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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Innovative? Maybe We Just Like Change.

Back in May of this year, the e-mail started with "Congratulations! We are thrilled to welcome you to the first cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Teachers."

From the TED-Ed site: 

The TED-Ed Innovative Educator (TIE) program is a year-long professional development program for dynamic educators who are dedicated to celebrating the ideas of students and teachers around the world. It’s a global program that connects leaders within TED’s network of over 250,000 teachers. As TED’s on-the-ground education ambassadors and advocates, TED-Ed Innovative Educators engage in two months of digital training and 10 months of leadership and innovation projects.

I still don't understand why I was chosen to be part of this select group. I'm just trying to become better at this thing I do for my kids. I think they deserve that. I owe them that.

Over the next few summer months, I'd participate in bi-monthly video conferences with educators from, and not to use the most overused word in the english language, but literally from all over the world. Every other week I'd turn on the webcam in South Bend, IN and work with educators from Brazil, Poland, Indonesia, South Korea, Canada, the U.S. and others. A true worldwide effort that includes 28 educators in 11 countries. Their ideas on innovation were shared on TED-Ed's blog.

Somewhere along the summer we realized that TED and TED-Ed team were going to bring all of us together in New York City to work together and attend the TEDYouth 2015 Event. I got off the video call that morning and quickly messaged some of my 'tweeps' in a "did I hear that right?" effort to clarify the "did I hear, what I just think I heard?" I had, and for the next couple of days my wife had to peel me off of our living room ceiling. 

As I approached the mid-November weekend, I could feel the buzz building on our private Facebook page. Sub-plans, packing, countdowns, and trip to the airport updates were filling the timeline. They first arrival updates starting hitting on Wednesday, Eva was here from Cyprus, Steven from Indonesia was already half way on his 21 hour trip, all of us descending on Tribeca.

I had built some time to explore some New York neighborhoods that I hadn't previously and took in a Rangers game with fellow TIE Nick Provenzano I've posted some of those photos on my Instagram.

On our first morning, most of the TIEs met in the lobby and shortly after a few welcoming hugs and handshakes we found ourselves at the top of the Hugo Hotel. A beautiful space overlooking the river and Manhattan was where we started sharing ideas on what education would look like in 15-20 years. We also had an opportunity to share our TED-Ed Innovation Projects that will amplify student voice and help teachers utilize TED-Ed tools and curated content for their classrooms.
It was here, surrounded by creativity, enthusiasm, floor to ceiling glass walls, sparkling water, and Manhattan, that I began to realize how special this group was. There wasn't an ounce of pretension or ego in the room. The conversations were natural, insightful, and incredibly encouraging. We shared, we laughed, we listened. It was during breakfast that it was clear that we were becoming collaborators not simply colleagues. Friends, not just acquaintances.  
We're All Educators
Whatever our position, whatever our role, the TIEs are all educators. Having a chance to listen, share, and share a space with such a diverse group was simply a transformative experience. I could have spent a week working side-by-side with this group, but I'll settle for a few days. Those few hours were the model on what education should look like.
TED's Chris Anderson

The gang at TEDYouth 2015, Brooklyn Museum - NYC
The gang at the TED offices, NYC. (photo Dian Lofton)
TED-Ed Staff
The TED-Ed staff are amazing. I can't say enough about this group. They bring out our best. They planned for everything and facilitated an incredibly productive gathering. Their forethought, vision, and execution of the weekend's event allowed the TIEs to focus on collaborating, creating, and bonding. Flawless logistics. A great group and on top of that, very nice people! Very.

Learning Opportunities 
From brainstorming, creating animation, learning about cutting edge Adobe products, and witnessing genius on stage at TEDYouth, our days were filled with learning. Hard to pick a favorite moment, but creating an animated short video was tremendously rewarding and dream fulfilling. Special thanks to TED-Ed animator Jeremiah Dickey, who not only wields high-tech tools masterfully, but appreciates old-school analog as well. (e.g. Blackwing 302s)
Part of the amazing TED-Ed animation team, Jeremiah Dickey
We're in Good Hands

The official close of the weekend was the TEDYouth 2015 event held at the beautiful Brooklyn Museum. It was the first time in a couple of days that we had some unstructured time and it took the TIEs to figure out what to do with ourselves, which of course led to more exploring and conversations. We were able to take in all of the speaker's exhibits and stands. Including watching the amazing Pixelation project put on by my new best friends, the TED-Ed animators, create this amazing video. Here are some pictures of how it was done. The adult speakers were great, but my favorite talks were the kids. I loved hearing their excitement about the things in their world and plans to make it a better place. Inspiring.
Ishita Kaytal advises us to Don't ask what we want to be when we grow up. Ask what we're doing now" - Photo Ryan Lash (Flickr)
I'm a TIE 
Maybe I was chosen because I'm not afraid to try new things. Maybe innovation is simply not continuing to do something just because we've 'always done it that way." As I said in my Ted-Ed Innovative Educator highlight profile, "innovation is doing what must be done, instead of what has always been done." 

My students and I don't need permission to innovative, we just need to try. Let us fail, let us succeed. 

Thanks to TED-Ed and my innovative friends for letting me do both.

For more looks in on the weekend visit Workshop Photos 
The applications for the next TED-Ed Innovative Educator cohort opens up soon (December, 2015) find out more here


  1. Eric I am proud to call you friend and fellow TED EdIE. You embody everything that is well and innovative in education. It is your willingness to see the big picture, and ability to leave the safety of what's working now in your dust in order to envision and shape the next one. Keep on rippling the awesome.

    1. Thanks Will. This post could have easily been three times as long. Truly an amazing learning experience. "Ripping the Awesome" just might be my newest hashtag. Nice


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