Slowing down to appreciate what's important
Steve Jobs on life: change it, improve it, make your mark

Videos to help you rethink education, learning, & school

School_sleepHaving children causes one to (re)think seriously about education and the role of school. Education obviously is the most powerful thing in the world. And yet the old Mark Twain chestnut — "I never let school get in the way of my education" — speaks to the core of my own thinking regarding education. I am not an expert in education by any means, but like almost everyone, I have strong ideas based on my personal experiences going through formal, mass schooling. Personally, the best years where I learned the most and was inspired to study and learn on my own were surely the six years of elementary school, and then university and graduate school. One thing I am sure of is that while listening carefully to teachers (and to the masters, etc.) is important, the real learning requires lots and lots of doing, not just listening. One does not learn to play the music — or math or science for that matter — only by sitting in a chair and listening. One learns by doing and figuring things out. I do not provide any answers or insights here, but I wanted to point you to several presentations and interviews below concerning education and schooling that I have found particularly relevant and stimulating. I think they are all worth watching. I hope you'll find something worth while in these presentations that you'd like to share with others and keep the discussion concerning education and schooling going.

Seth Godin on Education
In this short interview, Seth Godin sums up the essence of the problem.

Seth Godin on how schools teach kids to aim low
In this short clip Seth Godin says something concerning the "lizard brain" and our fear of taking risks that reminded me of the world of live stand-up presentations in work or academia. Seth said:

"There are some people, if you give them a mile, they're going to take an inch."
Seth Godin

This gets at part of the problem: a boss or a teacher or a conference organizer will ask you to make a presentation, and while doing something different and creative - and effective - should be welcomed by all, we retreat to doing only what is expected (less downside that way) rather than doing something creative, different, and engaging. After all, doing what is expected is pretty easy, but surpassing expectations and doing something remarkable with impact is both harder (usually) and comes with an increased risk of failure. Even when we give people a mile and encourage creativity and nonconformity, it still seems like too many play it safe and take only an inch. I can't help but think that the habits learned in formal schools across the world at least in part contribute to this cautious approach to doing things differently.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms
This is an RSA animation of Sir Ken Robinson's second talk at TED. This echoes my sentiments exactly. You can see the live version of this TED talk here.

Born to learn
I love the simple animation and flow to this presentation on learning. We are indeed "born to learn" and we are naturally curious creatures. But does your school stimulate that curiosity and light the sparks in students. My favorite teachers did when I was a kid. Although my secondary school experience was a bit of a blurry bore, I remember the good teachers I had who helped me and inspired me in spite of the imprefect system.

Dr. Tae — Building A New Culture Of Teaching And Learning (or "why school sucks")
I love this presention by American physicist Dr. Tae. In the presentation Dr. Tae touches on the depersonalized nature of the large lecture hall with the "tiny professor somewhere down there" in front going through the material but without engagement or connection with the students. If one of the goals of education is to "have a lively exchange of ideas," the depersonalized one-way lecture seems to be an outdated method for stimulating this exchange.


Shawn Cornally — The Future of Education Without Coercion 

Shawn Cornally is a young, passionate teacher who shares his perspective and experiences in this TEDx talk.

Finland's education success

Here's a short clip from the BBC reporting on Finland's success with schools. They enjoy great success, but do not have a test-driven environment. While no place is perfect, we could learn a lot by examining what Finland is doing in their schools.

Japanese documentary: Children Full of Life (part 1/5)
I like a lot of what I see in elementary schools in Japan (although I am much less excited about public junior and senior high schools). Here is part one of five from a wonderful documentary which gives you an evocative look inside one 4th-grade class. You can't helped but be moved. You can see all the clips in this post from last year.

Presentation tips for teachers (Never give a boring lecture again!)
This is a short talk I gave at TEDxOsaka in 2012.

A word from my favorite astrophysicist:
Neil deGrasse Tyson

Here's a fantastic audio interview on science literacy with one of my modern day heros, Neil deGrasse Tyson. Not just for science teachers, however. This is interesting stuff for all reasonable humans. I agree with Dr. Tyson. Inspiring stuff. Here's a slide featuring a quote from his interview:


"The flaw in the educational system, as far as I see it, is that you live your life – the teacher and student – in quest of A’s. Yet later in life, the A is irrelevant. So then what is the point of the school system? It’s missing something. It is not identifying the people who actually succeed in life, because they’re not showing up as the straight A’s. So somewhere in there, the educational system needs to reflect on what it takes to succeed in life, and get some of that back into the classroom." — Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson


If you are not familiar with John Taylor Gatto's books (wiki), this short video interview with the veteran teacher and author will be of interest to anyone, whether you agree with him or not.


Peter Richards

Excellent selection of thought provoking videos. There is so much excellent thinking and ideas out there to help our children achieve. I could not let the chance go by to include Sir Ken Robinson's wonderful TED presentation "Do schools kill creativity?". In fact, I seem to remember that I came across this video first linked from one of you posts.


Thanks, Peter. Yes, the 2006 Sir Ken Robinson video I have linked to a few times in the past. I love that one. Watched probably 20 times or more with students, etc. Thanks for the link. Cheers! -g

N. Risma Liasari

Thanks a lot for this post, and also other wonderful posts of yours on this blog! Greeting from Tokyo!

Jenny Luca

Thanks Garr. You've just provided me with my opener for my Yr 10 English students tomorrow, many of whom are focused on assessment. Maybe if they see that quote from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, it will hold more weight than it does when I say it!

Mike Sporer

Garr....I've seen some of these, yet I was compelled to watch them again. Great selection, and I love Dr. Tae. The work Seth did is new to me. "making the frying pan smaller lowers the size of the fish you need to catch". I will use that one!


I love Neil! I think we should just put him in charge. Of like, everything.

 Romeo Lame

Thank you for sharing. Great videos!

Jonathan Briggs

Did you know that Shawn Cornally (in your list) and Dr. Tae were both at TEDxEastsidePrep. Tae adds in a few new ideas since he originally shot the "Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning" video. or see it on his home page


Rethinking Schools has assembled two new books that focus on what teachers are really accountable for: the learning, empowerment, and well-being of their students. This issue of the magazine highlights five new articles from those books.


Great essay! I recommend that people read Gatto's book, "Dumbing us Down." He is quite provocative, and the lack of citations or references can be frustrating if you want to follow up on some of the historical references that he makes. But, what he has to say regarding his experience as an award winning public school teacher is eye-opening and mind bending.

Gatto has been an advocate of home based education - the idea that one can structure his or her education around their community via self learning, on-line learning, traditional classes, and cooperative classes.

My wife and I are now wrapping up a 25 year home education experiment with our three children and it has gone remarkably well. They are elite students, two with perfect SAT scores, and many achievements. And they are more than fine socially.

For people with children, especially young children, you feel trapped in sub-standard public schools, home schooling is sometimes the only viable option. They can't afford to wait for reforms that have been promised for the past 30-40 years.

Its fun to talk about how we could improve the schools if we had the freedom to experiment. But for the past 30-40 years of this ongoing discussion, its been just talk for most of us.

Home based education allows you to take responsibility for your children's education now.


Thanks so much for taking the time to compile these videos - there is a wealth of great stuff here!

Henry Rivers

I thought Neil was really excellent! Let's get him some time on national tv!


The "A" is irrelevant? Hardly. Mastery of one's chosen field of study or work is very important. An "A" is a good indicator of technical mastery or literacy. While an "A" in calculus in high-school might not be a predictor of future success as a car salesman, it does matter if you are going to be a CAD software designer.

The real issue is that kids are forced thru a one size fits all education system. If the average student is a "C" student, why is it surprising that "successful" people, on average, were "C" students?

Perhaps those "C" students were "A" students in their chosen field.


Excellent post. As an ex-teacher I can only say that kids are taught in 15 years what they could do in 2 ! So much time is wasted teaching nonsense, kids are often more intelligent than the teachers !


Thanks for this sharing this "view list". The Ken Robinson RSAnimate video is probably not connected with his TED-talk (but with an RSA-talk): But they are almost the same :-) There even is a transcipt of this lecture:

celine outlet

Great essay! I recommend that people read Gatto's book, "Dumbing us Down." He is quite provocative, and the lack of citations or references can be frustrating if you want to follow up on some of the historical references that he makes. But, what he has to say regarding his experience as an award winning public school teacher is eye-opening and mind bending.

Spanish Translation

I think the question that "Do schools kill creativity?" is obsolete now a days. I think they are more focusing on reducing the stress and the teachers are better equipped to handle the kids and pressure. These video lessons are really essential as they really help in reducing the class work and students can come back home and visit those lectures!

Theresa Southern

I think these videos are great. One comment caught my eye though. A home schooling dad seemed to be defending his choice with this statement: "They are elite students, two with perfect SAT scores, and many achievements."

However, I can't help but wonder if he hasn't missed the point here. Having "perfect SAT scores" and "many achievements" is not and should not be seen as signs of success.

Are high SAT scores proof of actually understanding something?

The comments to this entry are closed.