • May 8 2013: I love the show. I sent the web address to the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. I hope it is a beginning of a conversation with the parents and teachers.

    I believe in the old adage; If you give a hungry man a fish, he will eat today. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat forever. If you teach and inspire a child to think, he will learn all he needs to know and pass the standardized test. It may not be at the same rate as other people and at the same time, but he will learn.

    The classroom needs to be a safe place to learn and make mistakes. Most people learn more from their mistakes than from accidental successes. The story of the naming of 409 all-purpose cleaner cans be an inspiration to the children that have a hard time getting things correct on the first try. They want to give up. However, it took 408 failures to achieve success on the 409th time. The cleaner continues to sell.

    Teachers and children must be encouraged and inspired to think and make mistakes in the teaching and learning process. Education should open the world to the next generation. We must change what we are doing in education.
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: Ken Robinson's short "Death Valley" anecdote is a powerful metaphor. The desert bloomed because "- right below the surface are these [dormant] seeds of possibility waiting for the right conditions - -" It's precisely the same for our "Dormant Learner".

    They will 'bloom' under the right conditions:

    1. Rich soil – family, community, culture;
    2. Gentle rain – opportunity, guidance,resources;
    3. Ample sun – (from) parents,teachers, mentors;
    4. Good fertilizer – encouragement, caring, concern;
    5. A little protection (from) 'pests' of all kinds.

    These are the conditions in which the learner can search for, find and follow their OWN purpose and passion.

    "Education is not the filling of the pail but the lighting of a fire".

    It's already working! Check out the link below:

  • thumb
    May 8 2013: I enjoyed it and I totally agree that the education system needs reform (I am not from American however so I don't know as much about it) however I was slightly put off by the fact that some people talking seemed to think that not going to college was failing. College is not for everyone and as far as I know many people will never use their college degree.
    • May 9 2013: Kirstie, that has become a prevalent belief in some groups. If you don't go to college, you failed. This is also the basis for how most large education systems run their programs. The "if I teach everyone as though they are going to go to college then everyone will learn better" model of instruction.

      It is one way to do it, but it has serious detriments as well.
  • May 8 2013: TED is great. Love ya TED. The speakers tonight were spot on with the exception of one. Bill, we don’t need another system for measuring teacher effectiveness. Instead, we need ALL the ideas of every other speaker on the podium tonight. It’s a continuing waste of money to bring forth yet another system for evaluating teachers. Instead, teachers need: freedom from the testing industry through a moratorium on standardized tests; fewer students per classroom; better science equipment; more math manipulatives; 100 library books per student for each school library; 100% reliable internet connections in every classroom in America; school librarians who love books; and the authority to be as innovative and hard working as the employees at Google.
  • May 9 2013: I support the 5 billion for education reforms.
  • May 8 2013: i cannot see- so this is not edited-sorry

    I slept on it and listened to bits again before reacting. and i must say that the program hurt more than helped any real discussion on public education. Even TED and PBS disappointment me in that the subtext of the program was a sales pitch for technology, specifically Gates recommendation of a 5 billion doolar commttment to cameras in the classrooms...only 2% of the budget! Does Gates have a vested interest here? As a passing question, what are Bill gates credentials for being a central figure in "shifting tyhe educational paradigm or " an officer in the "revolution

    this brings me to a criticism of the programs criticism of current education. The entire program had a "chicken little" mindset that education is in accute crisis. Dr. Canada condemned the system for historical failure because of of the inability to change. And though John Legend said at the outset that there would be no "finger pointing" , teachers and the current methods and management of teaching were criticized throughout. From first hand experience these simply aren't the case. teachers do get feedback well beyond mr' gates condecending "satisfactory" and teachers are creative and experiental and adaptive. I will go as far as accusing bill gates of intentionally misleading us with his ranking data. if you find the chart he used online shanki, china is not on it as it is a national comparison, even school kids could find the flaw in gates analysis and all the suspisseions in these sorts of comparison.-continued
  • May 8 2013: Unfortunately, I was only able to watch the 2nd half of the program, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed. Sir Robinson's speech touched on a point both my wife and I have been feeling for several years re: too much focus on testing and not enough on learning. Bravo. I felt each speaker had something insightful to offer (I particularly liked Malcolm Leonard's poem), although after a while, it felt like the talks were turning into a "we need to prove this can happen" instead of any presentation of how to fix the problems.

    That said, I would like to watch this from the beginning now to "catch up".
  • May 8 2013: I was disappointed that almost everything said on the show last night was old news. Yes, it' s certainly true that kids need mentors and a safe haven, and it's true that passion & perseverance (grit) are keys to effective learning - but we already knew that, didn't we? And we've been trying to reform education for decades using these ideas, but we haven't had great success overall. Where are the new & revolutionary ideas we need?

    Some revolutionary ideas are found in Peter Gray's new book called Free to Learn - look at the info about Sudbury Valley School and the great success they have there - with no required classes, no curriculum, no grades, no homework, no tests. Instead, the school is a place of freedom where the students and their innate curiosity are given free reign. The school has staff members that are there to help, and resources of all kinds which the kids can use, and there are democratic rules that everyone has a say in, but the kids themselves figure out what they want to learn and when they.want to learn it. And it works! Those kids go on to colleges and successful careers and happy lives - they figure out what their own passions are, and follow them. Studies have been done about the kids, and books have been written - it's pretty fascinating, really.

    Salman Khan also has a lot of revolutionary ideas in his book. I believe that we've been talking about reforming schools for far too long. It's time to talk about reinventing them!
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: I am a huge fan of TED and feel they are vital in demonstrating that we all must become students as well as teachers in our modern world no matter our age or education. I have been working in this field for over two decades and sometimes I wonder why I keep fighting a system that seems so broken and unwilling to change however I sometimes forget and get reminded how important is the battle and how high the stakes are. I would like to say how much I enjoyed the evening event and could think of a better topic to kick off our first national televised TED event yet also state that the needs of rural america continues to be overlooked as does the high numbers of students who drop out of higher education with debt that is carried for a lifetime. Education is a lifelong pursuit that becomes close to impossible after one turns 18. There is a crisis in higher education as well as K12 with opportunities lost and society losing a enriched community that is required to support educating all of the young people in it. Adults must change first before children can follow our examples. We can not expect to educate a nation without increased funding, top people teaching, respect for all members of society and the various vocations they undertake, modeling of asking and answering difficult questions and lifting societies along with schools. Education is the right and duty of all the citizens of a republic.
    • May 9 2013: Theodore, I couldn't agree more with your comment, "Adults must change first before children can follow our examples."
      Children have the power to change the world. Adults have the power to change their minds.
      Maybe we need to rethink how educators are educated, before we can think about changing how kids are educated?
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: How do viewers take Action after seeing these inspirational talks with lots to think about? Will ted.com or pbs facilitate something based on topics?
  • May 8 2013: I have not heard in quite a while a more simplistic attack on public education. Bill Gates has no idea. I guess if you are wealthy you must be an expert. Welcome to the second gilded age.
    • May 8 2013: The Gates family has a long history of supporting education and education reform. Bill Gates' mother had a degree in education and was a regent at the University of Washington for many years. Bill Gates' involvement in education is well known. His expertise comes from that involvement. I'm sure the money helps. Perhaps check your facts before presuming he was there simply to attack.
      • May 8 2013: I am an educator, I have lived with the Gates Family Reforms in an urban education setting, I do not need to "check the facts " I have lived them, these reforms have caused harm to students and teachers. No reform is better than bad reform. Next time you comment try not to be so patronizing.
      • May 8 2013: Bill Gates, his family, and his foundation have a very specific agenda with education. They have a focus on charter schools and have supported those "reforms". Bill Gates and his family has not been a friend to education in general, just to those parts of education that they feel is most important to them.

        Bill Gates himself did not ever attend public school to the best of my knowledge, instead he attended a private school. Not a remarkable background to speak to education in general. Oh yes, he also dropped out of Harvard.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        May 8 2013: Mary, Mary, quite contrary. Until now I suspected you might be categorically opposed to expressed criticism. Good on ya girl! Gates does much good in our world. This particular night, however, he missed the bullseye.
      • May 9 2013: Mary I agree with your comments. I have had the opportunity to hear Gates speak to education and work for one of his employees at the Gates foundation.

        He does wonderful things for the world. He has a solid tech company under his leadership. However, his remarks about education are, in my opinion, most often off the mark. Unless of course you are supportive of charter schools and the elimination of public education. He has no real experience in the education field so no real basis for his position. Yet, because he has a lot of money, he is allowed to gain an audience and express it.

        I am continually disappointed when I hear him speak about education.
    • Comment deleted

      • thumb
        May 8 2013: You raise an interesting problem, Mary. People are not very aware of what goes on in schools. Teachers know they get lots of feedback, but others do not know that. There may be some variation across schools, or states, in how much feedback they get, how regularly, and from whom. In terms of coaches as a vehicle for that, when coaches are hired to give feedback, it is vital that the coach be more proficient, rather than less proficient, than the teacher. I have seen examples of very poor quality coaching from narrow-thinking former teachers with little pedagogical skill.

        Further when it comes to flipping, many people not in the classroom believe that public schools stubbornly stick to a format of lecturing while kids work on worksheets in rows of desks. In fact, in the last twenty years I have seen most classes "flipped" in the sense that class time is devoted mostly to group work and discussion. The sense in which they are not flipped is only that kids don't necessarily need to listen to lecture even at home.

        I think many of the pictures people present of promising practice in school organization are quite on target but very much already in widespread use even in struggling urban schools. The portrayals of schools in many talks is not, I believe, up to date and is put forward sometimes more for desirable rhetorical effect than for accuracy. I do not know anything about rural schools or suburban schools.
      • thumb
        May 8 2013: Some kids are harder to teach than others, and some are absent so much, they get far behind. I have not taught self-contained SPED, so I have little experience with those for whom learning is most challenging and the teaching as well.

        I think you are right that some teachers do not understand what the job will involve and, once they find out, don't last long in the classroom. As you write, loving kids is not enough. Having integrity is not enough. There is pedagogical skill involved and perceptiveness about everything that may affect the child's learning that day, an awareness of the concepts that tend to be difficult and misconceptions that tend to be frequent, and excellent communication skills. But you know this. It is also important all around not to have some of the personal issues that so often interfere with learning- narrow-mindedness, giant ego, inflexibility, quick temper...

        In terms of your teacher week thread, I am always surprised at the number of people who are negative about all the teachers they ever had and cannot remember one who stood out. I say this because I went to giant urban public schools (graduating class of 1200 kids), and while I certainly had some teachers of comically low quality as well as teachers who were mean, I had so many who were memorable, who reached out to kids who were "different," and so forth. There are vignettes of this kind I would never put online but that I will remember all my life as if they were yesterday.
      • thumb
        May 8 2013: Here is my best guess. In Districts that adopt this, principals will be held accountable for requiring that teachers review the videos in some sort of department meetings. If one just leaves it to the teacher's initiative, I doubt many would find the time to review the videos, given all the after school time they typically spend on lesson prep and grading and staff meetings and parent conferences and after school work with kids who need extra help. The designated time for reviewing tapes might be the after-school department meetings that are typically used for administrative business or for reviewing student work, or they might be mandatory extra meetings on the teacher in-service days in place of collaborations that usually take place during that time.

        When my District implemented a professional development program connected to a new textbook adoption, we were required to go to day-long trainings monthly while needing to leave a sub in the classroom, or, if we didn't want to sacrifice our classroom time with students, we needed to go one Saturday per month. Somehow this seems a less likely way of building in time for reviewing tapes.

        I did the Saturdays, because I hate leaving students with a sub. But as I usually spent all day Saturday marking and commenting on student work, this meant that on that one weekend a month, I did the all day training Saturday and all the grading Sunday and then was back to the classroom Monday.

        If you are asking whether it would improve student performance, my guess would be no. At a certain point teacher burn-out offsets professional development gains. But I guess we will find out. If someone gives a district money to implement such a program, or really most any educational experiment, in an environment in which Districts are starved for resources, they will take the money and do whatever they are told to do to get the funding.
      • May 9 2013: Mary you are forgetting one important point in your comments. Which, by the way I do appreciate your comments.

        Some of those people who don't love teaching go into administration and get promoted to higher levels in the district. The qualify of administration has quite frankly declined quite rapidly. This is not true in all cases, but I noticed a decline several years back in the quality of the educational leaders. Even hearing so much as "well, why do they need experience in education, they are just managing people at the school." Sad, but we have lost many of the good educational leaders.

        Also, valuable inservice in not taught in favor of "new" curriculum or standards training. Or the "newest" technology.

        Sadly, so much needs to be done to right the educational conveyor belt that it will take professionals who are willing to work really hard for change that might not stick long term.
  • thumb
    May 12 2013: Teacher quality is a red herring in education reform. It makes me sad when billions are poured into this solution when it will not produce any results except discouraging more teachers already in the profession.

    Instead, I propose taking a close look at neuroscience and learning theory. Neural plasticity may just be the proof of constructivist theory and you will never find a constructivist educator following a scripted textbook, mandatory protocol at the moment. Here is a poem I wrote in a very impassioned moment a few years ago, inspired by my daughter, now a kindergartner in public school.

    Let's have an Imagination Ball. (age 4)
    What's imagination? (age 30 +4 something)
    Ideas and inventions (age 4)
    Yes, let's. (True story)

    Constructivist theory IS Neural plasticity. We have proof? Is it so?

    We have PROOF, scientific proof of learning? Of how understanding is constructed? Discuss it. Debate it. Chew it. Is it?

    But TIME, it's of the essence.
    THEY will win.
    but children are being left behind, shareholders are taking all their resources, gobbling them up

    Standards-based reform is TOP down
    student up, not bottom up
    Let students drive instruction, not data
    Let them drive us to places unexpected, beyond the expectations of our limited minds

    RACE to the TOP, to the finish.

    What happens at the top? We finish learning? That's silly

    START the clock.
    ON your marks

    Take your data. Connect my dots. Can you see my face? Do you see my life? Do you know my possibilities?

    you don't.
    You can't. You never will.
    Big man in the chair, at a desk, looking down. You will never connect my dots with a birds-eye view.
    Take a seat, listen and learn. I'll connect my own dots.
    But I need your help.
    Could you...
    buy me some books?
    let me explore?
    grant me an art lesson?
    expose me to ballet?

    Allow me to bloom.
    • thumb
      May 13 2013: What you may find is constructivist teachers leaving the profession on being forced to walk in lock step.
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: I appreciated Dr. Canada's reminder that we have to try a variety of strategies, even knowing some will likely not work. Along these lines, it is important, I think, for a district or school not to force a single pedagogical strategy on every teacher for every classroom. Children learn differently, and an approach that may be highly successful for one teacher-student pairing may not fit at all for another. Flexibility and differentiated instruction are key. I sometimes worry that some administrations will stamp out excellence and customization in favor of standardization and a higher degree of centralized control.
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: It was it excellent presentation. My one comment is the we need to look more carefully at how children develop and the various developmental stages a child passes through. These are mile markers that can indicate when a child is off course.
    • May 9 2013: Absolutely, Theodore and not just 'off course', but "on course" as well!
      Seeing a child is fully able to blossom and express itself through stimulation and support is just as important!
    • thumb
      May 14 2013: Off course or just on a different course?
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: I thought it was a great first TV special for TED. It highlighted the work of a diverse group of educators who are passionate about what they do and what they can accomplish if we all take education to heart. Primarily, a quality education.
  • May 8 2013: While I thought the speakers made many great points, I'd agree with Colin Mason that we need presentation of how to fix the problems. For example, a 20 yr old acquaintance with a troubled past but hard worker is handicapped by reading problems. Dropped out of h.s. in 9th grade, keeps missing GED classes (likely discouraged), not getting help, can't get into community college trade programs (and I suspect most apprenticeships) without GED/ability to read more than a tweet text. {And we live in one of wealthiest counties in US (Montgomery County MD) where county council just voted themselves substantial raises, in spite of massive educational/environmental/infrastructure problems -- total mess-up of construction of critical major public transit hub. Evidently workers or their supervisors flunked Concrete Construction 101 -- inadequate technical/trade schooling?}

    Yes, it's absolutely critical to engage students, for example via problem-solving challenges used in Portland, ME, science class reported on PBS Newshour Monday May 6 http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/education/jan-june13/learning_05-06.html.

    And in local vo-tech high school here, Thomas Edison HS of Technology, each year students build a house.

    But what do you do for my young friend with reading problems, lots of what was called "grit" in TED talk, but no place to turn for help/guidance? (I tried to help but perhaps lacking "grit" found no easy/obvious solutions.)

    It hurts our whole society to lose these kids, as much as those without documents if we have no "Dream" act. (And this young man has no serious involvement with crime to overcome -- and he hasn't given up -- so he's a relatively easy "save", with a steady girl-friend premed in community college to encourage him, though no stable housing because no decent job.)

    I was also sad to see all the money spent on turning this TV-TED into something between Oscars and rock concert. Are the attention spans of people who watch TED talks so limited?
  • May 8 2013: the constructive observations made by the program were first that education (schooling) does not occur in a vacuum that it is a reflection of the larger cultural institutions of politics, economics and family. Rita Pearson stated up front that we know why there is such a high dropout rate "for reasons such as poverty and negative peergroup influence" Sure wanting to go to school becuase it is stimulating and revelvant in a kids life is important and schools can do a better job, but schooling in not autonomous. the other conclusion concerned the formula for success. though i am very suspious when the experts refer to the science of education , the psychologists presentation seemed based on science. i understood the conclusion to be that 'grit' was it. all other factors were secondary. she went on to say that tragically see had no idea were it comes from or how to develop it. tthough not much, a start. the other constructive observation the show made was that we lack a thought 'philosophy of education behind our schools. the show was a superfical hodgepoge of confused ideas, [latitudes and misinformation
  • May 8 2013: This was so very inspiring! I work for the Head Start program here in OKC, and we're thinking of showing this to staff to get them excited for the new school year. But I cannot find where we can purchase the video. Any help?
  • May 8 2013: Read You Don't Understand Me by Keirsey to get a handle on the system that you may not have had before. Those who teach in college and special places like Julliard are very different than public school teachers. Artisans are virtually unknown in public school. They really don't want Promethians much either. So much for scientists, engineers, or performing artists.
  • thumb
    May 8 2013: For as long as it has been debated how our Education System is flipped and outdated, what prevents these changes from happening and why isn't it happening? Is it unions, money, government, the education system itself, culture, teachers not wanting change, etc... what Actions can the millions of Viewers take after viewing, what are tradeoffs when these changes occur, how can change be made or a deeper understanding in how to participate besides this forum... I want to act now, but not sure how...
  • May 8 2013: @davidpoland And how long have you worked in the educational sector of America? Yea, that's what I thought.