What ants teach us about education. Inspired by Deborah Gordon via TED

If I asked educators around the world about their desired goals for students, I would probably hear the following with great frequency (I’ll paraphrase);

Ant Circle by guild20m

  1. Citizenship (responsibility)
  2. Communication (crucial)
  3. Collaboration (natural)
  4. Collection (acquiring)
  5. Creating (constructing)

When you add them up, they equal community. Educators are privileged and cursed to see both extremes of their wishlist playing out in their classrooms. What I wonder is how do we extract the universal potential of all learners to achieve the goal to thrust this planet into the future? Not in worse shape, but in better shape than it is now?

This post is inspired by  Deborah Gordon  whose TED2014 Talk share an excellent example of achievement as observed by her lifelong study of ants. Yes, ants!

Now, how can we ask our children to behave a little more like ants? How can teachers get students to behave more like them, minus the brutality when they come across a rival colony?  I see this as a  fundamental step going forward in education.
From my 5 points above I’ll share the connections.

1. Ants all have a role to play in their colony. Students and teachers too.
2. The colony will not survive if information is not shared. No one can learn without interaction. Solitude in learning = limitation.
3. If ants do not work together the colony cannot thrive to grow. The status quo cannot be static. Needs and roles are changeable.
4. Ants have to gather what they need, just as students must gather information to suit their needs in order to contribute to the community.
5. Ants create the world necessary to carry on the species into the future. Students need to be allowed access to this opportunity at all phases of their education.(Perhaps this one is on the outside.)

Next time you ponder that  6 legged little collaboratively genius toilers organizing a raid on your kitchen or picnic basket, take some time to respect the incredible lessons they can teach us all.

Further inter-webbing for the curious.  ASK An important ‘antalogy” is included in the middle.

An active mind would want to know. Thoughts from TEDActive 2014

There is a tabloid magazine called the National Inquirer, or is it Enquirer?
Their tag line was, “Inquiring minds need to know.” or was it enquiring?

Nevertheless, before I digress towards distress there are a couple of prevailing thoughts I’d like to address.


Sign made by Raoul Palacios, photo by author

I am privileged to be taking part in TEDActive 2014 as a representative of  the YRDSB and as a TED-Ed Clubs host teacher. This incredible opportunity to meet, share and learn with over 700 like minded souls from around the world is truly an event to behold. Since arriving on Day 1, I have met people representing bio-med, medicine, art, design, performance and of course education. What we all have in common is akin to the Russian version of, ‘glasnost’. Moreover, a willing openness to new ideas, critical thinking questions and all the while accompanying a genuine commitment to exploring more intently an intellectual road less travelled.

After acclimating to Whistler’s altitude, I was able to join the TED-Ed Team from New York, along with 7 other amazing educators from all levels of learning and instruction. I was particularly awed by the ease at which we all interacted. There were teachers and administrators from virtual schools, universities, high schools, private schools, junior middle schools and me. Together with the TED-Ed Clubs and Community team we discussed, shared and began to plot a course of how best to use its potential in classrooms around the world.

Guiding this journey for me are a plethora of access points to lessons and ideas that I can tailor to my students’ learning needs. Even more inspiring are the opportunities for sharing our own ideas with a larger collective audience of potentially 2,000,000 students worldwide.

If that doesn’t get you out of your seat. Brother…sister…lady…mister…you need to get involved with TED-Ed.