By Bruce Nofsinger, Principal, Topics Education
Since returning from the TED Conference, I’ve told a lot of people about my experience there — stopping just short of corralling strangers and describing how cool it was. Some have heard of it, and some have not. For those who haven’t, I usually begin by mentioning the Bill Gates’ moment that garnered much of the media’s attention — you know, the mosquitoes thing.
Yes, as Bill Gates was in the midst of describing his foundation’s emphasis on combating malaria, he brought out some captured mosquitoes and released them out into the audience, briefly pretending that his visual aids carried malaria (watch video clip here). I thought it was funny, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be the headline coming out of TED.
That story doesn’t really give you a good sense of what TED is all about (other than indicating some of the heavy hitters who present there). But in a weird way, I’ve realized that it does provide some good context. There’s such an air of unpredictability and excitement there, yet it occurs within an extremely structured format and with well-defined high expectations.
Granted, I was a TED newbie, but I suspect that even the veteran TEDsters love that seemingly dichotomous nature of TED. My take is that we can learn a lot from TED’s success and apply it to education. There’s comfort in structure and high expectations, but there’s also plenty of room for creativity — creativity that we should encourage and reward.
TED is about ideas worth spreading. And this year in particular, the economic crisis served as a backdrop to that theme — that these ideas will help propel us out of the dire situations that confront us.
Our work at TED with the SCI FI Channel fit in perfectly. TED provided the stage for SCI FI to showcase the work of seven Young Visionaries, as part of its pro-social initiative called Visions for Tomorrow. Not only do the Young Visionaries embody TED, they also promise to propel us toward a more positive future by working toward their own visions for tomorrow. A common theme among all of their accomplishments is creativity — creative problem solving, in particular.
Though there are young visionaries beyond those seven, we need as many as we can get. I’m firmly convinced that our education systems must reflect the TED approach that combines structure and high expectations, while encouraging and rewarding creativity. Only then will education successfully meet the needs of this time and place.