Monday, May 6, 2013

TedxSydney 2013 - Mind = Blown

Thanks to TEDxSydney for the use of their image.
Mine didn't turn out like this.
What better reason to restart this blog than to report on the amazing experience that is TedxSydney. 
I've been the last three years and love every second of it. Even the conversations with people about that-one-talk-that-we-didn't-really-agree-with is engaging. 

It's very difficult to recap 13 hours (yes, actually 13) in one post so I'm going to do a short-short version of some of the talks, a recap of the best ones and reserve the ones that actually relate to EdTech and my world for future posts which will involve some editorialising on my part. 

Firstly, I have to mention the food. TEDxSydney did something amazing for the catering for the day. They sourced produce from the audience's backyard vegie patches through Grow It Local. This meant that the chefs didn't really know until the last minute what they would have to use to cater for 2200 people. It was explained to us by the organisers and then retweeted by the fabulous @MarkScott as "It's not a catastrophe, it's a mystery". Read all about it here. It really was an amazing and highly successful undertaking.

The only negative of the fabulous Opera House as a venue is that with a different catering point at either end you often got the feeling that the other end was moving faster and getting fed sooner. At one point we swapped ends and lines only to wait another extraordinary amount of time. After learning that lesson we decided to get a bit more Brittish and celebrate the opportunity of the line to get a bit of a chat happening.

Before I go on to recapping the amazing talks I want to shout out to the audience contributions. Gretel Killeen compered 15 audience members sharing their 30 second "idea worth spreading". Some of them won't be mentioned because they weren't stupendous (but honestly, props to everyone who got up there) but here are the best ones. 

Lawrence suggested that we should abolish  formal university assessment in order to encourage risk-taking, diversity and creativity. He got slammed a bit in the twitterverse because I think people thought he just wanted exams abolished so he didn't have to work so hard but he explained that as a university tutor, he believed that exams and cramming are detrimental to the values of academia and I tend to agree. There has to be some more discussion on this kind of idea, maybe we should steal for our schools for similar reasons. Bring on peer and self assessment.

Julie thought we should all sing more because it makes us happy and we're all good at it until we're discouraged at some point in our lives.

Chris thinks that we should teach 6 year olds how to program computers. He equates programming with teaching a computer to think and since we all know that teaching something to someone is the best way to learn it, the children will learn to think in ways ungraspable now. It's an interesting point.

Jeanie thinks the country and the world will be a better place if we all took in a refugee as a flatmate. She says that the best thing about it is how much she learns about another culture and by extension herself.

Lisa thinks that mandatory labelling to show the source of all elements of fashion will allow us to make sustainable decisions and might avoid disasters like what hit Bangladesh last week.

Jimmy wears an extraordinary beard to encourage all of us to get skin cancer checks. It's a good idea but the problem is I know someone who's trying to get a skin check at the moment and can't get an appointment. - Dodgy!

The Speakers - the short short version
The Day was kicked off by Professor Ron McCallum. His moving talk which keeps replaying in my mind was arguably the best of the day. He spoke simply and clearly about his life achievements despite blindness from birth. The power of his speech was in his passion for his assistive technologies and his positivity about all aspects of his life. His talk will be discussed in more detail in a later post.

Alice Gorman then encouraged to claim cultural ownership of shallow space. She thinks that the space junk in close orbit around the earth as well as probes we have left on Venus and other places in our Solar System hold human cultural value and should therefore not just be shot out of orbit for convenience.

Jennifer Robinson was one of the amazing people who makes me feel completely inadequate. She has achieved in her reasonably short career some human rights coups. She is passionate about raising awareness of the plight of West Papua and I respect her tenacity and devotion to this cause.
Quote from Nelson Mandela "It always feels impossible until it's done."

Simon Jackman talked about the "presumptuous juxtaposition of words" that is "Political Science" He had some very interesting ideas about the Data revolution, big data and the impacts on democracy. His talk requires further discussion and not just because I'm a bit of a data nerd.

Danny Kennedy loves solar. He talks about the changes in his approach to word-changing activism over his life-time and concludes that maybe rather than preaching at people they need to state messages the population wants to hear and work with the "enemy" - the big energy companies. It appears that he's making progress with this approach and I am determined to be one of the huge number of Australians attaching panels to their roof asap.

Lisa Murray has interesting ideas about our future memories regarding born-digital information. This is too important an issue of my life and work to be dismissed in a paragraph so this idea will be getting its own post soon.

Bill Pritchard spoke about famine and undernourishment and the cycle of Livelihood, Capability ad Entitlement. The most important point he made and one that makes us feel impotent is the "Viscious Cycle of Unfreedom" To buy good food you must have a job, a good job requires a healthy body and a good education, a good education relies on strong brain development and strong brain development and much of the requirements of a healthy body are dependent on in utero nourishment and nutrition. This is unbelievably sad.

Joost wants us to rethink our buildings and our cities and is regularly showing us exactly how to do that. We should be growing food on top of our houses. Sustainable design makes so much sense in a country like Australia. Why do we have little boxes with red tile or colourbond roofs stretching to the distance? we have sunshine, soil and enough rain. Our city and suburbs are  built on prime growing plains. How do we influence businesses and governments to build projects with these principles in mind.

Marc Newson's conversation was a little disappointing because I expected to learn so much. He said at one point that he thinks that all designers should be preoccupied with longevity and that he has no interest in the disposable. In this day and age I think that discarding the disposable as not worthy of good design is a mistake. Design is just good problem solving and we wer surrounded by ways that TEDx was trying to improve sustainability with good disposable design.

Andrew Parker blew my mind. The idea that colours is often caused, in nature, by a system of defraction gratings or nanostructures that we don't fully understand but can copy for use in products is unbelievable. I've been happily meandering through life choosing clothing and products completely unaware of where that illusory colour came from. I need to do more research into this stuff because I think it will inform my digital design. I just wish I'd been able to find Andrew Parker to ask him the question I was sent to TEDx by my sister to ask... "What is it about a dog's eye that means it can't read red in it's environment?" I guess I'll have to rely on Google.

Omar Musa was musical as always. I loved that he transitioned from conversing pleasantly with the audience to fabulous rhythmic phrases about where he grew up. "An alphabet of exiles, far from place of birth." Perfection.

Marita Cheng is a cutie and she's one of my people - teaching girls how to work robots and understand engineering and making. Anyone encouraging girls into the "boys subjects" is alright with me. I credit her with the great line that gave my the title of this blog post. 

David Sinclair is pretty excited about being pretty close to developing a pill against aging but since it basically does what eating less and excercising more does, maybe it should be called the Lazy Pill.

Damian Mander asked what we were going to do to alleviate animal suffering. 

Rebecca Huntley was fascinating about the labelled boxes we don't like to be put in - "I'm not a consumer", "I'm not a battler", "I'm not rich" - but love to put others in. What she's discovered through her study of all of us through social analysis is that we have more in common than we think and that she feels she should spend her time identifying the similarities rather than the differences.

George Khut talks about using our bodies, technology and art to increase wellbeing. I loved this talk because of the mesmerising colours but also because it's part of a larger discussion of how technology can assist our wellbeing rather than be always detrimental to it as is usually reported. I will be exploring this more soon.

Finally, but one of the most impactful talks, Paul Pholeros spoke of the simple solutions he's bringing to indigenous communities or villages in Nepal to improve health with improved housing. He is really making an impact on real people on the edges of real poverty in our world. He has improved cases of "developing world" diseases in our aboriginal communities - oh the shame - by reducing flies and dust and fixing showers, electricity systems and fixing toilets. Astounding! How do I give this man money/time/awareness?

So that's the short version. I will be posting over the coming days about my favourite and most pertinent talks and how they should impact my teaching life. What an amazing day. I will keep going for as long as they still have me. 

Thank you to the whole team.


  1. Well, thst's a bit of a fireworks display in my day - thank Hoges. Love having my vision lifted by you. Chris

    1. What a lovely comment. Makes it worth the effort