You know that magical moment when you realise that against the odds and defying expectation an idea reaches critical mass? Well we experienced it last Wednesday at TEDx Kids@Brussels. All along it was a challenge to explain the concept we were determined to implement: a full program of TED talks for adults running parallel with a series of workshops for kids. We knew the relationship between the two programs would be immediately clear to an audience member so, trusting in ourselves, our partners, collaborators and above all our audience and the kids, we forged ahead knowing no one had attempted anything quite like this before.
Rebooting education is a big ask and TEDx Kids@Brussels can only make some tentative suggestions for how education could look in the future; hopefully a rich mix of learning by doing, tinkering and making combined with hacking skills, music making and plenty of full-on group collaboration. One of TED's most watched videos is Sir Ken Robinson's funny, articulate and powerful appeal for creativity in the classroom. He laid down the challenge so the day started with his video, next year hopefully he'll make it in person. Our psychologist-in-residence Alyson Schafer continued to set the tone, laying out a manifesto of freedom and playfulness for parenting and child rearing. By this time two groups of ten year old kids were well stuck in to their workshops, learning programming with Walter Bender former head of the MIT media lab and designer of the Sugar operating system for the XO laptop. At the same time the peerless Mark Frauenfelder was introducing another group of ten year olds to hacksaws, electronics and robots.
Tan Le demonstrated her emotiv headset on the main stage which both grown ups and kids played with all day, followed by Gever Tulley, visionary founder of the Tinkering School. Gever continued later with his workshop when to the sound of furious sawing and banging the kids started making their own chairs. Pretty soon the groups were all sitting on the floor helping each other out and showing us all what ego-free group collaboration really looks like. Noam Perski gave a fascinating talk about how to hack a soccer game while Joris Peels introduced the kids to the miraculous joys of 3D printers. Both Mark Frauenfelder and Joris outlined their principles to the adult audience while live footage from the workshops (shot by high school kids by the way) played on the screen behind them giving a real time glimpse into the activities taking place down the corridor. Technology Will Save Us, a physical computing outfit from London, carried on in the afternoon taking on the considerable challenge of enabling 56 kids to solder a microprocessor, the famous Lumiphone whose swooping electronic tones was the soundtrack for the day. Maarten Lens Fitzgerald outlined the future of Augmented Reality in the auditorium while Hackasaurus, a Mozilla Foundation project, led the kids in performing the hackers dance outside in the sunshine, then everyone got the chance to hack the web. We even had the inventor of the term gamification Gabe Zichermann in person flying the flag for all things gamified .
The day ended with the coolest remix DJs on the planet, Mysto & Pizzi, introducing the kids to professional composition software and going on to perform the kidsourced track live on stage.
Huge thanks to all our partners, volunteers and participants and above all audience members and kids it was you who showed what is possible, thank you.
All in all I think we showed how education could be done, how kids can be motivated and empowered to learn and how our current understanding of classroom practices are ripe for the hacker and maker ethos. You saw it here first.