When I started the TED Talks 30 Day Challenge, I was seeking a solution to the problem I was having of not getting enough intellectual stimulation from high quality professional learning experiences. I really wanted to broaden my horizons by stepping outside of the types of sessions that I typically have access to. Early on in the journey, I unknowingly shifted the focus from one that was personal to one that was more for the readers of this blog. As I entered the final stretch, I once again came to the realization that the learning was for me and that any readers that I might have were really secondary to my experience.
As I have been reflecting on this, I suppose in many ways this is exactly the type of transformation that we hope to see in our students. What started out as this quest for new information quickly turned into something that really resembled an academic assignment. At some point, it started feeling more like work and less like learning. For many of our gifted students this often happens in their school experiences as well. We sometimes unknowingly rob them of the joy of the pursuit of learning to satisfy personal curiosity by turning things into an assignment.
Over the course of 30 days, here are four things that I learned.
1. Story Matters
Well, I really knew this already, but watching 30 Ted Talks really cemented this for me. The talks that were the most memorable sought to connect with the audience on a personal level by sharing their unique narrative. It wasn’t just a list of facts, figures, data, and theory. Instead, each effective speaker answered the question of “SO WHAT?” in a way that was compelling. At the root of everything is story.
2. Learning is Personal
When I started the challenge, I asked for recommendations from friends and followers. This really helped to expand my viewing list and helped to present talks to me that I might not have watched otherwise. We do not know if we are interested in something unless we have been exposed to it. Yet, we are also not going to be interested in everything. The further that I got along this 30 day path, the more that I wanted to watch things that I had selected or that TED had selected for me based on my previous views. I found that by creating an account on TED.com and allowing the site to make recommendations that I was guided to what turned out to be some of my favorites talks on the list.
3. There are Mean People Everywhere
When March began, TED.com encouraged people to be more active in contributing comments on each video on their site. At first, I thought this was a great idea, but then I was quickly disappointed. I learned a long time ago to steer clear of comments on platforms like YouTube and to mute trolls on Twitter, but I had higher expectations for the TED community. Let’s just say that there are some very disagreeable people that like to try to show everyone how “smart” they are by leaving lengthy and rather acerbic comments. While I wholeheartedly support intellectual discourse, the entire experience left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.
4. Everyone Has Their Own Style
Again, I kind of already knew this, but seeing how different everyone’s approach to a TED Talk was, my hypothesis was supported. There is not just one way of communicating your message or sharing your story. Instead there were 30 unique talks. Some used visuals. Some read from notes. Some spoke very fast. Some spoke very slow. Perhaps the one thing that they all had in common, is that the speaker had had some type of deep and personal experience with the content and they felt compelled to share it with the world.
After 30 days, have I learned to be a better presenter? Probably not. Did I see 30 of the best talks that I had ever seen? No, not really. There was definitely a range in quality, and having some prior interest in the topic can also improve the quality of the talk. Would I recommend that you take a 30 Day TED Talk Challenge? Yes. I would. Just don’t let it become a job. I would also recommend taking the weekend off. Or if that does not work for you, binge a 3 or 4 at a time on the weekend. Figure out a plan that is going to work for you, and then go out and commit yourself to learning something new.
In case you are interested, here is my complete viewing list.
01. Try something new for 30 days — Matt Cutts
02. The case for curiosity-driven research — Suzie Sheehy
03. The first secret of design is … noticing — Tony Fadell
04. Your kids might live on Mars. Here’s how they’ll survive — Stephen Petranek
05. Designing for simplicity — John Maeda
06. Why some of us don’t have one true calling — Emilie Wapnick
07. The power of vulnerability — Brené Brown
08. The danger of a single story — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
09. Why you should make useless things — Simone Giertz
10. The myth of average — Todd Rose
11. The decline of play — Peter Gray
12. What adults can learn from kids — Adora Svitak
13. Where are the baby dinosaurs? — Jack Horner
14. Your body language my shape who you are — Amy Cuddy
15. Kindergarten for our whole lives — Mitchel Resnick
16. The cooperation paradigm — Janine Driver
17. Doodlers, unite! — Sunni Brown
18. A story about knots and surgeons — Ed Gavagan
19. Why we need to talk to children about race & difference —Biz Lindsay-Ryan
20. The surprising habits of original thinkers - Adam Grant
21. Grit: The power of passion and perseverance — Angela Lee Duckworth
22. Success, failure, and the drive to keep creating — Elizabeth Gilbert
23. Why you will fail to have a great career — Larry Smith
24. My journey to yo-yo mastery - Black
25. Be and artist, right now! - Young-Ha Kim
26. How to manage for collective creativity — Linda Hill
27. Scientists must be free to learn, to speak and to challenge — Kirsty Duncan
28. Why the building of the future will be shaped by … you — Marc Kushner
29. Advice to a young scientist — E.O. Wilson
30. Talk nerdy to me — Melissa Marshall
Thanks to everyone who made a viewing recommendation. I really appreciated learning more about you and your interests. If you come across an outstanding TED Talk that you think everyone should see, be sure to share it below.