Northwestern professors highlight locally organized TED talk in Evanston

Audrey Cheng and Audrey Cheng

Three Northwestern professors took the stage separately at a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) event Wednesday night, describing innovative learning and education to an audience of about 100 people.

“Everyone wants to learn, but nobody wants to look stupid,” said music producer Mike Herrero, one of the event’s six speakers, at the first TEDxEvanston talk Wednesday night at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading innovative ideas, and it holds talks throughout the world. The Evanston event, called “Adventures in Learning,” was an independently organized local event created “to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group,” according to TEDxEvanston’s website.

Herrero focused his presentation on how to effectively teach songwriting and production to students, which he does as a hip-hop instructor at the nonprofit Rock for Kids. About 20 volunteers from Northwestern and Evanston were also present at the event.

Reed Stevens, SESP professor of Learning Sciences, gave a presentation on how traditional forms of education disengage and alienate students. He said one of the program’s organizers, Adam Lupu, invited him to speak at the event.

“Adam asked me to do it, and I’ve watched a lot of TED talks and always found them interesting,” Stevens said. “It’s an opportunity to share ideas you really care about and be a little provocative. It’s a different kind of environment than a normal academic talk.”

Stevens said although he often gives talks, he was nervous because he was presenting an idea to a diverse audience.

“When you give a talk in academia, you know who you’re talking toward and how to talk to the set of people effectively,” Stevens said.

Miguel Wong, 36, was one of four event organizers. He said he thematically divided the first-of-its-kind event into two distinct segments.

“In the first part, we’re talking about learning outside of the classroom,” Wong said. “We have people talking about learning theories or when you actually start to learn. The second half has to do more with conditional discussion about the idea of education.”

Wong said that as a first-time TEDx Talk organizer, he was only allowed to have 100 people in the audience. However, he reached out to an even larger audience through a live online video stream.

“We are issuing a live broadcast feed of our event to a number of people in the U.S. and around the world,” Wong said. “We have viewing parties in Guatemala City, San Paulo, Brazil, Melvin, Australia, Hong Kong and Evanston as well. We have way more than 100 people viewing this event tonight.”

Christian Hoyos, a Ph.D student in psychology at NU, said he enjoyed the talk because of its accessibility.

“A lot of the themes could resonate with a wide audience,” Hoyos said. “I like the wide variety. It shows us there’s more than one way to learn.”

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