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Everyone should give a TED talk

Everyone should give a TED talk

I spend a valuable afternoon Saturday at the TEDxPhiladelphiaED event. A dozen talks were given, including one on how research is changing and the growing importance of good school librarians by our own Joyce Valenza. (Who did a great job!) John Hunter, Zac Chase and Sharon Campbell, all classroom teachers, gave moving accounts of what it takes to reach kids (empowerment and caring). Kristen Swanson shared her love of “un-conferences” and Matt McInnes showed us the future of textbooks.

While topics, speaking styles and take-aways were unique to each speaker, they all shared one thing in common – passion. The love and fervor for what gave each speaker the courage to stand before peers and testify was palpable in the room.

So here is my question: Could you give a TED talk inspired by a personal passion for what you do? What would it be about? What would others learn from it? What makes you look forward to the next day even after a rough time at work? What do you take time to reflect on? What’s your obituary going to say mattered to you and why the world is a better place for your having been in it?

If you don’t know what your TED talk would be, I’d think hard about my career choice, my priorities, my life. Especially as an educator.

Oh, and yes, I've given a TED talk.

The other thing that kept running through my mind was that if Arne Duncan had been sitting in the audience how his vision for education and policies might change. I wonder who he does listen to? Business? Charter school organizers (and profit-takers)? Textbook publishers? Certainly test-makers. I have no real hope that real teachers will ever catch his ear. And that's why subversion is more important now than it ever was in Postman and Weingartner's day.


Just after I registered for the ISTE conference, this is what I threw away from my bag within ten minutes of receiving it:

Vendors, ISTE needs your support and you need to get product information out. But aren’t there more effective, more creative ways to do it than putting a piece of cardboard in a conference bag?

And ISTE, when can opt out of the tome that is the print program? When all the forests are gone to make paper, I’m blaming YOU! The iPad app is a good start for replacing the booklet, but it needs work! (How do I put my personal appointments in the planner?)

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Reader Comments (3)

I wish I could have been in the audience for Joyce Valenza's TEDxPhiladelphiaED talk. I was following the hashtag and it was obvious - she rocked the stage.

The TED talk format really forces a speaker to crystalize their thoughts to bring out the focus of their passion. At our HS Media Center we recently began showing videos on "TED Talk Tuesday". So far, the favorite one has been "Eric Whitacre: A choir as big as the Internet" ( The vocal coach integrated it into his class time after students came in raving about it. I would love to see students take on the TED talk format to replace the current "Death by Powerpoint/Keynote" and I've worked with several of our teachers to move in that direction.

A similar format is IGNITE - 20 slides in 5 minutes ( Our local newspaper has launched TransformED initiative and they kicked it off with an IGNITE event, during which 10 educators shared their stories. Mine was "Making Connections" ( during which I gave credit to several school library leaders, including you!

June 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Kaldenberg

I've been tinkering with an introductory presentation for the PTO at my new school and struggling with how to tell them that the library program is about to change completely. You've convinced me that taking the TED approach and speaking honestly and clearly about why I am excited to be in this role at this time will be the most compelling message.

Hope the Philly talks will be archived.


June 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErnie Cox

Hi Kathy,

I love your idea of TED Talk Tuesdays! I don't think the topic matters - it's the passion that makes it interesting!

Our SIGMS Forum used a TED model - short talks by practicing library media specialists. Much better, I thought, than the standard panel discussions.

Thanks for the comment,


Hi Ernie,

The TED Talk is a great format. Good luck with your intro!


July 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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