by Kevin Jarrett
Attendees gather at the
collaborative space in Wharton’s
The first TED talk I ever saw was “Pattie Maes and
Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense.” It blew me away.
Before long, I was enamored with all things “TED.”
TED’s mission is to create events with “ideas
worth spreading.” Amid cries of elitism, a spinoff
initiative, “TEDx” was born. TEDx events are essentially
“mini-TEDs” that are locally planned and much
less exclusive (though they are still invitation-only).
TEDx’s quickly began appearing all over the world.
In March 2009, there were just two. By June 2010,
610 had been held. By March 2011, 1,579 TEDx
events had occurred worldwide.
Some of those TEDx’s were education-focused.
Unfortunately, the TEDx application process is
difficult, resulting in demand far outstripping
supply. I was fortunate enough to be able to
attend TEDxNYEd in 2010. When I heard that
TEDxPhiladelphiaEd was happening during ISTE
2011, I knew I had to apply. Unfortunately, I didn’t
make the cut, but my EdCamp Philly colleague
Kristen Swanson did and invited me to attend as
On the day of the event, discussing the event
with friends and colleagues, I was surprised by
the pushback. One said they preferred to attend
EduBloggerCon so they could “talk and learn, not
sit and listen.” Another said they felt, for them, TEDx
looked like the “same old, same old.” While I understand
where both of these people are coming from,
I think they missed an incredible opportunity. It is
true that TEDxPhiladelphiaEd was a “sit and listen” event. It
was not, however, the “same old, same old.”
Here are some of my favorite moments:
¦ Hearing Barbara Chandler Allen tell us about her work
with FreshArtists.org, her project connecting K-12
inner-city kids to art and philanthropy.
¦ Watching Matt McGinnis, CEO of a startup called
Inkling, demonstrate his company’s interactive textbook.
¦ Listening to Sinnea Douglas, a high school senior at
the Science Leadership Academy, command the stage
with her powerful poem, “When I Become a Teacher.”
¦ Learning about classroom
management and making a
difference in students’ lives
with child psychologist Dr.
Stewart Pisecco. My takeaway
from his talk: if you
think you can’t make a difference—
even if you’re seemingly
the only person in the
student’s corner—you not only CAN, you MUST.
¦ And last, watching my colleague and friend Kristen
Swanson share the vision and story behind EdCamp
Philly, an unconference that has spawned a nationwide
movement toward participant-directed professional
The phrase “standing on the shoulders of giants” is popular
these days, and TED is a living, breathing, embodiment
of that philosophy. The true power of TED and TEDx is the
network. The result: a phenomenon with the potential to
change the way professional development is done in school