Being selected as a TED Innovative Educator is a very humbling experience. At the same time, it is also a very inspiring and a huge confident booster that, we as educators, work with an amazing group of kids that truly are limitless. The #TEDEdweekend was a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs for students and speakers involved in TED Clubs, the TED staff, the parents attending and the 30 TED Innovative Educators who all came together and took part in this amazing inspirational weekend.
As I filled out my application for TED Innovative Educator, questions that doubted my experience and expertise filled my mind..."Am I really good enough for this?" and "What can I offer TED?". After some self motivation and refreshing conversations with other colleagues, I finally mustard up the bravery to press "submit application". A few months later, an email pops up in my inbox with the subject "Welcome to the TED-Ed Innovative Educator Program! I did it!!! First step taken care of, however, I was not prepared for what was to come...
In recent years, I have truly been on a wild ride professionally. From almost walking away from the profession of teaching all together, the universe focused me back to education and instilled me with a burning desire to create change in education. Hence, I have been busy branding myself as an Edtech educator and becoming ambassadors and liaisons for many different edtech organizations and companies. However, my experience with the TED Innovative Educator program is on a totally other level! While other organizations are running ambassadorships more for promotion and marketing reasons of spreading their products, TED-Ed is truly different and unique. TED-Ed provides its TED Innovative Educators (TIE's) a program where the power of video is utilized to spread an array of ideas to humanity! The awesome explorations designed by the TED-Ed team (shout out to STING, Logan, and everyone there!) are meant to create growth and change the mindset of your outlook and perspective of education. It is what education needs today, MINDSET CHANGE! The exploration are just that, exploring the world of TED principles and ideas. Its about spreading ideas that can foster positive change and thoughts! This ambassador program will not only change your perspective on education, but on your role in this game called life. We are here to help one another and spread ideas that can help this world. As educators, we can bring this right to the youth and spread ideas that may change this world.
Step 2 sounded very simple. Open up your explorations, follow the lessons, schedule your video calls with your fellow TIE's, and start thinking of an idea or project. For the next few weeks, I participated on live video chats that covered various topics and ideas. Being a big fan of growth mindsets, right off the bat we were introduced to that very topic and the TED principles. I was hooked! I loved hearing the perspectives and ideas of other fellow TIE's from around the world and the anticipation of one day spending a weekend of ideas and conversations of change began to get me. The topics began to get even more intriguing and the conversations deeper in thought. While this was going on, internally I was struggling with my project and kept tossing different ideas in my head. Little by little, those voices of questioning myself continued to pop in and let it be known they exist. However, because of the awesome video chats and support from the TED-Ed team, excitement overcame any doubt.
Step 3 was here before I knew it. It was a TED-ED weekend! We were to spend our weekend at TED headquarters in NYC and little did I know it would be one of the best things I have experienced! While most of my TIE's were traveling to NYC from around the world for the last few days, I conveniently drove in being a state away in Jersey. We all set to meet in the Lobby of TED headquarters and meet the TED-Ed staff. We were graciously greeted and led to the Cadillac lounge next door. Breakfast was kindly provided and many of my TIE's were easily arriving. While we were there for our TED-Ed professional development, it was also #tededweekend where TED-Ed student speakers and clubs were getting ready for a day packed of students pitching their TED Talks. The TED-Ed team were doing double duty and hitting it out of the ballpark!
Saturday was a day full of workshops and experiences that were amazing. While breakfast was winding down, we had an amazing guest I was not prepared for, Chris Anderson. He personally came and greeted us and welcomed us to an amazing weekend and had an chance for some free QandA. It led to a statement he made that instantaneously solidified my project. We were discussing the idea of education needing to look at a push and pull theory. We can no longer push information and force it down our students throats. We need to create an environment and space where our students are pulled to our classrooms with questions and genuine curiosity to learn, tinker and make more! As this conversation began to blossom, we need to start heading upstairs for to witness the student speaker sessions.
As we sat down and began to start the session, I wasn't prepared for what I was going to see. Student after student stood up and pitched ideas, issues and solutions to some amazing topics! I was quickly full of inspiration to see these students of different ages and ethnic backgrounds and experiences, find the courage and motivation to get up and express their thoughts, emotions, and feelings on different topics. I was blown away by this experience and seeing all their hard work and dedication through their talks. I have heard of the TED-Ed Clubs, but now I had the privilege to experience the power and impact these clubs can do for education and society! Luckily I already filled out the application and have my call scheduled and now can not wait to get to work in my district and state.
During intermission, the TIES were guided back to TED headquarter for a little Design Thinking by none other than LittleBits. I was so excited when I saw them on our agenda. Being involved in the maker community, LittleBits was a well known edtech company that brings a whole lot of awesomeness to classrooms everywhere. We were greeted by Liza of LittleBits and given a little tinker time to freely experiment with the modules. I took a little step back in order to allow fellow TIE's to get to experience Littlebits and how they can be utilized in the classroom. The LittleBits team led us through a great breakdown of the application of LittleBits and created a challenge to compete in. This allowed the TIE's to collaborate and experience a great tool for students.
Next, after a delicious lunch and some time to mingle with fellow TIE's, we were broken up into two groups and matched with a guest roundtable speaker. Amazingly enough, I was in Reshma Saujani group, the CEO of Girls Who Code. Being involved with my own coding startup ( handsoncoding.org ), it was AMAZING to be able to take part on a discussion of coding, equality, and change in education. We were introduced to the work that Girls Who Code are doing for computer science and introducing girls to the broad world of computers and coding. It was so inspirational to hear Reshma speak of her troubles and tribulations but how faith in her dream kept her from quitting. This lit a fire of determination to continue to work hard everyday to assure my dreams are a reality.
After the roundtable discussions, we were led to hear the second half of student talks. Once again, these students blew me away. From personal interests in the world of computers and special effects, to a talk about equality being unfair, these kids poured their hearts and soul into their talks. I was so inspired for the ideas and innovations that the future generations can offer to humanity.
As the closing talks ended the students program, the night ended with an amazing dinner with this amazing group of people. Sunday quickly came and we were set for another day at TED headquarters that would allow us to pitch our TED-Ed project ideas to our TIE group. After experiencing an eventful pervious day, my idea and talk had finally come together. I think because of all the inspiration and roomful of amazing people and ideas, I finally felt sure what I wanted to pitch.
Full of nerves and anticipation, the TIE's began to hit the TED Stage and pitch their innovative idea projects. One after another they pitched ideas and projects that can truly change education. As they were delivering their pitches, I was reviewing my own pitch over and over in my head. When the time came to get up and pitch my idea, time seemed to fly up there. In a nutshell, the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for the Maker Mindset is to transform education. We can create a workshop or makerspace, and we can acquire tools and materials, but we will not have succeeded at creating innovative thinkers and doers unless we are able to foster a maker mindset. My project involves creating a resource for educators to attain positive news and reinforcement for maker projects. It will include resources on maker mindset for both students and educators. After my pitch quickly came to a close, I took a deep breath that allowed me to exhale all my fears and worries that had accumulated up to that point. In between our pitches, we were all being pulled aside in order to get hair and make-up done for a headshot photo shoot. The afternoon then made another shift to yet another experience and workshop.
The TIE's were then separated into sub-groups and teamed up with one of TED's acclaimed animators to give us a hands on experience into this world. We were given a crash course on stop motion animation and all the intricate setup and software necessary for this. I immediately starting brainstorming applications for its use in our district and the possibilities in all disciplines! We then took a round robin approach to meet the other animators and projects created by other TIE groups. AMAZING STUFF!!!
When we all reconvened to close out the weekend, we were wrapping up ideas and experiences of the weekend. TED Fellow, Logan Smalley, elegantly stated that we all deserved to be in the TED program and part of this amazing weekend. That statement really really struck a chord with me. I truly believe, everyone of my fellow TIE's were destined to be part of this amazing experience. We were all brought together and introduced to the TED mission and were meant to go through this. TED has laid down an incredible path for us to follow in order to spread ideas and innovation to our students and, eventually, create changes and shifts in our world. I am incredibly humbled and honored to have been part of this amazing experience I WILL NEVER FORGET. I created so many collaborations, connections, and ideas that will only lead to positive things. Thank you to the TED-Ed team and TED organization for this innovative program educators can utilize to be the catalyst to change in education.