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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.


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  • 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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.
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        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.

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