Top 10 TED Talks on revolutionising education and online learning

Clipart suggestion of remote desktop with calculator, stationery and smartphone on desk near laptop while networking.

Does the current education system shape learners in a way that reflects the needs of our modern-day society? Do you feel that the current education system has a long way to go before it fully uses the potential of online learning?

This series of TED Talks on education is split into two groups. The first five talks deal with the subject of education in general, from elementary school through to post-secondary, as well as dealing with the concept of learning itself. According to the speakers in this group, the methods that are used in classrooms nowadays are good… But only for the economy and society of yesterday. They present many arguments which highlight that there is a critical need to apply a new way of thinking to our education system. The education system doesn’t need to be developed or improved upon – it needs to be revolutionised!

The second group of five talks focus specifically on online education. Anant Agarwal makes the case that online education is still very important to our society’s development and that we are still very far away from fully using the potential of online learning. Shimon Schocken, Sugata Mitra, Daphne Koller and Salman Khan then talk about four separate online learning platforms and explain what makes them useful and important.

Cameron Herold – Let’s raise kids to be entrepreneurs

Cameron Herold wants parents and teachers to recognise – and foster – entrepreneurial talent in kids. As was the case when he was younger, a child that appears to be a problem pupil may have hidden potential to become a maverick. Unfortunately, in both the educational system and society, entrepreneurial talent often gets overlooked. In his speech, he describes various projects he did as a young boy and discusses what today’s parents could do to hone entrepreneurial talent in their kids.


Ken Robinson – How to escape education’s death valley

Ken Robinson talks about the three most important principles for the human mind to flourish: human beings are naturally different and diverse; curiosity is natural for humans, and humankind is inherently creative. He goes on to suggest how we could change the education system which currently works against these three principles and achieve a culture of curiosity – not compliance. A system which would be human, not mechanical.


Ken Robinson – Bring on the learning revolution!

In another speech, Ken Robinson argues that the education system dislocates many people from their natural talents. What we currently have, is essentially an industrial model of education which is based on linearity and conformity. It simply measures and groups people instead of actually developing their abilities. As a result, we make very poor use of our talents. Many people go through their whole lives just “getting on with it” and get no real pleasure from what they do.
He suggests that we need to change the system to recognise what human communities really depend on diversity of talent – not a singular conception of ability.


Ramsey Musallam – 3 Rules to spark learning

In a fun and personal talk, Ramsey Musallam talks about three rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works. He learnt these life lessons the hard way – after reflecting upon the time when he was treated for a serious heart condition. In his talk he mentions how easy it is to observe these lessons in the behaviour of children, yet, in the adult world, where we learn how to do most practical things, they seem to be often forgotten.


Linda Cliatt-Wayman – How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard

In this talk, Linda Cliatt-Wyaman reflects upon her first day as a principal at one of the lower-performing schools in a district of Philadelphia. One student had some words for her which made her realise where the problem really lay and inspired throughout her career. Since then she has gone to several other schools and in some cases, had to literally rebuild them from scratch. The hardest to rebuild were, of course, the students themselves, most of whom came from poor and troubled families. In her speech, she talks about what approach and methods she used to turn their lives around and give them hope for a better future.


Anant Agarwal – Why massively open online courses (still) matter

MOOCs aka Massive Open Online Education Courses can make a difference in a modern-day classroom. In his speech Anant Agarwall, an education innovator, explains how these courses can benefit many people, using the generation of Millennials as an example. To illustrate the point he mentions several blended learning pilots that were tried in various countries. The case studies also highlight the importance of active learning over benchmarking, which is still a commonplace practice in schools today.


Shimon Schocken – The self-organizing computer course

According to Shimon Schocken, a computer science professor, educators need to create an environment which will tease out our natural ability to learn on our own. Inspired by his grandfather and parents who were all avid self-learners, he describes how he managed to incite curiosity about the way computers work in his own classroom. In addition, he tells us how the project that started in the classroom, eventually went viral and made a difference around the world.


Sugata Mitra – Build a school in the cloud

Sugata Mitra, an educational researcher, speculates about the future of learning. He explains why the current educational system is obsolete and more suitable for the bygone Victorian era. Analysing the lessons learnt from experiments with slum children in India, he concludes that a classroom environment should treat children a bit like a Grandmother – stand behind, watch them try new things and praise them every time they find out something new.


Daphne Koller – What we’re learning from online education

Daphne Koller, a co-founder of an MOOC, talks about the realities of inequality of access to education services worldwide. One example is the US, where the cost of education has risen 559 times since 1985 and made it impossible for many to access the knowledge they could use to thrive in their careers. In order to fight this phenomenon, she joined forces with Tom Friedman, an American journalist, and together they formed Coursera, a free online education platform, whose goal is to take the best courses from the best instructors at the best universities and provide it to everyone. She also mentions the amazing difference that the platform has already made, not only in the lives of individuals but also in entire communities worldwide.


Salman Khan – Let’s use video to reinvent education

In this talk, Salman Khan discusses his free online education platform, the Khan Academy, and its effects on learners, effects that he’s been observing before he started this project. He first started to notice the difference that online education can make when he was remotely tutoring his cousins living in New Orleans using YouTube videos. Khan’s experience illustrates how removing the one-size-fits-all lecture from the classroom and letting students have a self-paced lecture at home can bring joy back to learning.