Nearly 300 graduate students, professors, and organization leaders gathered for a discussion of innovations in international education at Teachers College’s first TEDx conference on Friday.
The full-day event was organized by 10 Teachers College students and licensed by TED, a conference series intended to promote “ideas worth spreading,” according to its website. The TC conference featured presentations from 20 speakers, who covered topics ranging from technology and media in education, to gender parity, to peace through learning.
The speakers—including Columbia’s Hindu chaplain, Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, and CyberSmart Africa founder Jim Teicher—made an effort to inspire attendees with new ways of looking at global education.
The Project Girl Performance Collective’s presentation focused on gender and equity, highlighting the need to ensure that women receive equal education. The author Rosalind Wiseman—who wrote the book that inspired the film “Mean Girls”—focused on creative ways to stop bullying so that students have safe learning environments.
Representatives from three education-focused nongovernmental organizations also talked about promoting cross-cultural understanding by using technologies like digital white boards and video recordings in developing nations.
The idea of using the TED Talk platform to discuss international education was innovative in itself, according to Teachers College lecturer Jacqueline Simmons, one of Friday’s speakers.
“Academics tend to share their ideas in more formal formats—conferences—which are typically comprised of other academics,” Simmons said. “This is an opportunity to share ideas with a broader audience that includes students and people that work in community-based organizations.”
Many of the attendees were Teachers College students. Among them was bilingual/bicultural education major Gillian Cohen, who has done peacebuilding work with internally displaced communities in Colombia.
“I’m hoping to see some more creative ideas in how we can promote justice and peace, and teach that in both a classroom and in a community, both here and abroad,” she said.
Others, like Ezra Kwong—who is studying applied linguistics at TC—attended the conference with more specific goals in mind. Kwong, who spent four years teaching in China, plans to turn his family’s rural village house in China into a place for learning.
“We’ve been talking about renovating it and turning it into a school for the village,” Kwong said. “Getting ideas from this event hopefully will inspire me to follow through with that.”
The 10 TC students who organized the conference first had the idea of bringing TED Talks to Columbia last summer.
“It started off as a very small idea, and we didn’t quite know how big we wanted to make it,” Tamar van Gelderen, one of those students, said. “Then it grew much, much bigger than I think any of us had envisioned initially.”
Videos of all the presentations will be available on the TED website in the next few weeks. Van Gelderen is graduating in May, but she is hopeful that other students will continue organizing TEDx Teachers College conferences to cover more topics in education.
“I think without the enthusiasm and love and passion—and knowing that we really care so much for international education and that we really believe in TEDx as well—we wouldn’t have gotten all the way to Friday,” van Gelderen said.