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Quotes from TED Talks that inspire the education revolution

December 21, 2016 by Lindsay Racen


Many teachers actually use TED Talks to support the lessons they deploy to students. In fact the nonprofit network offers an entire section of their site dedicated to providing free tools for teachers to utilize in the classroom. The organization began in 1984 and represents the conversion of Technology, Entertainment and Design, and now incorporates endless topics on “ideas worth spreading.” This article pulls some of the best quotes on the education revolution stated by true visionaries in the field.

Ideas worth spreading that revolutionize education

Bring on the learning revolution!

Sir Ken Robinson is a world renowned “creativity expert.” In his presentation he calls for a radical shift from traditional curriculum to personalized learning. With over 4.67 million total views, his ideals are inspiring change throughout education systems around the globe.


Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment and it's not enough. Reform is no use anymore, because that's simply improving a broken model. What we need…is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else.

“So when we look at reforming education and transforming it, it isn't like cloning a system. There are many great models. It's about customizing to your circumstances and personalizing education to the people you're actually teaching. And doing that, I think, is the answer to the future because it's not about scaling a new solution; it's about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions, but with external support based on a personalized curriculum.”

“Now in this room, there are people who represent extraordinary resources in business, in multimedia, in the Internet. These technologies, combined with the extraordinary talents of teachers, provide an opportunity to revolutionize education. And I urge you to get involved in it because it's vital, not just to ourselves, but to the future of our children. But we have to change from the industrial model to an agricultural model, where each school can be flourishing tomorrow.”

What we're learning from online education

There has been a lot of discussion in higher education about the increased popularity of completing classes and even entire academic programs fully online. Dr. Daphne Koller encourages top universities to offer courses online and completely for free. She examines this act not as a service, but as a way to research and enhance how people learn. Simply put, each quiz, discussion and self-graded assignment builds provides an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed.

“So to summarize, if we could offer a top quality education to everyone around the world for free, what would that do? Three things. First it would establish education as a fundamental human right, where anyone around the world with the ability and the motivation could get the skills that they need to make a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. Second, it would enable lifelong learning. It's a shame that for so many people, learning stops when we finish high school or when we finish college.


By having this amazing content be available, we would be able to learn something new every time we wanted, whether it's just to expand our minds or it's to change our lives.

And finally, this would enable a wave of innovation, because amazing talent can be found anywhere. Maybe the next Albert Einstein or the next Steve Jobs is living somewhere in a remote village in Africa. And if we could offer that person an education, they would be able to come up with the next big idea and make the world a better place for all of us.”

Embrace messiness: The next role of higher education

Liz Coleman presented at the TED conference in 2009, sharing her hopes and concerns for the future of the American liberal arts education. Since then she has launched the Center for Advancement of Public Action (CAPA), which aims to place action and civic engagement at the center of learning. Author Elizabeth Jacobs followed up with Coleman in the time since her original presentation to explain her theories to enhance higher education and how adult learning can come into play when tackling complex, real-world problems.

"What we’ve really lost sight of is an education system that teaches how to ethically, effectively and intelligently engage with the world. This is not a matter of sentiment or enthusiasm, but how to really engage with challenges. It requires the most demanding development of your resources as a human being — the resources that enable you to think, to see, to listen.


Universities should teach students how to deal with a world in constant motion, a world that doesn’t come labeled and arranged for you, a world in which you have to work with a lot of other people both because you need their help and because they need to understand why you think what you’re doing makes sense. We’ve lost sight of this, but we can reclaim it through education.

“We can also think about adult education as a place to create an activist citizenry. There are schools all over this country and they usually don’t have things going on at night. How can we organize a way for adults to talk to each other about things of common concern? We’re very good at having people talk to each other about things that matter — when we do it. That would be a more systemic approach — not just the university, but how we can use education and the classroom across the board to improve society.”

Education revolution

In addition to the larger annual conferences that TED hosts, independently organized related events are also held on local levels. It's at one of these events where Ned R. Murray was spotlighted as a key speaker. As an educator dedicated to younger students, he sees the importance of analyzing higher education trends for the fundamental fact that teachers are preparing students to again their degree. He identifies four forces that are bringing down the university as we understand it.

“First, disruptive and scalable new technologies…Think about it, today’s economy, the internet is all about open equal easy access. And so it’s open source – its freeware, its shareware, it’s ‘the cloud.’ Networks? You can build from your own home or office, a global network of peers, a social network, a school network or professional network.”

“Radical new financial models. We all know the cost of education cannot continue to skyrocket every year, especially as median household incomes in America decline, and the debt we are saddling our young people with is unconscionable. Americans now rely more on student debt than on our credit cards and it totals over a trillion dollars. That’s unsustainable.”

“Third revolutionary force at the gates of academia – the free market wants limited and control access to open up...


If you think about it, access to information, access to knowledge, access to power, access to Harvard professors, access to libraries. Access, access, access is at the fingertips of anyone with a hand held device and an internet connection. That’s revolutionary.

“The [fourth] is breakthroughs in assessment. Our ability to reliably assess specific skills, both cognitive and non-cognitive, are [going to] undermine these imprecise, imperfect, inexact instruments that the whole system is built on now. These broad general tests like SATs, GREs, ACTs, it’s not clear to me what they test and how it relates to success.”

Let's use video to reinvent education

Another highly recognized speech published on the TED platform comes from educator Salman Khan. Telling the story of why he created Khan Academy and the power of interactive exercises utilizing video content and data. He promotes a type of blended learning and assessment based teaching to optimize education systems.

“By removing the one-size-fits-all lecture from the classroom and letting students have a self-paced lecture at home, and then when you go to the classroom, letting them do work, having the teacher walk around, having the peers actually be able to interact with each other, these teachers have used technology to humanize the classroom.”


The traditional model, it penalizes you for experimentation and failure, but it does not expect mastery. We encourage you to experiment. We encourage you to [fail]. But we do expect mastery.

“So our paradigm is to really arm the teachers with as much data as possible -- really data that, in almost any other field, is expected, if you're in finance or marketing or manufacturing -- and so the teachers can actually diagnose what's wrong with the students so they can make their interaction as productive as possible.”

Many of these concepts are already taking root in the education revolution at all levels of learning. As visually illustrated by University of Massachusetts Global’s modern day classroom infographic, new learning technologies are changing the landscape of higher education. These innovative thought leaders point out many reasons for these changes.



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