Northwestern University will be hosting their first-ever inclusive TEDx event featuring students, faculty and alumni on one stage for a full day of talks on April 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the McCormick Tribune Center Forum. The talks will be streamed live and also be posted online afterwards at TED.
TEDx NorthwesternU 2014 will focus on “how our increasingly complex world is driven by new collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking.” One of the presenters, Stephen Dowling, has been an instructor and Academic Coordinator for the CTD Summer Program. He is presenting “Teachers: Let’s Cross Paths More Often.” We asked Dowling to share a preview of his talk and reflect on his own role as an educator and administrator:
Forty years ago during a lecture at Harvard University, the American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein said, “the best way to know a thing is in the context of another thing.” Far be it from me to disagree with Lenny, but I’m not sure he could have anticipated a moment when it’s the only way. Knowledge doesn’t exist in neatly divided topics anymore: it’s tossed in a massive, digital pile, and left for us to comb through in our own time, in our own way. This generation of K-12 students will be most effected by the new, digital reality of information; they can go online, play “six wikis of Shakespeare,” and find themselves immersed in the particulars of Mediterranean climates. From drama to science in six mouse clicks! They need guidance as they learn to navigate this brave new world, and I believe interdisciplinary education will play a key role moving forward. Simply put, our students will be best served when disciplines cross paths in the classroom as they do in the world.
I’ll be speaking on this topic during the upcoming TEDxNorthwestern conference on April 12th, and my work at CTD as an instructor and administrator has informed my thinking. Time and again, I have seen CTD instructors jump over disciplinary boundaries to reach a struggling student: trouble with music theory? Think of it geometrically. Struggling with covalent bonds? It’s just a tightly choreographed dance. Some CTD courses are specifically interdisciplinary—Leapfrog’s “Rule the World,” or Apogee’s “Open for Business” —but so many others embrace interdisciplinary thinking beneath the surface. Spark’s “Survivor Math,” for example, blends tough math and science topics in games of island living and Robinson Crusoe derring-do. For gifted students, especially, this is critically important—it sparks their already vibrant imaginations into overdrive and provides windows into further possibilities for exploration. Let’s embrace the messiness of digital information and teach our children to see things as they might be, not just as they are.
Dowling’s session will raise an important question that we challenge you to weigh in on here: how should the way we access knowledge in the 21st century inform curricula and teaching?
Read more about this special event at www.tedxnorthwesternu.com. Free livestream tickets are available at www.eventbrite.com/e/tedxnorthwesternu-2014-crossing-paths-tickets-10567448523.