How Do You Make a Teacher Great?

February 23, 2009
How I'm trying to change the world NOW

How I'm trying to change the world NOW

A few weeks ago, great thinkers from around the world converged at Palm Springs, FL for the annual TED conference.  Bill Gates was one of this year’s keynote speakers, posing two questions to the audience:

  1. How do you stop a deadly disease that’s spread by mosquitoes?

  2. How do you make a teacher great?

His first question focused on the historical evolution of human genetics to adapt to and overcome diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. Gates also focused on the economic distribution of countries who have successfully dealt with malaria. He calls on the collaboration of communicators, social scientists, mathematicians, drug companies, and world governments to provide the road map and tools for recovery.

Secondly, Gates’ focus on teaching excellence called for the development of a strong system of teacher recognition. He proposes that testing data, and video analysis be used to recognize and reward good teachers. According to Bill Gates, top teachers increase the performance of their students by 10% each year. Teachers need to be told how good they are! He praised a system of education called “KIPP” and recommended the book “Work Hard. Be Nice.” by Jay Matthews.

If you know a great teacher that should be recognized for their work, please consider nominating them for RAC-CEMS’ Excellence in STEM Teaching Award. The next round of nominations will be reviewed the second week of  April, and the award winner will be announced on April 18th.

The Future- Revisited

November 12, 2008


Last Monday we blogged about a presentation given by Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht at TED’s annual conference in 2005. After a little research, this is what I found out about their proposed ‘Six Products of the Future’

  1. Squishy Magnets” -These were developed and marketed by the Taica Corporation as part of their XGel product line. The company sells the material that is used for pen grips, medical equipment, and machines, but is yet to market a product that uses the soft, squishy magnet, or to sell it from their website. However, there is an application for a trial size that can be found on the main page
  2. 10-ft Pole” – I could not find any information about the use Keith and Zach mentioned of the pole by the US Army, but did find a similar 8-foot pole listed on a magicians website. It does not unfold quite the same as the one used in this presentation, but is equally surprising.
  3. Dry Liquid” – The liquid described in the video was manufactured by 3M. A search of their website showed a surprisingly extensive list of innovations.
  4. Bendable Plastic“- As for the idea of a bendable, shapeable plastic, it looks like a product called Wiggle Wonder has been winning a number of awards for it’s innovative ‘moves’
  5. Detectable Ink“- This search provided no results. I guess those of us hoping for the automatic conversion of information from paper to electronic text the presenters discussed will have to wait!
  6. Oder-detecting Ink” Again, unfortunately for those of us who were excited by the prospect of never smelling spoiled milk again, this product is not yet on the market. Perhaps some of today’s students can look into the invention of such a system!

If you hear or see of any applications of the materials described above that I have missed, click on “Add Comment” and let us know… we would love to hear about it!

Spark Interest with Videos

November 3, 2008

Over the summer, a friend of mine shared an amazing site with me. It’s called; subtitle: ideas worth spreading. TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design. For the past twenty four years, TED has held an annual conference at which some of the world’s most facinating thinkers and doers have spoken. This site offers countless videos that can be used to spark the interest of students, introduce new topics in your classroom, as well as a conversational springboard for people of all ages.

One video that caught my attention today is entitled “Products (and toys) from the Future“. The presenters of this video, Zach Kaplan and Keith Schacht are co-founders of Inventables, a company that collects and shows off new materials and new ideas. In this video they present six specialized materials, and offer ideas how to best use them.

Six Products of the Future are explored in this video

Six Products of the Future are explored in this video

After viewing this video, I wondered how many of the six materials listed have indeed been marketed since this presentation. I will spend some time over the next week looking into this… please refer back to our blog to find out, and add any thoughts  you might have.

 If you take a minute to explore some of the other videos, please let us know which ones you find most interesting and/or useful in your teaching/learning. We hope you enjoy the resource!