In praise of Ted
My brother (an academic librarian) recently sent me some website suggestions. He is always on the lookout for innovative sites and knows that I am interested in education and technology as well as mathematics (I am a Primary Mathematics Consultant).
One of the sites he suggested came with the rather innocuous name of Ted.com.
I looked up the site and was amazed to find that this organisation has existed for a number of years and sponsors speakers who attend one of their annual conferences in California, Oxford (U.K.) or maybe India. These conferences are a forum for speakers who have to have something really interesting to say in just about 20 minutes (or less).
The videos of these lectures are all accessible on the site and you can join Ted for free.
I examined the site and so far have come across two fascinating talks. The first was a talk by Ben Dunlap who is the President of Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, U.S.A.
From the first words in Magyar (Hungarian) to the last words (also in Magyar) I was utterly transfixed by 18 minutes of the best lecturing I think I have ever seen.
He tells the story of Sandor Teszler, a Hungarian Jew who managed by pure fortune of an event that had happened earlier in his life (which Dunlap recounts) to escape from Hungary and the holocaust only to find himself, as a textile factory owner and production expert in the centre of the textile industry of the U.S.A. which was Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Teszler found himself in the middle of the apartheid like society that existed in the American South in the 1940’s. He had seen man’s inhumanity to man and the effects of racism and religious intolerance. He decided that he was going to do something positive to combat the evil of racism. So he opened a factory.
In the 1940’s factories were strictly segregated in South Carolina but Teszler’s was never going to be. He was able by the sheer strength of his obstinacy and personality to make sure that he opened the first desegregated textile factory in the American South.
The story of this amazing man is told with a passion that befits his contributions to American society. It is only just over 18 minutes long and was worth my brother’s recommendation of the site on its own.
A couple of days later I was able to continue to mine the seemingly endless supply of amazing speakers and their lectures by coming across a lecture by Eric Sanderson about the Manahatta Project.
This lecture was about a fascinating use of computer technology to take an old British map of 1609 of what is now Manhatten Island, New York and show by successive layers how the landscape and ecology of the area changed up to the present day.
It shows the power of computer simulations and it reminded me just how much information technology is changing our lives and will change the lives of the children in our schools or who have yet to get to our schools.
A day or two later I was given a link by my brother to an online archive on the University of Pittsburgh’s main site. There were about 3000 hours of recorded interviews which had been part of an oral history project in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. All the interviews could be heard online and there was background data and information as well as transcripts.
Today (as I write) I was sitting in an I.T. suite of a local primary school in the area I work in. The man who runs the suite (James) was going on about the way that computers were changing everyone’s lives and that their potential was not being fully used in schools.
I feel that, whether we like it or not, information technology is bringing amazing things within our children’s reach. We must give them the chance to access this world, whilst warning them of the potential for its misuse.. not everything out there is wonderful and uplifting for the human spirit. But there is plenty to be learnt and much to be investigated.
I have just found two lectures and an archive of old recordings but they have changed my perspective on life. What else is out there that can change the lives of our children?
Link to these Talks (and others) : http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_dunlap_talks_about_a_passionate_life.html