Prashanth Gopalan

Founder & Curator, TEDxUW


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Is it possible to create an alternative schooling system using only the Khan Academy, YouTube, Wikipedia and TED?

Here's my Call-to-Action: Is it possible for us to leverage the elastic scalability and reach of the internet to teach our peers and children to be more independent, knowledgeable, creative and collaborative when interacting with the rest of the world?

Sites like the Khan Academy, YouTube, Wikipedia and TED are changing the very face of 21st-century information-sharing by making people participate in the process of creating and sharing information.

Is it possible to bring these qualities to our schools and universities too?

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    Feb 26 2011: Yes, I do it all the time. Since discovering the TED talks, YoutubeU, iTunesU and a myriad of other resources I have been using these in my classes and have seen a significant difference in the motivation of students, in the quality of their output and in their intellectual curiosity.

    I teach in a primarily minority institution, where most of the students are first generation college. A lot of them have not been exposed to a culture of learning, of reading, so it is a challenge to get them motivated. Putting the concepts they are learning into context helps them see the real world applications of the work they are doing. I use the TED talks as an introduction to a subject, and continue using them as reinforcement tools, either making students research more on the subject or the speaker, or comparing them with other work (published articles, art, different viewpoints, etc).

    A combination of the Khan Academy and TED could be done, a sort of TEDEducation, where lesson plans (similar to the Khan Academy) are done, with the TED Talks used to put into context the lesson plans. In fact the lesson plans could be done based on relevant talks, with other talks bolstering the concepts, or even contradicting the concept and creating a debate that the students would follow up on.

    This can be started at the University level, and these students could as part of their learning process help create the lesson plans for the K-12 levels on the same subjects they are learning. Having to learn material well enough to teach it to others usually results in the mastery of the subject by the teacher, which in this case would be the actual [higher level] student.

    These TEDEducation lesson plans could then be translated so that they may be applied worldwide, with open access to anyone with an internet connection.
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      Feb 27 2011: Claudia, I think you raised some great points in your response. Do you happen to have recordings of some of your teaching sessions? I'd be interested in taking a look at overall format. Do you follow a specific structure or a more ad-hoc approach?
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      Feb 27 2011: Hi Claudia,

      I too am an educator. I work with minority children in a radical k12 setting. We use TED as inquiry boosters along with other virtual and tangible resources. Although we do not work with structured "plans". The children and I use the talks within the initial phase of inquiry, support for reflection, and often as a point of discovery. Big thumbs up on your previous comment!
  • Feb 20 2011: I believe that there are sufficient resources on the internet that it is totally possible. However, as a current educator, I can tell you that one thing students definitely need is help to focus. And I'm not talking about focus for the way that when I'm standing in front of my students teaching them about linear equations, I need them to focus on me and listen, practice, and apply, but they need help knowing where to direct their efforts and attention. They need some help structuring their education, and this is where I believe the largest breakdown currently exists.

    The resources are in place (Khan Academy, YouTube, Wikipedia, TED, Quora, Grockit, etc.) but figuring out how to compile them into a comprehensible, accessible system by our students needs to be addressed.
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      Feb 27 2011: As I mentioned with Massimo above, perhaps a good start would be to begin incorporating these talks into assignments and resources. perhaps in sections such as these - "Before you start this assignment, take time to review these materials.", and "These resources are very useful. Watch them if you have any questions."?
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        Feb 27 2011: Prashanth,
        If this one-to-one and one-to-many communication could happen virtually from anywhere around the globe, versus within a box, might we make the world a better place? Sounds like a globally democratic education. Such lovely ideas...
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      Feb 27 2011: Hi Jonathan, I am sure there are more than sufficient resources on the internet. I am in full agreement that our children could benefit from some framework to focus their efforts. The abundance of information can be daunting for the most mature audience. If you have not done so already, take a look at Richard Baraniuk on open-source learning. It is a dynamic start to what we discuss here.
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    Feb 22 2011: Apart from having human feedback on difficult topics, you still need a teacher for motivation, support and leadership in the sense, that he or she - in a very broad and long term sense - can help you find your vocation(s) and perhaps even teach you how to get there. Mentorship in short.
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      Feb 27 2011: That makes sense. Perhaps the best way to incorporate these talks could be in something as simple as assigning it as a resource in homework handouts, prep material before a lecture, or at least at the university-level, including it as an alternative to overworked Teaching Assistants?
  • Feb 26 2011: YES, it is obvious isnt it?
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      Feb 27 2011: Not necessarily, Jonathan makes a good point below. These online resources need to be curated appropriately before students can adequately use them to supplement, and eventually supplant, classroom education?
  • Feb 20 2011: Of course sites like TED and Wikipedia are useful in the classroom, but if you simply hand a child a textbook with no teacher would he/she learn anything?
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      Feb 20 2011: There's some interesting material regarding this question - are teachers essential to learn?- in Sugata Mitra's TED Talks. He leaves children with computers and no explanation, and then comes back after a couple of months to see how they did. Here's an extract from his 2010 Talk:

      I called in 26 children. They all came in there, and I told them that there's some really difficult stuff on this computer. I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't understand anything. It's all in English, and I'm going. (Laughter) So I left them with it. I came back after two months, and the 26 children marched in looking very, very quiet. I said, "Well, did you look at any of the stuff?" They said, "Yes, we did." "Did you understand anything?" "No, nothing." So I said, "Well, how long did you practice on it before you decided you understood nothing?" They said, "We look at it every day." So I said, "For two months, you were looking at stuff you didn't understand?" So a 12 year-old girl raises her hand and says, literally, "Apart from the fact that improper replication of the DNA molecule causes genetic disease, we've understood nothing else."

      I would say the last sentence is a very nice example of learning!
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        Feb 27 2011: Interesting...I don't think I've watched that TEDTalk yet, thanks for sharing.

        This of course begs the larger question, if self-study happens to be as effective as demonstrated in your comment, then (hypothetically) do we anticipate pushback from governments and educational institutions that stand to become redundant? Or would/could they somehow dovetail into this trend?