What I learned from TEDx Edmonton

It was, altogether, a great day full of ideas.  This is the best way I have to describe Edmonton’s very first TED-related event.  Each of the speakers, either because of convergence or design, riffed effortlessly on the themes of sustainability, sharing, and doing what you enjoy.  What’s the most inspiring is that, whether the speaker was talking about printing new hearts or making virtual bubbles collect in your hand, each person was motivated to explore by nothing greater than childlike wonder.

The speakers’ talks are better summarized elsewhere on the web, so I will focus here on the things I left with.  First and foremost, the talks reinforced for me that I can best serve my students by facilitating the things that other schools would call “deviant” behaviors.  Barring those ideas and behaviors that, in my opinion, could cause harm to oneself or others, I can best prepare my students for their post-secondary careers by encouraging alternative approaches to problem-solving.  As Grant said in his talk, he “didn’t know [he] wasn’t supposed to be able to build” some of the things he has created and therefore was not hindered by the idea that he couldn’t.  While he very likely was accustomed to setting his own direction very early, I can help my students best by helping them find their directions and not tell them “no.”

The second thing I came away with is the importance of sharing.  In my professional context, I am one of the most sharing people I know, but that’s like saying that I’m the least-drowning swimmer in the pool.  Education is ironically one of the most proprietary places for ideas.  The resistance to sharing is always couched in the language of “building MY course,” as if it were all for the students, but I have seen more than one set of shields raised when talk of “collaborating” begins.  Early on in my career, I didn’t know that I SHOULDN’T share and so I was always trying to make connections where none existed previously.  I was met by reluctance or polite poo-poohing by other, “more experienced instructors” and I began to follow suit in the development of “MY” courses.  One thing I am happy to say never happened for me, though, was the urge to have “power” over my students by holding back any information or truth that I know.  Conversely, I have gotten trouble from students and teachers alike for talking about things that are beyond my assigned subject area that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to talk about.  Eventually, it was working with the subject-matter experts at Guru that showed me what a properly functioning learning community could be.  When teachers share ideas and work together towards a common goal of student engagement, there is no one who will say “no” to a good idea.

Finally, and I think the thing that is most personally exciting to me, is the idea of Transmedia Storytelling as described by Sean Stewart.  In a word, this kind of storytelling weaves completely immersible narratives together from the various media fibers we now have available to us.  Modern-day “bards” are tasked with creating various rich universes and then releasing them unto the masses for creative play.  I love this idea and can immediately see ways of making my stories more accessible for people to enjoy.

At the end of the day, I left the conference excited about where our world can go if we all learn to play nice and share ideas big and small.