A couple of weeks ago, I attended TedX BeaconStreet, a conference that touts a who’s who list of the most brilliant speakers in technology, entertainment, and design. , The parent company, Ted, (Ted.com) has a tagline that reads: “Ideas Worth Spreading.” The premise behind Ted is that a diverse set of minds from a variety of industries come together to sort of cross pollinate and share their respective perspectives on a variety of big issues like education reform or global warming or the financial crisis.
The concept is that the power of ideas can change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. “It’s both a virtual and physical clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.” Ted is remarkable not simply by virtue of its impressive speaker list, but the fact that these people, many of whom seem to have nothing common, are all in the same room together. You can literally see ideas being formed and evolved as these brilliant minds brainstorm and feed off one another. Like “Wow, I never thought of it that way!”
Sitting at the conference, fully entertained by the fascinating range of speakers, I began thinking about the significance of diversity of ideas when learning. A room full of neuroscientists will think about a problem through a similar lens. A room full of neuroscientists, musicians, educators, and politicians will most likely come at the same problem in a very different way. The theory being that this “recombination” of expertise can advance the solution to a more sophisticated level. As an educator, this brings an interesting and powerful opportunity.
How can we foster this cross-pollination of perspectives in problem solving in our own classrooms? After all, our environments are ripe with diverse perspectives.
In my own classroom, I have an expert in dinosaurs, another who is an amazing artist, another who can do gymnastics like an Olympian, one who negotiates masterfully whenever there is a conflict between kids, another who regales the class with so much humor that they are in stitches. We have leaders and followers and everything in between. We have those who are book smart and those who are people smart. Funny kids. Shy kids. Brilliant kids. And each one has something valuable to offer to our learning and idea sharing process.
What I took away from the Ted conference was this. There is an important role for each child to play in the classroom. We need them all – the more diverse the better. There is no place for one to be marginalized. Even those kids who appear to struggle either socially or academically play a pivotal part in the idea generating process. In an early childhood setting, this might be something like working out the strategy of how to approach a puzzle, or deciding what the class wants to learn about for its next curriculum theme.
In the end, it is another critical point to be made for classroom community.