I recently read the book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. In the book, the main character visits a library in a parallel dimension where each book represents one of her possible lives…should she have made different choices. The journey takes us into multiple different versions of this character, Nora Seed. She is a rock star, a mother, a glaciologist, an Olympic swimmer, a philosophy professor and the list goes on. In each life, Seed has the luxury of measuring the level of happiness and fulfillment the different paths procure her.
It is the classic “what if”, question. Of course, it got me thinking of my own life. Then, instead of delving into regretted choices or getting depressed about what could have been, I thought of this TED talk by Matt Cutts: Try something new for 30 days. Since we cannot travel into parallel universes to see what could have been, Cutts’ idea is the next best thing.
Parallel Lives for 30 Days
We have all heard it before, we must step out of our comfort zone to grow…right? Cutt’s takes this to the next level with his self-imposed 30-day challenge. What I like about Cutt’s talk, is it gives a more tangible objective to this idea of trying new things. It may not be as profound as the Midnight Library, but it’s a start. After all, what’s 30 days?
What new thing would you like to try but haven’t yet?
What does it mean to “step out of your comfort zone”?
What are the benefits of doing new things? Any disadvantages?
What are the benefits of sticking with what you know? Any disadvantages?
The Video: Try something new for 30 days
Why does Matt think this is a good idea?
What did it change in his life?
What areas of our lives could we apply this to? Make a Mind Map…
Do you have any spontaneous ideas that you might like to try for 30 days?
Language focus: environment, action verbs, household items
Can you live a zero-waste life? I know I can’t…not yet anyway. But every year I try to incorporate a new environmentally friendly practice. For example, I switched my paper napkins for cloth napkins. I also buy at least 10% of my clothes at second hand shops. Also, I collect and bring all my styrofoam to a community drop off point.
It may not be a huge contribution to reducing my environmental footprint, but it’s something. I know we should and could be doing so much more. And I know that the degradation of our planet is alarming and overwhelming. But I also have to take care of my emotional well being. Thus, carrying the responsibility of saving the planet is pretty heavy. I try to not be too hard on myself about doing more and I try not to judge what everyone else is doing.
That said, I do like to hear what other people are doing to reduce waste and be better global citizens. Sometimes, there are practical things. Things that are not drastic or super time-consuming. Sometimes all I need are some ideas. Here is where Lauren Singer’s TED talk comes in handy.
Singer is an absolute champion at transforming her daily habits into zero waste practices. You heard that right…she produces no garbage at all. How does she do it? You’ll have to listen to her talk to find out.
What do you do to reduce waste?
What would you like to do, but feel that it is too much energy or too time-consuming?
The Talk: Why I live a zero-waste life by Lauren Singer
What inspired Singer to lead a zero-waste life?
Make a list of all the things Singer does to eliminate waste
What are some of the things Singer does that you could do?
What are some of things Singer does that you find too time consuming or complicated?
Do you think we are doing enough to reduce our environmental footprint?
What are some of the more important things we could do to reduce waste?
Are you an introvert, extrovert or ambivert? You probably already know the answer, but wouldn’t you like to check? Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant shares his psycho-quiz on the TED site, which for us ESL practitioners can be transformed into a fantastic interactive reading exercise. I would suggest you pair up your students and ask them to quiz each other rather than simply have them do it individually.
But before jumping into the exercise I want to tell you why I snagged on this question in the first place. Yes, I like to psycho-analyze stuff with absolutely no authority to do so. And yes I love to use frameworks and patterns to help me understand the world better. But more than that, when it comes to spotting an introvert or extrovert or even knowing myself, I think I have it all wrong.
I recently watched a TED talk given by Brian Little which asks “Who are you really: the puzzle of personality,” in which he presents his framework for classifying personality traits. When he got to the extravert/introvert category, his explanation really puzzled me. According to him, I would be a total introvert. Me? I know right! Based on Little’s examples of the behaviours of each of these personalities, I would sway more on the reclusive quiet side.
Are you intrigued yet? So let me link each resource: first the TED quiz and then the TED talk. Let’s see you and your students change perspective…
Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
What are some of the things you love and hate that demonstrate your personality?
The Quiz: Quiz: Are you an extrovert, introvert or ambivert? by Adam Grant
TED talk: Who are you really? The puzzle of personality?
What are the elements in Little’s framework?
Why do you think ‘kindness’ is not part of it?
Do you agree with his descriptions of introverts and extroverts?
Who do you know that fits those descriptions?
What are the advantages/disadvantages of introverts and extroverts?
So much of me has changed since I entered adulthood. My career, my interests, my abilities. And some of these changes have put me before some of the hardest decisions of my life. Like choosing to put my career on hold to raise my daughters. Or shifting my practice to literacy and dyslexia remediation when I became brave enough to admit my own struggle with dyslexia.
But before making those hard choices, I felt caught between what I ought to do and what I want to do. And sometimes this tension became so great that I had to make concrete changes to find peace.
Changing careers, changing partners, changing schools, changing where we live…those are all hard choices. So what governs our decisions? In Ruth Chang’s TED talk “How to make hard choices”, Chang fleshes out how we weigh the pros and cons and how culture influences this. Chang argues that hard choices are precious opportunities that show us that we have the power to become the individuals we desire to be.
Clinical testing of new medicines and therapies is quite a layered and rigorous process. And still, when a drug reaches the general public, there can be unexpected outcomes. This TED talk features Nina Tandon introducing a new biotechnology process that may prevent some of these outcomes.
For your science students…and perhaps your science aficionados, watch Tandon’s presentation and see if your participants can pull out the main points and features this new technology offers.
What do you know about the process of drug testing?
Do you think the process is solid enough to protect against unpredictable outcomes?
What could be improved?
The Video: TED-Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine?
Cut the video into as many parts as you need depending on the level of your participants.
Ah success! I feel as though this topic has been done to death. Yet I cannot resist this TED talk by Richard St. John. So short, so simple, so predictable, yet so thought provoking.
St. John interviewed over 400 people, some famous, to succinctly summarize the ‘ingredients’ to success. Although the results are not necessarily surprising, I think they are worth reminding.
Of course we all have our cultural capital which is to say, depending on upbringing and background, some of us start the journey with a head start. However, in St. John’s TED talk, he looks at the more unbiased predispositions that contribute success. It is a short presentation (3 min.) and may lead to some interesting personal anecdotes.
Tell us about some of your successes. What do you think contributed to them?
Do a Mind Map the elements that contribute to success.
The Video: TED 8 Secrets of Success by Richard St. John
List each point
Do you agree with St. John?
Do you think he forgot anything?
Can you share a personal anecdote on one or of the elements?
Fake news is the term “du jour.” How sharp do you think you are at spotting fake news?
What if you were a journalist? If your livelihood depended on your ability to detect fact from fiction? In Markham Nolan’s TED talk “How to separate fact from fiction online” we see how the digital dimension affects this decision.
How good are you at detecting fake news?
What is your criteria? How can you tell?
Do a Mind Map of the elements/criteria that can help separate fact from fiction.
The video: TED Markham Nolan: How to separate fact from fiction
Watch the video and gather some of Nolan’s debunking tools.
Compare your list with the mind map you did previously.
What elements in the digital information era make fact checking easier? What makes them harder?
Which anecdotes in Nolan’s talk stick with you? Why?