Sunday, May 15, 2011


I spent the day yesterday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater at the TEDxBloomington conference. There were many amazing speakers, all based around the idea of "The Wisdom of Play".

I admit, I'm a TED addict. I love watching TED talks. Despite freezing (the theater was cold!), I had a fabulous time.

Some highlights (the program can be found here):

Section one was about Wisdom.

Stephen K. Hayes, ninja, got things started with great stories about playing roles (the Dalai Lama) and having the wisdom to know when to fight and when to give in (magazine cover shoot). (YouTube video)

Debby Herbenick, Editor-in-Chief of, likened sex to a tree house using aspects of both (perspective, exclusivity, playful discovery, risk, sharing ideas, the moment, getting back up). And she made everyone want to eat strawberries. (YouTube video)

Bryan Stuart talked about getting involved in One Laptop per Child even though he had no idea what he was doing when he started. (YouTube video)

Keith Johnson talked about organic gardening and permaculture. (YouTube video)

Nolan Harrison III is my new hero. He made me cry with his story about stepping up to the plate and being the superhero he had always aspired to be. Yep, his talk was about superheroes. (YouTube video)

Section two was about Learning. A lot of the ideas about rethinking schools really hit home for me. Shouldn't learning be fun?

Gever Tulley talked about his Tinkering School and Brightworks and how he is changing what school is all about. A lot of the principles he talks about can be used outside the classroom, but this is a good place to start the discussion about rethinking the classroom. I need to go buy "50 Dangerous Things (you should let your children do)" now. (YouTube video)

Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, founder of the Academy for Global Citizenship school in Chicago, showed another new model for a school. Some ideas that rattle around in my brain from her talk: "Play isn't what we do; it's how we do it." "Play is taking the ordinary and making it magical." (YouTube video)

Amy Yurko, an architect, showed some ways to use building design in rethinking schools. Why do we live in a world where we've partitioned play from learning? Kids don't distinguish until we tell them "play here; learn here." (YouTube video)

Lindsay Manfredi introduced us to Girls Rock and their mission to build positive self-esteem in young girls through music. If you have a daughter, this is something she should do. (YouTube video)

Edward Castronova talked about gaming and the importance of games. Games can help us learn about complex situations. And while people talk about games and virtual worlds as an escape, he prefers to think of them as a refuge, and a refuge is somewhere to look for home. (YouTube video)

Section three centered on Creativity. It started with a bang with a wonderful story from Arbutus Cunningham. (YouTube video)

Marc and Sara Schiller showcased street art and explained how street art isn't about vandalism. (There's a difference.) A lot of the art they showed was about rediscovering the world around us and seeing what is easy to miss. (YouTube video)

Jeff Nelsen, known for the Canadian Brass, talked about overcoming fear in performance. He pointed out that we perform all day, all over the place and fear is a choice. (It isn't the audience that makes us afraid; it's our awareness of that audience.) Performance is about 3 things - the What, the How, and the Why. Focusing on Why you perform can help. Surrender. Be creative - find ways to fool yourself, be solution-based, and perform as often as possible. Share your stuff. (YouTube video)

Charlie Todd, founder of Improv Everywhere, talked about how he started doing what he does and shared some of the group's missions. I have to admit I was really excited about this one and talked to him for a minute during a break to admit I'm a fan and love watching their videos. (YouTube video)

Stephen Volan, a local city councilman, told his personal story of learning to interpret social interaction through improv to cope with Asperger's Syndrome. (YouTube video)

Corey Jefferson got us all on our feet for a quick improv exercise. (YouTube video)

Section four centered on Play.

Robert Scoble led off with a sobering talk about how we need to make mastery trump knowledge. We need to teach kids skills. We're teaching to the test (something few will argue with) rather than the creativity that they need. "We have a strategic plan. It's called Doing Things." (YouTube video)

Seth Frey, founder of a local housing co-op, talked about learning to share and finding solutions to common problems (provisioning public goods, bargaining & coordination, sharing common pool resources).  (YouTube video)

Jessica Quirk talked about the importance of clothing (not fashion). If you doubt this, "try running in flip flops." She asked us all to go home and give a piece of clothing some significance. She's been photographing her outfits for several years and posting them at What I Wore. (YouTube video)

Muffy Davis, a World Champion athlete, talked about her life, going from an up-and-coming young athlete to a para-athlete after a ski accident. She talked about not giving up. Difference isn't less. The phrase she used over and over was "If I can do this, I can do anything." It was really inspiring to listen to her. (YouTube video)

The final speaker was Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist. He shared his favorite fake graph, which he used to illustrate the idea that statistics removes outliers so we study the average. But if we study the average, we will remain average. The lens we look at the world through is important and we can't let the external world be equated to happiness and success. If we decide we will be happy when we accomplish something, the goal posts will always move and we will never be happy. When we are positive in the present, the brain works better (enjoy the now!). A lot of his research is what my philosophy has been (I just don't have the degrees and research) so I really got what he was saying. (YouTube video)

All in all, it was a really good day and I want to do more. I would love to see what we can take from yesterday and integrate into the local school system. And I really want to see a group in Bloomington do some flash mob stuff a la Improv Everywhere.

NOTE: Edited with the new YouTube links replacing the outdated ustream links.

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