Saturday, March 06, 2010

Curation Science: A note on Ted Talks

Chris Anderson is the curator of the TED (Tech...Image via Wikipedia

Today I spent time listening to the TedxNyED Talks online. I really liked the event. There were a lot of great people gathered together and a lot of good ideas coming out. I recommend all of the people who presented, and I will link the videos here as soon as they are available. The people who put on the event did an outstanding job. I appreciated the fact that they streamed it live and that there was a large community of educators participating remotely.

I made discoveries today: I learned about Flexbooks which, given some of the projects I am currently working on, is very serendipitous; I heard people at the conference speak that I had never heard before, and I met new people in Twitter. I am very excited about the new connections with some very interesting people.

Because of all of the good work that went into this event, and the fact that I know that everyone came away from it with something positive (I know that I did), and that the conversations we had there were only the beginning, a planted seed - I feel free to be a pain in the ass about elitism. Some of the issues are argued here at D'arcy Norman's blog.

The event was based on the corporate Ted Talks format. I listen to the corporate Ted Talks too. These are really interesting videos and I have learned a lot from them. Like them, the New York local version "curated" the audience as well as the speakers. When they were asked why there were so few women or minorities it was "inadvertent" and because the white men said "yes" first and filled up the slots before they realized it. There was a application to be in the audience. You had to list your significant accomplishments. It seems funny that the audience was carefully curated and the speakers were "inadvertent." The irony about all this is that many at the event are promoters of open source and open education resources. One of the whole points of the corporate Ted Talks is that they need to control the audience in order to control the results of their conference. You want the right kind of people who have access to a lot of money (admission is $6000 to corporate Ted Talk). That is what curation means. It is the Disneyland approach to vacationing - god forbid you go to a real place and meet real people - who knows what could happen? This is not a great model for educators to adopt or to promote. This is like lecturing on collaborative learning or selling a book to Thompson & Wadsworth on open textbooks.

Many teach because they believe that education will make a difference in people's lives. And there are some huge problems in education and changes that need to be made. They won't be made by doing the same things over and over again. In education, there is still too much of the "sage on the stage" and everyone sitting in rows paying attention. And it is not working.

We need to hear, and act on, ideas from a broad spectrum of society and the world if we plan on making real and significant change. The world is now too small for us to be comfortable with not bringing in developing nations to the table, for instance. Someone pointed out that the majority of the teachers are women but the majority of presenters continues to be men. It is not that by having some token females on a stage that we will be magically transformed, but if we are serious about change as educators, we have to broaden our vision. We benefit and become stronger from hearing a diversity of voices. We are asking students to be more than they are - we can follow suit.

They are planning on doing a Ted Talks deal for kids. I am hoping that the audience is not curated for that event (they should at least let the parents in despite their education background right?) and that the speakers are representative of their community. As one of the speakers today put it: "How can you dare think you can transform a child if you are not willing to transform yourself?" And if you are not in education for transformation, what the hell are you doing?

There is a huge price to pay for not attending to diversity. Everything you do becomes irrelevant as the world around you changes and you are offering answers to questions that no one is asking. Again, as Lehman reminded us "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cant learn, unlearn, and relearn." - Alvin Toffler
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