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Posts Tagged ‘TED Talk’

Lifelong learning has become one of those catch phrases that pops up all over the place.   We read it and we use it.   It is a topic I have often blogged about.

In a couple of weeks, I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts on how teachers can and should develop their own lifelong learning skills when I make a presentation at the 2014 Pearson National Teaching and Learning Conference, but addressing the importance of developing lifelong learning skills in the students we teach is of equal value!

In a blog post written a couple of years ago: Learning to learn: 10 essential skills for teachers  I wrote about the importance of teaching students how they can learn on their own:

Lifelong learning:  One of the most forgotten aims of education is to teach students how they can learn on their own and that school days are just a stepping stone to never-ending lifelong learning.  Incorporate examples into your lesson that demonstrate the power of self-discovery, exploration, learning and mastery.  Today’s online world is replete with opportunities for all of us to determine our own learning path.  Specifically demonstrate the vast range of sources available to achieve personal goals.”

And in an earlier post when I was discussing which I thought to be the better learning model PLNs or PDs I found myself again writing about the importance and value of developing lifelong learning skills:

New skills, new thoughts, new pedagogy, new knowledge:   The gift of learning how to learn on your own cannot be over emphasized.   The continuous engagement, immersion and self-paced learning afforded by learning with and from a PLN is beyond belief.   Providing a springboard for continued learning and exploration, the very nature of a PLN aims to support an individual’s lifelong learning.”

Knowing that there’s more to it than osmosis, perhaps now is as good a time as any to pause and consider how to develop students’ lifelong learning skills.  When teasing out an issue, it is of course appropriate to start with a definition of what we are talking about.  So looking at the simplest definition lifelong learning is defined by Macmillan Dictionary as

a process of gaining knowledge and skills that continues throughout a person’s life”

While this is a neat and concise definition, I beg to differ a little.   To me, lifelong learning is more about developing a set of skills by which an individual can pursue knowledge.   Learning these skills in an educational setting, be it school or university is what it’s really all about.  Teaching students how to learn should be the gift that educators aim to impart.

The set of skills we need to focus on to successfully develop lifelong learning skills are many and varied, but could include any or all of the following:

  • Search strategy skills: Learning how to define a problem and then setting about locating, selecting, organizing, presenting and finally evaluation information gleaned, discovered or learned is an essential strategy.
  • Critical thinking skills: Learning not to take information, particularly that which is located online, as gospel is very important.  Students need to be shown how to check and verify the authenticity of information.
  • Problem solving skills: Learning how to go about solving problems will depend on the nature of the issue being explored.  By providing students with opportunities to brainstorm together and suss out different paths to follow to get to the end solution are important learning skills to incorporate into our everyday teaching.  The value of collaboration cannot be over emphasized!
  • Lateral thinking skills: Being able to think outside of the box lends itself to self directed learning and exploring.  Students can gain much by completing exercises that force them to think beyond the obvious.
  • Presentation skills: Being able to present information in a clear and coherent way so that others can interpret it is an essential life skill.  Learning to interpret both visual and written presentations is equally of value.
  • Communication skills: Learning to use social networking as a learning tool among our students is vital.  While there is much discussion about responsible use of social media, are we teaching our students how to use these tools to expand their own learning?
  • Interpersonal skills: Appropriate verbal and non verbal communication plus listening and questioning skills, being responsible and accountable for actions, awareness of social etiquette and expectations alongside self management skills are essential for working as a member of a team.   Learning from and with others is what it is all about!
  • Confidence building skills: Developing an ‘I can’ attitude and assertiveness is so very important.  Education must aim to instil confidence in our students so that they know they can learn, explore and achieve successfully on their own.  Providing opportunities to do this is essential.
  • Self-directed learning skills: By giving our students the opportunity to determine what and how they will learn is a valuable way for them to determine the path of their own learning.  If educators constantly set the agenda for students, there is little scope for them to discover the joy of learning on their own.  They need opportunities – many of them – to become active learners who direct their own learning path.  Self directed learning can be very powerful.
  • Project planning skills: Being able to set parameters for the scope of a project as well as setting and sticking to a time line for the completion of a project is an imperative skill to ensure learning continues throughout a lifetime.  Being able to self manage and set achievable tasks is something that follows us throughout life.

Above all though, educators need to inspire in students a love of learning.  By igniting a passion and a hunger to learn, educators will be setting students upon a path of lifelong learning.

This TED Talk by Ramsey Musallam outlines three key rules to spark learning and the imagination of students:

  1. Curiosity: Questions can be windows to great instruction
  2. Embrace: Taking risks through trial and error should be an informal part of what we do every single day
  3. Reflect: Intense reflecting on information gathered is a powerful source

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Knowing how and when to raise your eyebrows to elicit the kind of response you’re after from a student or how to move around the classroom and/or moderate your voice to ensure that students are engaged and ‘with you’ are just some of the skills that should be second nature to teachers in our classrooms.  But are they?

Are teachers born with these skills or are they skills that need to be specifically taught in teacher preparation programs?   Or maybe they are the kinds of skills that develop along the way during the ‘on the job’ training gotten during teaching pracs?

It’s a while since I went through my teacher preparation program, but I’m certain that I never sat through specific instruction sessions on how to ensure I was an ‘engaging’ teacher.   I’ve no recollection of ever collecting ‘how to tips’ from the classes attended during my three year long teacher preparation program.   Instead, I just kind of picked up skills, gleaned either from my own trial and error in the classroom or as helpful suggestions by supervising teachers or lecturers who critiqued me during my teaching pracs.

Yet when listening to Christopher Emdin in this TED video, his advice makes perfect sense.

Student teachers can gain much from listening to what this man has to say and taking on board – in the classroom – some of those skills used routinely by those whose profession it is to reach out and engage an audience.   Making those routines a part of a teaching personae will ensure that students in our schools are engaged and inspired.

Teacher training programs too, would do well to take note of Edmin’s message.

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Most often, the start of a school year is busy and hectic.

This year is much the same as any other but with the one huge exception!   Instead of being busy and hectic, the pace of my work life has been galloping along at an incredibly frantic rate!

Unexpectedly, numerous exciting challenges have landed on my desk.  And those that know me, know that I just love challenges!   Challenges are the fodder that keep us thinking, seeing how things can be done differently, how information can be imparted to others and most especially, challenges allow us the opportunity to connect with others, to inspire each other so that we can in turn be inspired ourselves.

While I’m not going to bore you with the details of the many tasks that are facing me on the work front, I do want to talk about the process.    Taking a step out as I do every now and then – maybe it’s that ‘cone time’ that Julia Gillard confessed to early on in her Prime Ministership! – to think and ponder on the nature of what I am doing and how I may do it differently, that I realized the common factor to all that I’m doing is not necessarily the challenge that each task presents but the inspiration it engenders within me.

Be it engaging reluctant readers, figuring out how to maximize resources within the school, planning events or considering how best to impart my thoughts to others, the inspiration I gain from these many challenges is the underlying common denominator.  Focusing on this issue makes me start to think that in fact ‘challenges’ and ‘inspiration’ are the flip side of each other.  A subset of ‘inspiration’ may well be ‘motivation’.

I have written before about the importance of success.

I know only too well from my own life experience, that a flame of desire must be ignited within me before I make time in my busy life for new ventures.   Once the desire is sparked, an insatiable hunger to learn and conquer new skills sprouts.  And from there, a self perpetuating cycle is put in place.  Success leads to more desire, which leads to a deeper hunger to learn and conquer new skills.

10 tips to help convert the unconverted! (NovaNews: June 1, 2011)

To help express my thoughts better, I even created a graphic to represent the cyclical impact that success has on learning:

Leanring begets learning inc C
It is with all these thoughts – and tasks – filling my head at the moment that I started to realize that inspiration comes from many different sources:

  1. tasks presented to us
  2. coming up with activities/programs to implement tasks
  3. researching ideas/solutions to facilitate the implementation of activities/programs
    • listening to podcasts
    • watching videos
    • reading a range of different sources
  4. brainstorming with colleagues
    • those in the work place
    • those in your PLN – your Online Network
  5. interactions with unexpected new ‘acquaintances’ made in the course of all of the above
  6. stepping out of your comfort zone to approach the new
  7. being told that an idea cannot possibly work!
  8. taking a risk: believing that doing “it” a different way could work!
  9. following the ‘can’ philosophy (you can do this, this can work)
  10. and oh yes – did I mention reading?  ….. the power of reading? ….. the ideas that can be derived from reading absolutely anything?!

While ‘thinking’ just now, I’ve spent some time listening, watching and reading.  Here are just a couple of sources that inspired me.

John Von Achen’s video: Maybe, the most inspirational video ever ….. has been viewed by well over three million others, so I guess it has a pretty valuable message for us all:

A TED talk by Matt Cutts ‘Try something new for 30 days” throws down a tantalizing gauntlet to be inspired about almost anything!

What feeds your inspiration?  How do you maintain your inspiration?

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Taylor Wilson is a Nuclear Physicist.  He is 17 years old!

At just 14 years of age, Taylor built a fusion reactor in his parents’ garage.   Not shy to tell his story, this very talented young man shares how in addition to this modest invention, he recently won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and developed a detector that replaces current detectors used by Homeland Security at, he adds, a much cheaper price!

With due pride, Taylor tells how he shared his Homeland Security Research with President Obama.

William Taylor - Nuclear Physicist

Inspired by this story?   Watch other TED under 20 talks listed under Taylor’s video, in which our teenagers share their ground breaking achievements!

And with this post, I bid you all a very happy holiday season.  For those heading away – travel safely.  For those staying home – enjoy the days!   May the coming year be filled with happiness and good health for us all.

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Perhaps like you, I’m often hit by the texting of our students which I’m unable to make head or tail of!

But John McWhorter, a linguistic, logically and methodically spells out a very convincing argument that what is happening today is the miraculous evolution of a language right under our noses!

Toward the end of the talk, his key points include:

….. what we’re seeing is a whole new way of writing that young people are developing which the’re using alongside their ordinary writing skills and that means that they are able to do two things.   Increasing evidence is that being bilingual is cognitively beneficial ….. (11.36)

….. so texting actually is evidence of a balancing act that young people are using today, not consciously of course, but it’s an expansion of their linguistic repertoire …..  (11.58)

….. a whole new language has developed among our young people doing something as mundane as what it looks like to us when they are batting around on their little devices ….. (12.40)

Have a listen:

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I just listened to an outstanding TED talk by Rita Pierson.

Rita F. Pierson spent her entire life in or around the classroom, having followed both her parents and grandparents into a career as an educator.  Quoting from her bio online I’ve learned that:

Rita F. Pierson, a professional educator since 1972, taught elementary school, junior high and special education. She was a counselor, a testing coordinator and an assistant principal. In each of these roles, she brought a special energy to the role — a desire to get to know her students, show them how much they matter and support them in their growth, even if it was modest.

For the past decade, Pierson conducted professional development workshops and seminars for thousands of educators. Focusing on the students who are too often under-served, she lectured on topics like “Helping Under-Resourced Learners,” “Meeting the Educational Needs of African American Boys” and “Engage and Graduate your Secondary Students: Preventing Dropouts.”

She has qualities that every teacher should have.  How do I know?   Those qualities shine through every single word she speaks in this presentation.  She is direct, clear, emphatic, sincere and determined in every word she shares with us.   Here is a woman who believes in the importance of education, but most importantly believes in the important role that teachers have in the lives of those students they teach.

In this short presentation, Rita Pierson speaks about the value and importance of human connection – relationships – and the impact this can have on the achievement and success of students.   Her talk is replete with quotable moments.

A colleague said to me one time:   They don’t pay me to like the kids.  They pay me to to teach a lesson.   The kids should learn it.  I should teach it.   They should learn it.  Case closed.

Well … I said to her… you know ….. kids’ don’t learn from people they don’t like!”

Rita Pierson tells it as it is.   She acknowledges that while we won’t like all the students we teach, those students will never know it.   Teachers are great actors and actresses she tells us.   Our job is to teach and make a difference in the lives of our students.   Our job is to inspire students to realise academic achievement and to bolster their self-esteem, even when their skills are low.  How we achieve this she says is by building relationships with our students.  Connect with them.  Be real and know that you are making a difference in the life of each student.

Despite the difficulties, despite the policies, despite it all Pierson says:

We teach anyway because that’s what we do.  Teaching and learning should bring joy.  How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think …..  Every child deserves a champion — an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be ….

We can do this.  We are educators.  We are born to make a difference.”

Rita Pierson passed away in June 2013.  Our great loss.

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It’s more than a year now since my son sent me a link to an article he thought I’d be interested in.

He was dead right of course – I was interested!

Published in The New York Times, it was an article written by Joshua Foer titled Secrets of a Mind-Gamer: How I trained my brain and became a world-class memory athlete.  There was only one problem with the article though.  It was very long!   I started to read it, but as so often happens, I got distracted, never finished reading it ….. and well ….. time marched on!  I diligently saved the link though,  knowing that someday soon, I’d get back to it!

Well ….. that happened last night!  Drawing me back to this article was another one that I’d come across just a couple of weeks ago: How to train your mind to remember anything which I discovered was also written by Joshua Foer.

I was hooked.   After reading the latest article, I went back to read the long one, then went on a bit of a hunt to learn a little more about Joshua Foer.

As a kid in school, I remember being given homework to memorize poems.  As an exercise in public speaking, we then had to recite the poem in front of the class.   The incidental skill being exercised was training our memories, something that in our technologically savvy world is possibly not happening as much as it was back then.   As Foer says in both of his articles and then again in his recently posted TED talk

“Today we have smart phones and Google and all of these technologies that make it easier and easier for us to essentially outsource our memories onto devices.”

Suffering from the annoyance of often forgetting key facts, details, appointments or items that need to be on my to-do list, I’ve come up with a host of different ways of trying to force myself to remember.   Mnemonic techniques have been one of my favourite or most effective ways of coping.  In his quest to learn about memory building, Foer too discovered that

It was simply a matter of learning to “think in more memorable ways,” using a set of mnemonic techniques almost all of which were invented in ancient Greece. These techniques existed not to memorize useless information like decks of playing cards but to etch into the brain foundational texts and ideas.”

Using mnemonics, I realized that I too have been trying to etch meaningful connections into my mind.  But I was intrigued by Foer’s words as he described how memory can be assisted by using parts of the brain related to spatial memory and navigation.

…..  a discovery supposedly made by the poet Simonides of Ceos in the fifth century B.C. After a tragic banquet-hall collapse, of which he was the sole survivor, Simonides was asked to give an account of who was buried in the debris.  When the poet closed his eyes and reconstructed the crumbled building in his imagination, he had an extraordinary realization: he remembered where each of the guests at the ill-fated dinner had been sitting. Even though he made no conscious effort to memorize the layout of the room, it nonetheless left a durable impression. From that simple observation, Simonides reportedly invented a technique that would form the basis of what came to be known as the art of memory …..  He reasoned that just about anything could be imprinted upon our memories, and kept in good order, simply by constructing a building in the imagination and filling it with imagery of what needed to be recalled. This imagined edifice could then be walked through at any time in the future. Such a building would later come to be called a memory palace.

In this engaging TED video, Foer refers to all memory techniques boiling down to a concept referred to by psychologists as “elaborative encoding”.   Being able to improve our memories is just one aspect.  Questioning why we would want to improve our memory is another.  I was caught by the cold hard reality of Foer’s last sentence on this TED presentation:

“…. our lives are the sum of our memories.  How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries, our iPhones, by not paying attention to the human being across from us who’s talking with us, by being so lazy we’re not willing to process deeply?  ….  If you want to live a memorable life you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.”

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