Day 152 – TedxKids@Brussels, part 1

Wow, yesterday was awesome!  In the words of my son.  Why can’t we do that everyday, what a great way to learn!

This was my son’s reaction to us joining TedxKids@Brussels.  A brilliant one day event that brought Ted speakers together in Brussels to present and provoke ideas on revolutionising education.  It is so needed.  54 kids, and nearly 400 adults took part, split into workshops for the kids, that were at times live streamed into the auditorium, where the speakers talked us adults through their approaches to education and kids.  The speakers then rotated to run the kids workshops, so at the end, adults and kids could discuss the theory we’d seen, and the practise they had actioned.  Great concept!

I am going to dedicate my next few days blogging to the conference, and touch on some of the issues that were raised.  It’s meant to make you think, and then DO!



For those of you who know the TED concept, then no educational conference could start without Sir Ken Robinson.  Here’s his video link with the presentation we watched…..

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on



Sir Ken Robinson focuses on the need for kids to disenthrall from current educational practices based on thought processes developed during the last century.  What worked for kids, turning them into scholars, does not work today.  We are a generation of parents most separated from our kids.  An example is most people over 25 wear wrist watches to tell the time, no-one under 25 does.  They find the time everywhere else on devices, so why use a watch?  He also touched on our need to accept the diversity of jobs and to define useful jobs.  A fireman who when young was ridiculed for his dream by a teacher, went on to save his life in a car crash.  That’s very useful!  We need to move away from Fast Food education to a Zagat/Michelin approach.  Satisfy the customers wants, not mass produce and convince everyone that’s what they need.  Focus on the individual.

I loved his quote of ‘time disappears when you do something you love’, and that should be applied to your job too.  That’s one I’m going to hold close to my heart for my kids, instead of focusing on exam results, achievements, college and a big job in the city!  Let them dream, and then Mum and Dad, ‘Tread softly, you tread on my dreams!’


The second speaker was Alyson Schafer, who is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s leading parenting experts.  Her most recent book is ‘Honey, I wrecked the kids!’.

Alyson Schafer – Parent Expert.



Her focus was, are we ready to face the revolution?  Faced with all the battles in school and at home, are we ready to give the rights to the kids, instead of controlling them via goals and manipulation.  She likened the current status to the liberation of women’s rights, it’s now time for the kids to have rights.  Again the underlying message is one of, we need to move away from last century thoughts and approaches.  We don’t need an industrial approach, we need creators, facilitators, and kids that can work in teams.

At the moment the power struggle between parents and kids, is a constant ‘Tug of War’.  We as parents, need to drop the rope, stop saying ‘No’, and win co-operation.  There are some great ways of changing the word ‘no’ on her website.  She continued this discussion later in the day.


Tan Le, was on next.

Tan Le – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.



A totally inspiring lady, who escaped Vietnam on a boat with her family aged 4, and settled in Australia.  Bi-lingual growing up, she realised the importance of brain development, and developed a system headset that reads the brain, and reacts via the computer.  Primarily developed for game interfacing, (based on the EEG) the headset enables you to play games just based on your thoughts, and enables you to brain paint.  It is also being developed to read reactions to adverts, control wheelchairs by facial expression, and in future, could even drive a car!  The concept behind uses brain energy readings to add direction to objects.

Next up was Gever Tulley, now here was a guy the kids really really really wanted to be their teacher!

Gever Tulley.



Gever is building a school in San Francisco, that is so inspiring, I almost started job searching on the web!  It’s called Brightworks, and is a Tinkering School.

He loves to fool around, doodle and tinker.

He wanted to bring that ‘love of tinkering’ to kids, teach them the DIY skills that are so lost in the world today.  So he started a summer camp called Tinkering School 6 years ago.  However when he realised that kids loved the summer camps, but still didn’t do it at home, he spent last year focusing on sticks and string, instead of materials that were not available in the home.  Frustrated that this still didn’t work, he brought exploration into the mix via a friend, and they combined the 2 concepts.  Success!

And hence the idea for a school was born.

The school period is built on 6 week arcs based on one topic.  This is an example of one topic, wind;

Within the topic, the first two week arc focuses on Exploration in groups led by the kids.  The next two week arc focuses on Expression, led by teachers to organise projects.  And the last two week arc focuses on Exposition, showing what they have done.  Tell, and you learn and reflect.  Everything is recorded in each kids portfolio.  And then they rest, before starting the next topic.  This means 7/8 projects are covered in a year, with a total of 50-80 portfolio’s built up by graduation.  A huge pile of useful portfolio’s to show to college what you have learnt and built!!  Brilliant!  and so popular the school had 280 applications for 24 places!

The message was clear, Be Brave.  We don’t need kids who are good at tests, we need kids who approach problems and solve them, with tenacity.

Jules was mesmorised, and was so excited to meet him after the presentation.  A Turtlewings and Brightworks collaboration could be in the pipeline!

Our kids also had a great workshop with Gever, where they used all sorts of ‘dangerous’ tools (yes we are guilty of wrapping up our kids in cotton wool!) to build a wooden chair.  They loved it!  He’s written a book, 50 dangerous things (you should let your children do), it’s a great read, and a list I’m going to encourage my kids to tackle!!


Last up before the Morning Break, and my pause for part 1, was Noam Perski, founder and CEO of  Ok, this guy runs a very successful luxury on-line business, but his down to earth talk about how he motivated his non-football loving son and friends to succeed in the local league, was very interesting.

    EXCLUSIVE: JamesList Founder & CEO Noam Perski’s Ten Essential Luxuries.

Noam realised that in their natural state, each kid is different, and it’s important to identify that.  He has one son who is a real explorer and always at peace, and another who was born with a football on the end of his foot.  His elder son wanted to learn about and play football like the younger.  He asked the question, in a family how do you understand and get involved in these differences?

A McKinsey approach would be to read up on it, and then tell everyone what to do!  Noam’s approach was to learn the rules, and then learn the way around them.

He came up with the following

He plotted drive and ability on two axis, and then plotted each kid in the team’s starting point.  He used a hacking approach, and picked a team better than they were and told them they would play them in a certain time period.  The hacker approach uses tools that are motivational.  He showed a video of Leon Messi, he’s better, this is what you need to work on.  He brought an IPad as a coaching tool, computer generated play meant the kids listened and worked as a team.

He yelled, but in a positive way!

In the end they beat the other team, and it brought an understanding to the group of kids that you can’t always do what you are good at and want to do, but if you work hard, you can succeed.  He made a great connection between working hard, and success.

More tomorrow……..after the Break!



8 Responses to “Day 152 – TedxKids@Brussels, part 1”
  1. grandad says:

    I’ve never read such bilge in my life
    If people can make a living driveling on about kids as this I despair.
    Instead of all the excuses under the sun for kids misbehaviour etc I think they should consider control and direction of their abilities in a commercial athmosphere and not on the basis that we owe them a position from which they can start in advance of others.
    They have got to learn to get up off their arses and make their own way in life

    • Dad, you come from two generations apart, and I from one.
      Therefore our views will always be diametrically opposed based on our own experiences. And I respect that, and always will.
      The point of this blog, is that the experiences of kids today, is very different from the experiences of yesterday, and what worked in the last century (in both business, home and school) will no longer work effectively now.
      There is a lot of literature and knowledge now being built up on this new Millennium Generation, turning kids into learning machines is not where it is now, turning kids into facilitators, learners, team players and innovators is the way forward. The future may well be for the guy that can create/build and inspire, and can use his hands.
      It’s not giving in, it’s understanding that the marketing/business/financial guys now, don’t bring that much to the table. Compared to the 80’s.
      Respect and Discipline is still important. And always will be. It’s just defined in a new way, where kids learn how it works.

      Hope you will still read the next part, as the future speakers also expand on this.
      Take care, Lizzi x

      • Henny says:

        I agree that information technology has changed how we learn and how we communicate. However, I wish grown-ups would stop talking about this and instead focus on the children. There are too many people in education nowadays who do not actually work with the pupils themselves. We do not need all these grown-ups telling other grown-ups how to educate children, however interesting this may be, we need grown-ups turning their attention on these same kids they are talking about.


  2. Hello, Thank you so much for this summary. I was at the event and I loved the whole thing. I do deal with some of the issues via and experience many of the complex issues parents and teachers have to deal with in the current world. So much has moved on, and children experience a world very, very different from my days in London, in the 50s and 60s, on my bike, with friends, in the park and all that stuff. Todays world is dominated by iEverything – my 9 year old can do stuff that was science fiction when I was her age and she does it not just in English.

    I love the fact that some people can and will champion a new way of doing things. For my son, the new learning methods are brilliant (a life saver). For my daughter the traditional methods work best. For many children a blend of both worlds would be very interesting. The future is bright and our children will do even better things with it, if we trust that they can and support them to do so. I am more sure now than ever – that the concepts presented at TEDxKids would end many wars in many parts of the world. We just need the political will to do so and allow the young people to develop into the brillance they were born to be.


  3. elizabeth says:

    My daughter is one of the lucky ones who will attend Brightworks in San Francisco this fall.

    I recommend you check out this film that inspired me to make the leap to a more creative education for my children:

    Thanks for a great summary, I look forward to reading more.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for your recommendation…… I’ve applied for a personal home dvd after looking at the YouTube clip, and reading the site. You are so lucky to be able to send your daughter to Brightworks and I’m sure it’s a good decision. My friend Jules is taking her first steps here to set up a creative school here at Turtlewings in Brussels, for 2 1/2 to 5 yr olds and is hoping to link up at some point with Gever. So it would be great to keep in touch to hear about your experiences!

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