Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
By now everyone (or at least 4,334,494 people according to the TED site) has viewed Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk, Bring on the Learning Revolution which he ends with the William Butler Yeat’s poem Cloths of Heaven and a reminder that “everyday children spread their dreams beneath our feet” and a gentle warning that we should tread softly. His talk emphasizes the need to create learning environments “where kids’ natural talents can flourish.” It is also likely that most people (885,293 views) have viewed Sugata Mitra’s TED Talk, Kids Can Teach Themselves about an experiment he did with a computer and a hidden camera in a slum in New Delhi. Perhaps not as popular is Kelvin Doe’s TedxTeen Talk, Persistent Experimentation. Kelvin is a self-taught Sierra Leone 15 year old who was invited to MIT and lectured to undergraduates at Harvard. Kelvin collected scraps of junk, and late at night after everyone had gone to bed he would use the junk to create inventions that he hoped would help his community such as batteries and a generator. His mother would tell him to go to bed because she felt he was wasting his time on that “junk.” Kelvin explains, “She meant no harm, she did not understand where I was going, I was just following my passion.”
I bring up these three TED talks because my highest priority goal for this class has been to somehow be able to create a learning environment that does not tread on dreams. Robinson’s observations, Mitra’s experiment, and Doe’s story make one wonder how many great minds in the world are untapped due to poverty or lack of books or access to schools or simply due to being squelched by standards?
I had the good fortune of meeting two such minds recently during a marathon on the rim of a volcano in Indonesia. Mr. Mawday and Deidik; two teachers. They had never seen runners before, nobody in their village had, but together with a Peace Corps volunteer (with a passion for running) they put together an international marathon that brought a few thousand people from 30 countries to their isolated part of the world. The marathon was a charity event that benefited school libraries in the region as well as local businesses. Homestays, transportation, and food were arranged in this tiny place without running water. Nobody really knew what they were doing, but the result was an amazing, well organized race that benefited hundreds of families because three teachers and a village decided to be awesome. Needless, to say the Internet was a key factor in making the marathon happen.
These teachers have inspired me to push my own limits and take on the challenge of making a difference in the education community using online and blended learning.