Interest-Based Learning

Student Passion and TEDx Talks

July 17, 2014
Photo credit: TEDxYerevan via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I instituted 20 Time in my classroom this year. I gave my students one day a week to work on anything they wanted as long as they were passionate about it. Here is a link to their blogs where they documented their journey. At the end of the year, they each needed to give an oral presentation focusing on what they had learned, not what they had accomplished.

As part of 20 Time, I decided to take on a project of my own. I wanted to see if I could organize a TEDx event that would allow my students to share their experiences with the world. After filling out the paperwork and submitting my application, TEDxGrossePointeSouthHS was approved for June 7. This event really took 20 Time to another level. Here are just a few things that stood out to me as I reflect on this awesome time with my students.

3 Powerful Observations

One of the things I saw as my students worked on their projects and prepared for their talks was the value they found in their work. Students wanted to complete the projects because they meant so much to them, and they wanted to make sure they created the best talk possible. They'd ask my opinion on the slides they were considering and how to engage the audience. I've seen years of classroom presentations, but I never had students come to me asking for presentation help. It was really remarkable and a wonderful teachable moment.

Another thing I saw with my students as they prepared for the TEDx event was the support they offered one another. They took all of the different projects seriously and were willing to help each other out. They'd listen to their classmates' talks in the hallway and offer suggestions on how to improve them. They cared about their peers' work in a way that I generally do not see in projects. The students understood that they were all trying to do something amazing, and came together to make sure everyone had the support he or she needed to create an awesome event.

The last thing that really sticks out for me was the element of pride I saw. Sometimes, students complete their work and are ready to move on to the next project. They are almost indifferent about their final project because it was something they had to accomplish to get a grade. While 20 Time was that way for some students, the majority worked hard on projects that filled them with pride when they were done. You could see it in their slides and hear it in their voices when they spoke. They had that glimmer in their eye as they talked about all of the effort that went into the project and the payoff at the end. This sense of pride is missing in education, and I'm excited to see that 20 Time gives students a place to have that wonderful feeling.

The Big Event

Organizing a TEDx event is not a simple task, so I turned to my students for support. My kids were so excited to be on the organizing team that they took over some major parts of the event. Some students designed the logo and brochure while others figured out the stage design and worked as stage managers. I was very proud of everyone who stepped up to take ownership of a big project that would allow friends to share their thoughts at TEDxGrossePointeSouthHS. The school year was a long one for these students who chose to invest their time and energy on a big project, and the TEDx event was the best payoff. They will all have amazing memories that will help define their high school experience. This is something I've always strived to accomplish in my classroom, and 20 Time helped me reach that goal this year.

I chose 19 great talks that displayed my students' passion and showed what they had learned over the course of the school year. This was not an easy process, but for me, these talks really speak to what is possible when students are given a chance to explore what they are passionate about and are allowed to share it with the community. Check out this video playlist of all the talks.

I think one of the best part of this entire project was the fact that students had a platform to share their thoughts with such an large audience. They were not speaking just to me or to their class, but to the entire world. The event was livestreamed and accumulated over 1,000 views from all over the world. At the end of the event, students shared on their blogs how scared they were about giving the talk, but how beneficial it was for them in the long term. They had an experience that will be with them for many years, and they'll have something to share online with their friends and family. (To capture some of the feeling, visit this Flickr album of TEDxGrossePointeSouthHS.)

The Cherry on Top

For me and for my students, 20 Time was a powerful classroom experience. I learned about myself as a teacher as I observed how my students engaged in the materials they were interested in for their chosen project versus how they engaged in the curriculum material. They spent time understanding what it meant to be passionate about something and how to pursue their goals despite the obstacles that might be thrown at them. The TEDx event was just a little extra cherry on top of the amazing frosted cake that was 20 Time. I encourage all educators to explore 20 Time and consider adding the cherry of a TEDx event on top if you really want to give your students a life-long memory.

For those interested in hosting their own TEDx event, check out the TEDx page to see which event fits your school or community.

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Filed Under

  • Interest-Based Learning
  • Integrated Studies
  • Student Engagement
  • 9-12 High School

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