May 28, 2024

Uncle Gary’s Gift to the Richardson Family

My tricky little pal and fellow suffering Jets fan, Will Richardson, recently tweeted asking for TED Talk suggestions to share with his family on “TED Talk” Tuesdays. Will and his wife are embarking on an interesting family event featuring dinner, a TED Talk and conversation with their teenage kids. I know how much my family learns watching Jersey Shore together, so I decided to share my parental expertise with the Richardson family via the following TED Talk recommendations.

You might find my small selection surprising:

#1 Margaret Wertheim on the Beautiful Math of Coral

This talk is all about connections and contrasts – beauty and science, math and art, problem solving and creativity. As a result, this brilliant presentation challenges many of the sterotypes about learning, knowledge and the scientific method perpetuated by school. You will be amazed by how the craft of crocheting led to the visualization and understanding of  centuries old theorems at the frontier of mathematics.

#2 Greening the Ghetto

Majora Carter’s TED Talk explores the connections between economic justice, poverty and environmentalism through community activism. Aside from the importance of this message, I selected this TED Talk because marketing and communications genius Guy Kawasaki does a masterful job of analyzing the talk line-by-line in his book, Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. Kawasaki demonstrates how Ms. Carter breaks many of the rules of public speaking while persuasively delivering a world-changing presentation. (Kawasaki’s book is a must-read for educators and even high school students.)

This talk is also all about connections.

#3 The Sixth Sense

MIT Media Lab Pattie Maes and her graduate student, Pranav Mistry, demonstrate how $300 worth of consumer electronics may be worn and woven into daily life as we face a new world in which ubiquitous information is available to you as if it were a sixth sense. This video is mind-blowing and should inspire kids to learn to program computers and embrace tinkering.

#4 Tony Robbins Asks Why We Do What We Do

You do not need to buy into any of the new age hokum being peddled by Tony Robbins to recognize that he is one of the greatest communicators alive today. His presentation style is remarkable and the impromptu exchange precipitated by Vice President Gore’s heckling makes this one for the ages. There is much to learn stylistically and affectively from this performance.

#5 Dave Eggers & 826 Valencia

Best-selling author Dave Eggers’ desire to give back to his community is only matched by his passion for whimsy and sharing his love of writing with young people. This TED Talk celebrating Eggers winning the TED Prize explores how pirate supply shops and superhero stores may serve as incredibly rich non-school learning environments where children become writers by writing with expert adult writers. Put aside Eggers’ nod towards school and homework and consider the powerful ideas of apprenticeship, access to expertise, community of practice and how we might all create productive contexts for learning.

If you want to go beyond five recommendations, might I suggest the two TED videos exploring El Sistema, the Venezuelan Youth Orcestra program and remind yourself of what the performing arts mean to a culture.

El Sistema: Music to Change Life
No educator's library is complete without this DVD

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6 thoughts on “Uncle Gary’s Gift to the Richardson Family

  1. Awesome. I was floored when I saw the first one above. The idea of essentially “getting inside” a mathematical function -and swimming around a bit- is the reason I need these digital connections. Finding folks locally to have a serious discussion about even that particular video alone- seems to be a tough thing in smallish Midwestern towns. At times it seems like very “long tail” in these parts regarding connections at this level. In fact, I have a blog post built around the work they are featuring here. It has been in the queue and half-finished for some time. I thought at the time that I was going to be the first quirky weirdo (of those that I know) to trumpet that project.

    Looks like I’m not the only kook. Actually, I brought this one up at a workshop with Punya Mishra (TPACK fame) this past summer. You can imagine how a projects like this looks in light of that framework. It’s a perfect example of how the “T” in that model needn’t always plug into the wall.

    We will be giving some of this a go in a hands-on way in my marine biology class this coming Spring. We’ll be sure to share.

  2. Whoa. What a great idea. Makes me wish both of our children were still at home – only one is left, our youngest, a high school freshman. The other is away at college. I could try to institute this tradition when we’re all together but … I’m not optimistic about the outcome. 🙂

    Re: the Pattie Maes talk – one of my all time favorites. I use it in a lesson with my 4th graders about future technology and virtual worlds. We start with World Builder:

    …to show them the possibilities. We discuss the video as it plays. Then I show them the Pattie Maes TED talk. They are blown away when they see some of the technology in World Builder exists in real life.

    Then we tear into a home design project using Google Sketchup. Their minds are blown again when they see how easy it is to construct in virtual 3D space.

    This is one of the lessons they talk about for years to come. Just thought I’d share.

    Looking forward to seeing you in a few days at Educon. Travel safe!


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