TEDxGlasgow Education Roundup

March 7, 2012 Off By Chris Hinton

Have you heard of TED? No, we’re not talking about a person here – we’re talking about the global phenomenon that brings together people from Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) to deliver some truly inspiring talks. If you want to hear some of those talks, head on over to TED.com and do some exploring. There’s a fair chance you’ll get lost there for hours as you listen to what the delegates have to say.
As well as the main TED conferences, there are a host of independently organised TEDx events, and I was lucky enough to get along to TEDxGlasgow last weekend. It was an amazing experience, and I want to share some of what was said there with you. I was there for six hours, so we’re going to split this over a few posts. This is a summary of the first “block” of the day – on the theme of education. To follow will be posts about Health & Wellbeing and Enlightened Economy.

Carol Craig – Enlightenment in the age of materialism

The subject for the whole conference was “Enlightenment 2.0”, so Carol’s thoughts formed the starting point for what came afterwards. She spoke about how Glasgow was the home for much of the work Adam Smith did. Adam Smith had a great concern for the poor, and believed that if the country as a whole were richer, the poor would benefit. This hasn’t happened, though: the country is richer than it was, but the poor are still poor. Why? One reason is materialism, which makes people buy more and more stuff so that others will look on them more favourably. Materialism makes us measure ourselves by how other people will look at us. Many parents now believe that the best thing they can do for their children is buy them more things, to the detriment of enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
Carol pointed out that a good life is not about buying new and better stuff and, in fact, the celebrities we see with the “best” lives are those who have realised their fame and wealth aren’t their most important assets – the celebrities who lend their influence to being ambassadors and advocates.
Carol’s big idea is this: get clued up – realise what materialism is, and what it’s doing. Switch the TV off – evade the constant stream of marketing that tells us the way to happiness is to buy more. Talk about it – with parents, with friends, with organisations… talk about the fact that materialism isn’t the answer to our happiness problems.
The enlightenment was all about shining a light into dark places. The enlightenment 2.0 is about doing that again.

Sir Ken Robinson – Bring on the learning revolution!

Next up, a video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about education:

Donald Clark – More pedagogic change in 10 years than last 1000 years – all driven by technology

What a title! And if you’re like me, your first question is, “what’s pedagogic?”. Check out the definition of pedagogy, and this will hopefully make a little more sense!
Donald’s contention is that the education system is outdated. It’s based on an agricultural calendar, and based largely on the idea of the lecture. That is, someone imparting knowledge to a (hopefully) receptive class of students. That style doesn’t work very well, though, and a far better system of education is to be proactive and interactive. The Internet allows for this interaction and proactivity, but also brings with it an ease of replication that allows lessons to be copied and distributed easily… it makes learning scalable.
What was interesting was when Donald pointed out that the idea of allowing students to work in their own environments, with appropriate support, was not new. The Open University pioneered this with their distance/supported learning concept – it just hasn’t taken off with the rest of the educational establishment.
Donald summed up with a catchy line: the learning revolution has already started!

Jane Ballantine – Stop the revolutions and let education evolve!

As a counterpoint to Donald’s talk, Jane Ballantine asked us this question, “What if the system is not actually broken?”. Technology obviously has a large role to play in education, but Jane pointed out that tech is not undergoing a revolution – it’s undergoing evolution. The educational system, then, should also be allowed to evolve rather than being scrapped and reformed.
What’s the point of education? Jane states that education exists to challenge preconceptions, open minds, and create opportunity.
Interestingly, Jane did finish with some thoughts on the use of mobile devices in education, and said that she saw mLearning as a major growth area in future years.

Dr Pauline Dixon – How private schools are serving the poorest

Dr Pauline Dixon was up next, talking about private schools. The accepted wisdom about private schools is that they are the preserve of the elite. If they are affordable for the poor, they must be substandard. Is that true?
In Hyderabad, 60% of the schools in slum areas are private (fee paying) and low cost. In that city alone, around a quarter of a million children are being taught in these private schools. In fact, private, fee paying education forms the majority of the educational opportunities in developing countries.
Parents say that private schools are of a higher quality than their free, state-run counterparts. This is, in part, because they pay a fee and have some comeback on the school if their children are not being taught satisfactorily. After all, if you are paying for a service you expect to have the right to complain if it’s not good enough.
The takeaway point from this talk, for me, was that poor parents still want to make good choices for their children. They still want to see them educated, and they are willing to pick the best school, even if that means paying, to enable that to happen. And another thing… accountability matters.

Raghava KK – Shake up your story

OK, up next was another video with some great thoughts on perspectives.

At this point, we went for a discussion/tea/coffee/toilet break and my head was already overflowing with the fantastic stuff we had heard. If you were there, and if I have missed anything, please feel free to contribute in the comments… I am very aware that my notes don’t cover everything that was said, and perhaps something caught your ear that missed mine.
And don’t forget to come back to find out what was said about Health & Wellbeing and Enlightened Economy too.