When TED Talks Turn Evil

When TED Talks Turn Evil

Recently, my dad sent me this link, as he has seen how obsessively I’ve been watching TED lately.

He said,

As much as I enjoy TED talks sometimes the simplification gets my goat.

Maybe I’m not the only one.

I still like them though even if they don’t all pan out.

Notice that they take a swipe at the just give the kids a computer camp.

Apparently there are very few kids that will do course work on their own.

This is my letter back to him after reading the article:

Hey Dad,

 

Glad you sent this article. I’ve obviously been spending a lot of time watching TED lately. The author’s definitely got a point. There are many talks that I don’t even finish because they are either oversimple, or just boring. One recently featured a model who basically spent 19 minutes apologizing for being pretty and telling us that they retouch photos, which, of course, we all know…

 

So that’s the thing. I think if you recognize it as a form of entertainment, then you’re okay. Obviously the scientists with no social skills or public speaking abilities are not their top choices. That’s life. It takes a certain amount of charisma to win people over, no matter how important what you have to say could be. Right?

 

I’m a bit disappointed, however, about the apparent vetting problems they seem to have. I hate to think how many videos I’ve seen where the science is actually inaccurate. I assumed TED only accepted people who have the support of the greater scientific community through experiment duplication, etc. That will definitely make me a bit more skeptical.

 

I think too, though, that if you’re a thinking person, you can do some vetting yourself. For example, The SOLE (Self-Organized Learning Environments) guy from India with his, “Poor children taught themselves genetics on the internet,” never really won me over. As with all theories in education, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and his results seemed a bit too good to be true for me. My experience with children is that they would NOT voluntarily teach themselves genetics on the internet, but rather immerse themselves in a Pokemon game if given the choice. But who knows. It all comes down to a child’s individual motivations for learning.

 

With other talks, however, it’s not so much the actual content that gets me, but sometimes, I think they raise questions and get me to make connections I would not have otherwise. This week for instance, after hearing ANOTHER talk about how positive relationships with students improves learning (again?), it inspired me to start looking at specific “relationship-building” techniques as I’ve never been one that’s been good at “small talk”. (Apparently, this is a sign of introversion. I’ve always known I tend toward introversion, but didn’t realize that this is a specific feature. It makes me feel less weird knowing that.)
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As it turns out, however I feel about small talk, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be a great tool to help people get comfortable with you, enough to have more meaningful conversations. I usually just prefer to skip it, but others find that a bit off-putting. I found a wealth of information about conversation techniques that I’ve been trying out, and they WORK–on adults, no less. I was really inspired this week in teaching as well and felt really good about improvements I’ve been making in relating to my students. Ultimately, I’m not going to force myself to have mundane conversations when I don’t feel like it, but it helps knowing that I have the skill when I actually need it.

 

The SOLE guy still really bugs me; (What do you mean kids don’t need teachers? Harrumph.) however, I have seen some REALLY good talks, usually by people who are not scientists or entrepreneurs. For instance, Phil Hansen’s “Embrace the Shake,” was very inspiring to me. Also, I love Sir Ken Robinson, of course, and some of the psychology ones just help you consider things from different angles. Tony Robbins’ talk, however, was probably the worst one I’ve ever seen. Didn’t even finish it.

 

Obviously, this being a letter to my father, it takes a bit of a more personal/straight-talking tone than my normal posts.
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