Educators’ ‘TED’ Talks-Style Forum Leads Up to ASU+GSV Summit

Associate Editor

San Diego

Educators framed their passions and their pitches through “TED” talks-style presentations this week to kick off a gathering of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools here this week. The meeting is being held in partnership with the ASU+GSV Summit, a conference that draws more than 3,700 ed-tech entrepreneurs, investors, and others.

Devin Vodicka, superintendent of Vista schools, talks about his district’s path to personalized learning. “What is possible here?”

Called the TEDxElCajonSalon—a reference to the Cajon Valley schools, one of the co-hosts—the event showcased the aspirations of specific district leaders, presented in what has become a popular forum for business leaders and others considered innovators to talk about their experiences and ideas. 

Here are some of the highlights of school officials’ on-stage presentations:

Putting on a district-wide TED event: Students in Cajon Valley schools held their own TED event, explained David Miyashiro, superintendent, showing images of his students as they told their stories and shared their accomplishments. His district, east of the city of San Diego, encompasses 17,000 students.

Focusing on personalized learning: Devin Vodicka, superintendent of the Vista district, made a plea for “personalized learning,” explaining that since his district implemented a personal learning academy at Vista High School, the results are showing:

  • A 50 percent reduction in absenteeism
  • A 99 percent decrease in disciplinary actions, and
  • Two-thirds of students raising their grade-point average by a full grade or more.

“Why do our schools tend to treat children as though they are all the same?,” he asked. “What if our schools gave our students real autonomy about where they’re going?” Then he invited everyone to join the journey.

From a childhood in Memphis to the White House: Darryl Adams, who calls himself the “Rock and Roll” superintendent of Coachella Valley schools, talked about the impact Martin Luther King Jr. had on him as a 12-year-old in Memphis at the time the civil rights leader was assassinated.

Adams and his district were recently recognized at the White House by President Obama for its support of a bond measure to give every student from pre-K to high school with a tablet, despite the fact that the district is one of the poorest in the country.

Adams, who got the audience to rap along with him, encouraged the audience to understand that “connections really matter,” and said he is launching a “Connectivity Project” to make that point.

Teachers are key to all the connections: “We can continue to buy new programs, resources, but if we fail to engage teachers, we’ll miss out,” said Katie Martin, director of professional learning at the University of San Diego, in her talk. The sentiment of engaging teachers resonated for several presenters.

TED Ed Clubs give students a voice: Presenters from TED Ed, the organization’s education initiative, highlighted the fact that 2,500 TED Ed Clubs have been formed in 115 countries, to help students spread their ideas and to gain “presentation literacy.” At the same time, teachers are accessing an online library of short videos designed to engage learners via TED-Ed.

Members of the League of Innovative Schools will continue to meet over the next several days, and interact with education companies who are gathered here for the ASU GSV Summit, a large gathering of ed-tech investors.

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