TED Talk

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Photo CC-By urban_data

The college had a TED talk in February. That was the first time I had ever heard of the TED organization. Later, I happened to stumble upon some TED talks on Netflix. But today was the first time that I had actually given up my time to watch a TED talk. The TED talk was “Hackschooling Makes Me Happy” and it was given by a teenager named Logan LaPlante. Logan talked about how his mom pulled him out of a traditional school when he was 9 because the traditional system did not foster the most important life skill of all: learning how to be happy.

I once was asked what the goal of life was. The man who asked me said that not all people will realize it, but that happiness is what we all strive for in all of our actions. He said that no matter the person’s religious beliefs, their culture, or their social status, everyone looks to make decisions that will make them happy. The happiness may be immediate but later lead to heartache or the happiness may come after a long struggle. Whatever the case, we all seek a life of happiness.

In both LaPlante’s video and in Bud Hunt’s blog post “Centering on Essential Lenses: Make/Hack/Play,” ‘hacking’ was mentioned frequently. Both resources described hacking in a positive light – as a way to always strive to make what is good better and make what you have made better into the best. When we hack in education we help our students solve problems smarter, not harder. This often results in not only the possibility of more learning happening in a year, but a less stressed environment. Less stress means that learning is fun and this means that kids will inevitably be happier.

When Hunt defined the word play, I took it as a lesson on how to help students hack their education. He wrote that ‘play’ is “the search for freedom within constraints.” When this definition is applied in the realm of education, it tells us to give our students the freedom to learn how they learn best, but with some boundaries provided. An easy example of this would be giving students several choices in writing prompts. They have some freedom, but the constraints given to them will (at least we hope) help them apply the skills they have recently learned. And, as Hunt said, it is always better for a student to make. When we apply what we have learned it is much easier to remember it at a later time.

One major question I have after watching LaPlante’s video and reading Hunt’s blog post is why do we focus on standards in education, stress students out with standardized tests, and bother with other trivial conquests? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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5 thoughts on “TED Talk

  1. I personally don’t know why we just expect children to grow into happy students. I find it crazy that we can teach children every day and not even enter the realm of thinking that it is hard to be happy when you are struggling to make a living. We never look these kids in the eyes and tell them that life is hard and they they have to do whatever they can to just keep themselves happy. The stigma against mental illness is ever so prevalent in our high schools. If you have depression, if you cry, especially if you are a boy, then you are weak. I really do not understand it. We make sadness equal to weakness and that is stupid. I kinda got off on a rant, but my main point is that it is easier to teach kids math and science than it is to teach them how to truly be happy.

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    • I have another element I’d like to add to your list. It always really annoyed me in school when I would get a grade on an assignment that I turned in on time and worked diligently on and the grade turned out to be the same (or nearly the same) as someone else who either turned the assignment in late or gave minimum effort. That just teaches the hard-working students that their efforts don’t matter and it teaches the students who procrastinate or who put forth a minimal effort that they really don’t need to try. I went off on a rant, too. 😉

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      • Oh, man! I hated that too! I even went to some of my teachers in high school and told them that I thought I deserved a better grade than someone else due to what my work was like compared to theirs. We need to praise our students for their hard work instead of letting them get by with the bare minimum!

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  2. Ah yes, the trivia of school. I think one reason we focus (overfocus) on that stuff is because it’s so easy to measure. You can’t measure things that are actually worth learning on standardized tests. If you look at Bloom’s taxonomy of learning, only the lowest couple of levels can be measured with standardized tests. Certainly we need content knowledge, but an overfocus on that means that we aren’t focusing on critical thinking and creativity–and we certainly aren’t engaging most of our students, as anyone who’s half-awake could see if they’d just go into the schools and spend some time observing.

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  3. I think the overall goal of standardized tests is worthy in thought but doesn’t work out in practice. Accountability is a good idea — kids spend 8 hours in school, we should keep tabs on what exactly they are learning. But standardized tests are more harmful than helpful in my opinion. As a student, I HATED them. I literally hyperventilated when I was in elementary school the first time we took them. I had never been so strenuously tested before and it haunted me each time I took one of the standardized tests.

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