What do you want to do before you die?

What a great question!  In this 6 minute TED Talk, Candy Chang shows some fantastic public art projects – no they’re more than that, they’re public connection projects.  In this video she takes a dilapidated house in New Orleans and turns it into a giant chalkboard for people to put down their dreams.  I’m sure the responses start off slow but its amazing to see the variety of responses.  You must watch to see the pirate guy – that’s worth the price of admission!

As many TED talks do, this one really made me think – what do I want to do before I die?  Here’s the best I could do on short notice.  Its a great exercise though and hopefully this helps keep me accountable and on track:

  • Shoot under 80 on a regulation golf course
  • Cycle around Australia, all the way around
  • Have people think and talk about mental health just as we talk and think about cancer or broken legs
  • Write a book
  • Help my kids crack the time travel problem (likely by paying for education, lots of graduate-level physics education)
  • Share a beer and a long laugh with my Mom and Dad on their deck at least once a year while we’re all here
I’m sure there are more, but that list is a good starting spot.  Join in the conversation by entering your “Before I die” goals below as a comment.

Lennart Green – some amazing card tricks!

So this TED talk is a bit out of the norm for this blog – nothing to do with education really.  It is highly, HIGHLY entertaining and very funny.  Lennart is described as “your rumpled uncle doing card tricks at the dinner table” which is actually very accurate.  He’s fantastic: slight of hand, self-deprecating, great showmanship.  Watch and enjoy!  If you don’t find him entertaining, watch the blonde volunteer’s face as she experiences these tricks close up; she’s worth the price of admission on her own!


Online education – is this the future?

Daphne Koller provides some very strong evidence that the future of university-level education must incorporate online components.  There has been so many recent announcements about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and universities collaborating with Coursera, EdX and Udacity amongst others that university faculty really do need to wake up and pay attention.

Education is changing

There’s been a lot of movement recently around how higher education can deliver more efficient and effective education. While I am a big proponent of in-class, face-to-face education the reality is is that we’re using that valuable time very poorly in most cases. We must rethink how we use that time with students to really develop skills and knowledge that they cannot learn on their own with the appropriate support including video, textbooks etc. Sal Khan demonstrates exactly this. If you’re interested in seeing where education in general is headed have a watch. I would love to hear your comments about this as well. Do you think this is the next wave or some ill-guided fad?

Shakespeare is everywhere!

I had the great pleasure of attending two Shakespeare plays this week at Bard on the Beach in Vancouver, Taming of the Shrew and MacBeth.  Very different plays for sure but what an incredible experience.  My motivation for attending was partly as a result of seeing Christopher Gaze live at TEDxVancouver last fall.  Christopher is the artistic director of Bard but really is the life and blood of that organization.  Almost 25 years ago he was a critical part of getting the Bard up and running and its amazing to see where he and many other directors, actors and volunteers have taken it.  If you’re out on the west coast of Canada this summer I highly recommend the experience.

Anyway, here is the TEDx talk that motivated me to begin with.  Whether you like Shakespeare or not, you will agree that Christopher is a fabulous public speaker, an entertainer and educator at heart.  Lessons for any teachers, students, or lovers of culture – enjoy!

Kill Powerpoint. Long live dancing!

This is a great example of using arts to express difficult science concepts. John Bohannon suggests that we should stop mis-using Powerpoint and wasting hours of everyone’s time, be a bit more creative and deliver a much more effective message. If you’re an educator, a researcher, or a lover of arts you’ll truly appreciate this TED talk.

Income equality drives social health?

This is a real eye-opener. What is really driving social wellness? Things like infant mortality, mental health, crime etc? It turns out that income equality, that is the magnitude of the difference between the top 20% and bottom 20% of a country’s population may be a very significant factor. Richard Wilkinson presents some very compelling statistics, damning statistics for countries like the UK and USA, that suggest we need to reduce income differences. There are a variety of ways of doing that – pretax salary/bonus mechanisms and income tax methods. As a human (well most days), I truly appreciate the power of the message he delivers. As a tax teacher I love to see the role that income tax can play in creating a functional and healthy society!

Major thanks to John Burton for passing this video along!

Counting, GDP and Happiness

A double-video post! The first is a very short speech (~1967) by Robert Kennedy about what is included in GDP and what is excluded. He’s got some great points that suggest GDP is a very poor metric.

The second video is a TED talk by Chip Conley (2010) about finding ways to measure what really matters. He uses the example of Bhutan and their movement to think about GNH (Gross National Happiness) versus GDP. I was made aware of GNH about five years ago but didn’t really understand it. As Chip explains, Bhutan is not trying to make everyone in the country happy, rather they are trying to ensure that the conditions to allow happiness to be experienced are in place. Let me put a teaching/learning flavour on that to close: Professors/teachers cannot require that learning happens but we can ensure that we create an environment that encourages learning.