Using Big Ideas to Change the World
August 3, 2021
Using Big Ideas to Change the World

TED talks are so valuable because of the ideas they share across the world. When Patti Dobrolowski drew me standing on a TEDx platform, it sparked a goal in me: to stand on a TED stage.

Fast forward a bit to the big idea that became my TED talk. 

I’ve done a lot to amplify my voice around changing our schools. That’s why this podcast exists in the first place! And after more than a year of working on my big idea, Changing My Mind to Change Our Schools is officially recorded and on its way to TED.

We all have big ideas, and we can all speak them to the world. Some through TED, others through podcasts, and still others through a community of people who want to hear our message.

Listen in to today’s episode to hear where my own TED talk came from and who was pivotal in it getting recorded.


Jump Through the Conversation

  • [1:40] What is a TED Talk?

  • [3:28] Why I did a TED Talk

  • [4:20] Changing My Mind to Change Our Schools

  • [5:33] Flashbacks of memorization

  • [6:22] TED is a labor of love

  • [7:28] Learning through the Education Evolution podcast guests

  • [9:16] My big TED idea

  • [11:45] Acknowledgments


Links and Resources:

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I would like to thank the Academy for this award. Oops! Wait a minute. While it feels like I have been memorizing lines, and preparing my TED talk forever, I guess this isn’t exactly an Academy Award acceptance speech. It is a chance for me to unpack why in the world I would do a TED talk, and thank the many people behind this. 

First of all, let me make sure everybody knows what a TED Talk is. TED began in California in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged–T.E.D. Their slogan is “ideas worth spreading” and they post these talks online for free distribution. TED talks have grown in popularity and now covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. They’ve extended, overseeing independently run TEDx events to help share ideas in communities around the world. Colleges and youth also put on TEDx talks. Some are being presented remotely as a result of the pandemic. These talks are fact checked and have to meet a variety of standards for TED to post them online.

When people have an important message they want to share they will do many things to amplify their voice. For me this is meant expressing my idea as a school, where I walk my talk and Empower students and teachers to drive the learning add align with interest. It is also meant writing a guidebook on microskills and starting this podcast.  being on the Ted stage is a wonderful way to share big ideas with the world. 

Changing my mind to change our schools is my TEDx talk. It’s taken over a year of this talk morphing and shifting. Gracias coaches and friends have added input. Then I started applying to TEDx organizations to get to present. for those of you that don’t know it is a rigorous process. Applying to give a TEDx talk often takes sharing multiple online recordings of previous group presentations, having the big idea speech already written and recorded, knowing that it can be edited and changed. Some require in person auditions.

If a TEDx host accepts your talk, they may ask for multiple changes and a set time limit. They also require fact checking of any data in the talk. This is all before the task of memorizing the talk. If your brain is like mine, you may have flashbacks of the terror  of not remembering the music notes for a childhood piano recital. I have a story I’ve been telling myself that I can’t memorize. So trying to remember 12 minutes of a speech was daunting, but of course, anything rehearsed enough times can become memorized, right?! We’ll see! My talk is being filmed right as this podcast is being produced.

Why do all this work? TED speakers don’t get paid. This is a labor of love. I truly believe that we keep working really hard to change the institution of education, with limited success, because we are coming at it wrong. We’re trying to get people to change their minds and buy into one innovation or another. Instead of looking at the whole system. I know I’ve tried this approach. Whole language. Service learning. Thematic interdisciplinary units. UbD. Project-based learning. Social emotional learning…

I’ve learned as much from the wonderful guests on this podcast as anyone. I’ve heard the pattern of people trying Innovations and having limited success. That led me to ponder why change is so hard. Melina Palmer, a behavioral economist and friend, Was my guest for my 1-year anniversary podcast, episode 56. She unpacked a lot of what goes on in Our Minds when we think about committing to something new. That was definitely a lightbulb moment for me. I ran out and bought her book and am continuing to learn. of course I will put her information in the show notes!

Then in episode 56, Lindsay Burr shared another pivotal idea: polarity thinking. She had been the keynote presenter at our spring  Northwest Association of Independent Schools heads’ retreat. I had been fascinated by the concept of polarity thinking. looking at a a tough situation not a problem to solve, but rather a dynamic tension to manage was like having lightning strike. seeing how two sides of a situation need to work interdependently, really can be the key to getting the buy in and making the changes we want to see in our schools. 

Doing a TED talk, it’s very important to have stories to tell, and to have a big idea. Something worth sharing. And my big idea is that it’s going to take changing our minds, and looking at tough situations through this both-and lens. If we want to change our schools. In Episode 59, I unpacked the polarities of continuity and transformation in schools.

Why do I want to get our minds changed from solving a problem to managing both what-is and what-needs-to-be in schools? I share the same concerns many parents and educators have. I see us in a crisis when I look at not 

–the rise in teen and tween mental health issues, anxiety and depression. The confusion around gender identity and exploration. The blatant need to address our bipoc populations and create equity and look at retribution, but it’s not the right word. Bree pre paying back. 

The time has come for us to look at having many more options for our learners to succeed. this TED talk is a way for me to amplify my voice and express this need and idea to a larger audience. And also to put it out there that I enjoy schools and others create needed change. I want to walk with others, and share my skills and experiences to serve as fully as possible.

There are different people along the way, who have really helped me with this TED talk. So now I get to do the grateful acknowledgements, just like at the Academy Awards!

I have five shout outs:

First,  I’d like to thank Joanne Conger, the facilitator and planner of the Everett TEDx conference. I was able to attend her 2020 TEDx conference right before the pandemic shut everything down, and then she coached me last summer. Joanne gave me lots of time and support while my ideas were flying all over. She also helped me shift from ranting to storytelling! 😛 such a generous person. 

Next, Sam horn. Her pop! workshop gave me valuable suggestions that help me in my communications, blogs, and definitely helped me organize my TED Talk. I subscribe to her newsletter to continue to get great tips and see well-crafted writing in action. 

Third, Patti Dobrowolski, amazing human overall. She’s worked with my parents and students and even mapped out my change activator a few years ago. She graciously was my first Education Evolution podcast guest. Did you know I was so nervous that it came out in the interview? She gave me some pointers afterward. I asked if I could have a redo, like we do with my students. And she let me practice and then interview her a second time. Is that loving and gracious or what? Patti Not only coached me on this talk, but she helped me with the applications and made suggestions on where I could apply. So again, Patti’s coaching on how to go about memorizing was super valuable. 

, I would also like to thank Carrie streetfilms, not only were they wonderful partners, teaching filmmaking and digital storytelling in our school, and hosting with us, there’s their summer film camps near Seattle. But, Travis Koster, the founder and journey Morrison lead prep, alumni, and film maker himself are doing my filming and editing for me, donating their time. 

Finally, Thank you to Gary Dougherty of Derry Londonderry’s TEDx for choosing my big idea and for his positive encouragement along the way. How fun for this kinda Irish me to get hosted by a TEDx in Northern Ireland!

I am really blessed with all of these people helping me get this message out. I really believe that when we can think both/and, we change our minds. This challenging mindset is definitely a growth Edge for me too. Without trying to defend a position, we can pull together and focus on finding the upside of both sides of a situation. So, I can, I would like to thank the Academy for the honor of getting to be a TEDx speaker. And Thank you education evolution listeners. Together, we are changing schools into places of passion and purpose with equity and inclusion for all learners.

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