These days, it seems even the masses—the Silicon Valley masses, specifically—have an education-focused mindset, and to prove that point, this year’s TED Talks focused on education in particular.
And it wasn’t just the “old guys” talking about data or assessments. Rather, the conference—titled “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered.”—highlighted the brilliant minds of some of the most inventive, and just plain genius, high schoolers in the world.
These young participants mingled with the more seasoned education crowd to come up with some groundbreaking ideas.
For example, Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland, gave an opening talk that stressed how important it is to keep students inspired. One way to do this, he said, is through collaboration.“If a student has a sense of self, it’s amazing how their dreams and values can make all the difference in the world,” he said.
Yet, Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher and winner of the 2013 TED Prize, said that schools are “broken” and “obsolete” as we know them.
“It’s called the bureaucratic administrative machine,” Mitra said. “In order to have that machine running, you need to have lots and lots of people. They made another machine to produce those people. It’s called ‘the school.’ The schools would produce the people, who would then become parts of the bureaucratic administrative machine.”
Mitra put a computer in the slums of New Delhi to see if children would explore the computer and teach themselves—which they did, he said. He’s now looking for funding to build a school in the cloud.
“We need to look at learning as the product of educational self-organization. If you allow the educational program to self-organize, then learning emerges. It’s not about making learning happen; it’s about letting it happen,” he said.
Sandwiched between these two talks were the stars of TED 2013: the young innovators. From developing a low-cost test to detect pancreatic cancer, to being the youngest person to achieve fusion, these kids truly are the future … and many say they might never go back to school, which begs the question: Does Mitra have a point?
(Next page: The seven videos you shouldn’t miss)