Have you met TED? If you think I am talking about a person, TED is actually an annual conference of ideas founded in 1984 to unite leading thinkers and doers from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design. Speakers are invited to share their most salient thoughts in only 18 minutes.
The collection of impressive presentations is nothing short of infectious. And I mean that quite literally: during the February 2009 TED conference in Long Beach, CA Bill Gates released a jar of mosquitoes to emphasize his belief that people in developed countries are not concerned enough with malaria, which continues to plague the developing world.
Antics aside, the events provide a passport to ideas that inspire action. They are the proverbial “things that make you go ‘hmm!’” Fortunately, for those not part of the limited audience able to see such an event in person, TED has made videos of each presenters talk available online.
One talk of particular relevance to my personal and professional interests was given by Sir Ken Robinson at the February 2006 conference in Monterey, CA.
Robinson — who earned a PhD from the University of London for research into drama and theatre in education — is a noted British creativity expert who challenges the way we educate ourselves.
Recognizing that all formal education is unequally focused on what amounts to linear, quantitative subjects, Robinson proposes a radical re-imagining of our school system that more effectively cultivates creativity and acknowledges multiple types of intelligence.
I can relate to this as I’ve always been one to “think different” (as the famous Apple advertising slogan once encouraged us to do). Specifically, I test poorly on standardized tests: my brain just isn’t wired that way. This is a significant concern as I draw closer to applying for PhD programs.
I need to find an effective and, given my present circumstance, outrageously affordable way to elevate my GRE scores to ensure my application is viewed competitively by admissions committees. (Perhaps at a later date I will discuss my thoughts on the highly questionable financial stranglehold ETS — Educational Testing Service — has on the high education process).
I personally enjoyed the video a great deal – it reminded me of my teaching philosophy which is anchored in the idea of generative learning. The “tipping point” that motivated me to post this blog was that shortly after watching it I logged into my WordPress.com account and read that the system now supports embedding TED videos. Serendipity!
I couldn’t resist the urge to share this video. Although the talk occurred more than three years ago the ideas seem timeless and more relevant than ever. My two favorite lines from Robinson’s talk are:
“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it.”
“Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”
Truer words were never spoken! Additionally, I also found these comments particularly insightful — especially since they reflect my views on education and seem to validate my desire for an interdisciplinary doctoral program:
“We know three things about intelligence:
One, it’s diverse, we think about the world in all the ways we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement.
Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things…
And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct.”
And so, without further adeiu, here is Sir Ken Robinson (you can also watch it on the TED website and follow along with an interactive transcript):
Hopefully you found this talk as encouraging as I did. You can also read a transcript of Robinson’s entire talk. Additionally, earlier this year Robinson published a new book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,” which presents a deep look at human creativity and education.