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Videos about Education & learning

Alan Smith on TED.com

We should be fascinated by numbers says Alan Smith in his challenging and amusing TEDxExeter talk. And TED must agree as it has selected his as one of the few TEDx talks that are featured on  TED.com. We are delighted that, as a result it will reach a much larger, global audience. The statistics (yes) show that this is a rare honour. Fewer than 1 per cent of TEDx talks feature on TED, and Alan’s is the 8th TEDxExeter talk to be chosen.

In his talk Alan Smith, who is data visualisation editor at The Financial Times, uses statistics to illustrate the massive difference between perception and reality in many areas of life. “Statistics are most wonderful when they surprise us,” he says. “They are about us as a group … the science of us, and that’s why we should be fascinated by numbers.”

Amusingly he demonstrates that the National Statistician and Jeremy Paxman are just as likely not to know what’s really going on in their neighbourhood as anyone else. He also busts the myth that some people are good at numbers, while others aren’t.

“I am thrilled that this talk has been selected for TED.com,” said Alan Smith. “It’s increasingly hard to avoid statistics in modern life – so we need to learn to love them for what they are: surprising, revealing and the key to answering so many important questions.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “We are delighted that an eighth TEDxExeter talk has been selected for TED.com. We already know from our own website stats that we have visitors from around the world; now these talks will be seen by an even greater global audience.

“Alan presents numbers in ways that we can all understand – even those who have thought themselves bad at numbers since maths lessons at school. Not only does he challenge prejudices and misunderstanding, he also makes you laugh. It is great news that Alan’s ideas will now reach people all around the world through TED.com.”

Live blogs about Education & learning

Simon Peyton Jones talk

Simon Peyton Jones featureAt school, we teach children about applicable skills using artefacts that date quickly, like MS Office. We also teach them foundational disciplines and techniques that don’t date, like physics. In IT, we’ve lost sight of the underlying discipline, resulting in focusing too much on technology and not enough on ideas. Simon wants children not to consume technology, but to be creative with it… as a parallel, to be writers of books as well as readers.

Computer scientists are viewed as geeky, but the subject should be thought of as foundational for all. Computer science is about information, computation, algorithms, re-usable skills, communication, coordination, programming, abstraction, modelling, design. All abstract words, so Simon is showing a video of children each holding a number and learning how to sort. The exercise encouraged children to ask questions about doing things better. Now about communication. Can Simon and a friend have a public conversation to agree on a private key that can be used to encode conversation and make it private to them? It’s possible online using what’s known as Diffie-Hellman key exchange.

Why computer science for every child? All children learn science, but not all will become physicists. It’s about learning about the world around us, so we become more empowered. Similarly with the digital world that we inhabit. Computer science has helped us understand the natural world too, such as distributed computation in termite nests, or how human cells decide whether to become kidneys or lungs. And computer science also provides generic applicable skills. (All subjects say they provide generic applicable skills; it just happens to be true for computer science!)

As of 2014, there will be a new school subject and curriculum in England, from primary age onwards. It is being observed around the world in other countries thinking about the same issues. The new challenge is to encourage and equip existing computer science teachers to deliver the new curriculum. Many of them don’t have enough background in computer science, so they need help from the IT sector, including anyone in the audience today. The Department of Education is consciously standing back, so this is the big society in action.

Simon chairs the Computing at School group, a grass-roots organisation, which is at the centre of the challenge of training teachers across the country. If you are an IT professional, get involved. If not, at least talk to your schools.

What are we hoping to gain for our children from this? [Simon’s talk follows well from Sonia’s] That they are engaged, curious, playful, creative, empowered, informed, and employed(!).

Camilla Hampshire talk

Camilla Hampshire BWThe Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter reopened in 2011 after four years of regeneration, and is currently the Art Fund Museum of the Year. Camilla is telling the story of a “Home for a Million Thoughts”.

RAMM opened in 1868 as a 3D encyclopedia of the world, aimed at educating the local population. It was funded by local subscription, not philanthropy, so there is still a strong feeling of local ownership.

People were glad the Museum had the investment for regeneration, but often asked “you aren’t going to make it worse, are you?” The project team asked two key questions: What is the role of museum collections in the information age? and How do we expect visitors to benefit from their visit?

To answer the second question first, the museum is still about education and personal growth, inspiration and creativity. So the Museum staff offer interpretation to visitors, quite different from the original prescriptive approach.

“Home for a Million Thoughts” tries to encapsulate the spark that happens when a human mind encounters a real object. This is something that can’t be found replicated over the internet, hence the answer to the first question.

This led to implications for laying out the Museum, firstly the taxonomy of how galleries are structured and what objects they contain. RAMM will always be collection-led. The regeneration created narratives, immersive exhibitions, such as the gallery on history of Exeter. This produces richer engagements between objects, and a touch of magic.

Then RAMM contains shared space where people of all backgrounds can come together. It aims to provide room for delight, humour, surprise and other human emotions. “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else, and seeing something different.” RAMM hopes to enable moments of discovery by linking the past with ideas for the future.

More Information

Royal Albert Memorial Museum