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← Natural-born learners | Alex Beard | TEDxYouth@Manchester

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Showing Revision 14 created 09/19/2019 by Peter van de Ven.

  1. So I'd like to tell a story
    about the future of learning,
  2. and it begins 10 years ago in a classroom
    just off the old Kent Road in South London
  3. on my very first day
    as an English teacher.
  4. And at first we struggled;
  5. the kids didn't know much
    about Shakespeare,
  6. and I knew even less about teaching.
  7. I was a fresh-faced university graduate
  8. who'd been to this lovely
    primary school in the countryside
  9. and then onto a secondary school
    that even had its own pack of beagles,
  10. and I thought that teaching
    was really simple.
  11. You stood at the front of the classroom
    and talked about ideas.
  12. But it wasn't that simple.
  13. The kids I taught faced real challenges:
  14. about half of them
    were on free school meals
  15. and two-thirds spoke English
    as a second language.
  16. And all of them came to school
    years behind where they ought to have been
  17. in their reading and writing.
  18. And it was frustrating.
  19. The kids were smart and they were witty;
  20. they just weren't doing well academically.
  21. And around us, I was aware,
    the world was changing really fast.
  22. My students were using smartphones
    and beginning to live in the future,
  23. but I thought the methods
    I was using as a teacher
  24. might have been familiar
    to the ancient Greeks,
  25. particularly if their students
    made jokes every morning
  26. about their failure
    to properly iron their togas.
  27. And at the same time,
  28. I felt pushed by the system
    towards focusing on their exams,
  29. helping the kids get that C grade
    that they needed.
  30. But by the time they left school,
  31. it was being predicted
    that by their 30th birthdays,
  32. about half of the jobs
    they were planning on doing as adults
  33. were going to be automated by robots.
  34. And if the robots were coming
    to get all the jobs,
  35. I thought we had to do a lot better.
  36. I was hopeful, however.
  37. I thought if we could take all
    that we now knew about the human mind,
  38. our neuroscience and psychology
    and early child development,
  39. and combine it with our new technologies,
  40. our computers and the internet,
    big data and AI,
  41. that we might be able
    to transform human learning
  42. and get more out of our minds
    than we ever had before.
  43. But what is it that our minds
    are capable of?
  44. And what is it we should be learning today
    to thrive in the future?
  45. These were the two questions
  46. that set me off on a two-year journey
  47. around the world
  48. and into the future that became my book.
  49. And it took in visits
    to ground-breaking schools
  50. on six different continents,
  51. meetings with trailblazing teachers
  52. and explorations of the most
    cutting-edge science and technology.
  53. And it left me sure
    of one thing above all:
  54. that in this age of AI,
  55. we've to turn our attention
    away from our devices
  56. and instead invest everything we have
    in developing ourselves.
  57. So I begin with this idea
    that human intelligence is under threat.
  58. In 1997, when the chess
    grandmaster guy Kasparov
  59. was beaten by IBM's computer Deep Blue,
  60. it was seen as a sign
  61. that computers were already becoming
    more powerful than our human minds.
  62. Some people predicted
    that soon we'd see the singularity,
  63. a moment when we could merge our minds
    with superintelligent machines
  64. and transcend our biological limitations.
  65. But I wasn't sure we should be giving up
    on our brains just yet,
  66. and so first I traveled to South Korea
  67. to see how much
    we were capable of learning.
  68. So on a warm Thursday morning in November,
  69. I stood outside this concrete school hall
  70. in Songdo future city,
    on the outskirts of Seoul,
  71. as all across the country
  72. hundreds of thousands
    of South Korean teenagers
  73. were sitting down
    to the eight grueling hours
  74. of a Suneung,
  75. an exam that takes place
    on a single day each year
  76. and is considered the world's toughest.
  77. Afterwards, school leavers
    are given a national rank
  78. that decides their whole lives:
  79. what university they'll go to,
    what job they can do -
  80. their whole health, wealth and happiness.
  81. And I was there to hear
    the story of Seung-Bin Lee,
  82. who was a mild-mannered,
    softly spoken 17-year-old
  83. who at that moment
    was sitting inside the exam hall,
  84. his hands shaking,
  85. about to get started.
  86. The country was exam crazy.
  87. Earlier that morning,
  88. police on motorcycles
    had lined the streets,
  89. ready to accompany
    any latecomers to the exam hall.
  90. In the weeks leading up to the exam,
  91. newspapers ran articles
  92. about what you should eat
    for optimum performance,
  93. what clothes you should wear,
  94. even what offerings you should leave
    at the temple for the gods.
  95. During the 45 minutes
    of the English-listening exam,
  96. all flights in the country were grounded
  97. so as not to affect
    the kids' concentration.
  98. You see, Korean learning was all about
    these kind of marginal gains.
  99. Seung-Bin even confided to me
  100. that he'd been worried
    about overheating during the exam,
  101. and so he'd sneaked off halfway through
    to remove his underpants -
  102. which begs the question
  103. of what he did with them
    for the rest of the exam.
  104. But you see, success was in these details.
  105. He said you had to get into the zone
  106. and become an instrument
    of pure exam-taking technique.
  107. It was better, he said,
    not to think at all.
  108. Now, it's extreme,
  109. but Korea actually shows us the power
    that education can have on our minds.
  110. Sixty years ago, the country was broke
    coming out of the Korean War
  111. and four in five Koreans were illiterate.
  112. Today, its GDP has grown 40,000%
  113. and it's one of the world's
    top high-tech economies,
  114. with companies like Samsung and Hyundai.
  115. It's also now got the highest proportion
    of university graduates, of population,
  116. of any country in the world,
  117. and in 2010, it's teens were ranked
    the smartest teenagers in the world.
  118. An education minister there I talked to
  119. told me that you had to understand
    that Korea has no resources,
  120. just their minds and hard work.
  121. But this hard work
    is taking a heavy toll in Korea.
  122. Before I left, Seung-Bin showed me
    his revision time table.
  123. In the three years
    leading up to the Suneung,
  124. he'd worked 14 hours a day,
    five days a week,
  125. and a relatively chilled out
    12 hours a day
  126. on both Saturday and Sunday.
  127. He told me that to relax,
    once a month he would watch a DVD.
  128. Korea has the highest
    teen suicide rate in the world.
  129. Adults I spoke to cried
    recalling their school days.
  130. When I asked Seung-Bin
    what he did to beat this stress,
  131. he just looked at me and said,
  132. "I know it sounds strange,
    but I have to work even harder."
  133. So, convinced of the power
    of our minds to learn more,
  134. I traveled next to Silicon Valley,
    point zero of the tech tsunami.
  135. I'd heard we might be able
    to harness our computers
  136. and make our minds
    unimaginably more powerful.
  137. I wanted to know if that was the case.
  138. So at a place called Rocketship Schools
  139. in San Jose,
  140. I met my first robot teacher.
  141. But it wasn't an android
    with a human face;
  142. instead, it was a bit
    of intelligent software
  143. inside an online learning environment.
  144. So at Rocketship Schools,
    they've got the "Learning Lab."
  145. And I went there with
    the head teacher, Miss Guerrero,
  146. after I had watched her
    lead 500 primary-school kids
  147. in a sing-and-dance-along
    to "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift,
  148. which she called
    "morning coffee for the kids."
  149. And they were certainly pumped up.
  150. So then we went to this cavernous room
  151. in which there are 120 five-year-old kids
    sitting in long rows in front of laptops.
  152. Each of them was wearing a purple
    polo shirt and outsize headphones.
  153. And the room was eerily silent
  154. except for the sound
    of soft fingers tapping on keys.
  155. So each kid was using a program
    called ST Math or Lexile,
  156. and as they were using it,
  157. the computer began to understand
    their individual strengths and weaknesses
  158. and adapt the experience to them.
  159. So they were building on their strengths
  160. or tackling errors
    that they weren't so strong in -
  161. personalizing the experience
    to each individual kid.
  162. And every student would spend
    between 60 and 90 minutes
  163. on their laptop each day,
  164. and there were no teachers in the room,
  165. just a pair of untrained
    young adult supervisors.
  166. And it worked.
  167. At Rocketship Schools, the kids
    do pretty well in their math and English
  168. compared to their peers
    from similar backgrounds.
  169. But I was struck by this thought:
  170. Did it really make sense for computers
    to be teaching kids things
  171. that the computers themselves
    could already do so much better?
  172. A similar thought
    had occurred to Gary Kasparov
  173. when he was defeated by Deep Blue.
  174. And this new kind of chess competition
    emerged, called "Advanced Chess."
  175. In these competitions,
  176. any combination of humans and computers
    can play chess against one another,
  177. and until very recently,
  178. the winners of those tournaments
  179. weren't the most powerful computers
    nor the greatest human grandmasters;
  180. instead, they were teams
    of amateur human players
  181. who had learned to coach their laptops
    to play chess really well.
  182. Our ability to learn to coach our machines
  183. makes us more powerful
    than machines can ever be alone.
  184. Down the coast from Rocketship,
    at a place called High Tech High,
  185. I saw kids learning
    to use technology in this way.
  186. So at High Tech High,
  187. they spend about half their time
    in these big cross-disciplinary projects.
  188. And in a single classroom of 16-year-olds,
  189. they had divided themselves up
    into three groups.
  190. One group was experimenting
    with making biodegradable seed pods;
  191. another group was planning and scripting
    a documentary they were going to film;
  192. and a third group was building
    their own drones, completely from scratch.
  193. The class was going to end
  194. with an excursion
    into the California wilderness,
  195. where they were going
    to make an aerial survey
  196. of the loss of plant species
    due to drought,
  197. replenish the ones missing
    using the seed pods,
  198. and the documentary crew
    was going to film the whole thing
  199. and put it up on YouTube
  200. to raise awareness
    of environmental issues.
  201. And it showed me that although machines
    do risk making us stupid,
  202. they can be harnessed to make us smarter.
  203. But to what end should we put
    this new knowledge about the brain
  204. and this new technology?
  205. How can we develop
    our full collective capacity?
  206. To find out, I went to Finland
  207. and visited the classroom
    of one of its most famous teachers,
  208. a guy called Pekka Peura.
  209. So at the start of his class,
  210. he put up a question
    on the interactive whiteboard
  211. that had the students beaming answers
    using their smartphones,
  212. A, B, C, D or E,
  213. which he then displayed
    in a bar chart on the whiteboard.
  214. He didn't give them the answer,
  215. but asked them to talk to each other.
  216. What answer had they given and why?
  217. And then got them to beam in
    their answers for a second time.
  218. And the bar chart
    had shifted significantly;
  219. the kids had taught each other.
  220. Afterwards, Pekka Peura
    explained to me
  221. that he saw his role
  222. as being one of giving students
  223. the skills and attitudes they needed
    to learn things for themselves.
  224. He'd studied how Google creates
    its most successful teams
  225. and was using those principles
    to guide the practice in his classroom.
  226. So he'd give the students everything
    they needed at the start of the term:
  227. the textbook, the links
    to online resources, the test,
  228. even the answers to all the tests,
  229. and he would simply coach them
    individually and together
  230. on their capacity to persevere, to learn,
    to create, to imagine or to cooperate.
  231. At the end of the term,
  232. he even got the students
    to choose their own grades,
  233. which he would enter
    into the school system.
  234. When I asked him what he did
    if students fell behind in this approach,
  235. he looked at me strangely:
  236. "What is behind?" he said.
  237. He thought we had to delete this idea
    of competition entirely from education
  238. and allow young people
    to fail continually in small ways.
  239. That was how he thought
    we would best learn.
  240. So Finns love education.
  241. The country has ten applicants
    for every one place
  242. on its primary-teacher training programs.
  243. That training includes
    learning how to play the piano
  244. and learning how to ice-skate.
  245. Finland also, by many measures,
  246. makes more of its people
    than any other country in the world.
  247. It comes top of the World
    Economic Forum's human capital index.
  248. It's the happiest country in the world
    according to a UN survey recently.
  249. It's also a hive of creativity,
  250. home to companies
    like Nokia and Angry Birds,
  251. and it's also home to unique sports
    like hobby horsing,
  252. which is an imaginary form
    of show jumping,
  253. which was invented by Finnish teenagers.
  254. Finland also has more
    heavy metal bands per capita
  255. than any other country in the world,
  256. and Pekka Peura, that teacher,
    was the drummer in one of them.
  257. So as I encountered these stories
    around the world,
  258. I thought often of my own students
    back in South London.
  259. We succeeded in the end -
    at least in what we set out to do.
  260. All of the kids got the C grade
    that they needed, or better, at GCSE,
  261. but the way that we'd got there,
  262. with these long hours of exam practice
    and extra English classes,
  263. left me feeling like I'd failed them.
  264. Today, I think that we risk failing
    a whole generation of young people.
  265. I'm not sure that we're setting up
    our education systems
  266. to give young people everything
    that is needed to thrive in today's world,
  267. let alone to take on
    the big challenges of the future,
  268. like the automation of jobs
    or global inequality or climate change.
  269. But we could.
  270. Everybody is capable of learning as much
    as kids do in South Korea or Shanghai.
  271. Everybody is capable of learning
    to use the latest technology,
  272. like they're doing at High Tech High.
  273. Everyone is capable of developing
  274. their full human faculties
    of creativity and cooperation,
  275. like they're doing in Finland.
  276. If we can harness all this understanding,
  277. I think we can transform human learning.
  278. So to date, there have been three
    big revolutions in the way that we learn.
  279. The first was cognitive.
  280. About 100,000 years ago,
    something changed in our brains
  281. and language emerged,
  282. with which we could share ideas
  283. and pass knowledge down
    between the generations.
  284. About 10,000 years ago
    came the schooling revolution.
  285. Simultaneously in ancient China
    and ancient Mesopotamia,
  286. schools sprang up in which to teach
    the new human technologies
  287. of reading and writing.
  288. About 500 years ago, then,
    came a mass education revolution -
  289. the printing press
    and an opening up of religion -
  290. and that literacy exploded
    across the world.
  291. Today, I think that you have the potential
  292. to bring about
    a fourth learning revolution.
  293. Science now shows us that each of us
    is literally born to learn.
  294. In our heads are learning devices
  295. which, when put together,
    are more powerful
  296. than any computer that's been invented.
  297. To thrive in our digital future,
    we need to learn to master our machines
  298. by investing everything we have
    in upgrading our own minds.
  299. Thank you.
  300. (Applause)