How TED talks have changed since 2006

This week, I watched Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity. My grand plan is to watch all the talks on the top 25 list in order to practice sketch noting and story analysis and Robinson’s was the first on the list.

Robinson’s message is still an important one. Creativity matters. Children are our future. We must not educate the creativity out of our children. His TED talk, which he gave in 13 years ago in February 2006, was nothing like what we’ve come to expect from TED talks.

First of all, the camera work is only semi-professional and there are no visuals at all. There’s no death by PowerPoint here, you’re safe. So visually, this video isn’t as polished as what we’re used to seeing now.

The talk itself is also really very different. He leads with his main point. In fact, just 3 minutes in, he states that creativity is as important as literacy and should be treated as such. He gets a round of applause, laughs a bit and makes a joke about telling his life story.

The language of his key message changes throughout his talk.  He says we have to teach children to be used to mistakes, that they have extraordinary capacity, that they are all born artists (quoting Picasso), and that degrees aren’t worth anything these days. He also talks about the value of human imagination and the importance of creative capacities. These are restatements of his central point.

That central point is that children are creative beings who will need creativity to succeed in the world and that our education system as it squashes that.

Near the end of his talk he tells the audience that we have to “rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children.” He doesn’t offer his vision for what that might look like. He says that drama and dance are undervalued even in the arts, but doesn’t share the vision of a school or system of education in which these are part of the core subjects.

Perhaps the thing that caught my attention the most was that the stories Robinson tells are still the things that stick in my mind. The child who draws God. The boy playing one of the three kings in the nativity play who says, “Frank sent this” instead of frankincense. The little girl who wasn’t sick but a dancer.

This isn’t a bad talk. But there’s a vast structural difference between this one and the example I often use in workshops, Dan Barber’s 2010 talk I Fell in Love with a Fishwhere he uses story and image to make the main point of the talk. His talk ends with an emotional vision of the kind of future change could bring.

Our ideas about what a good presentation looks like are constantly changing. It’s fascinating to look back and learn from these developments, check the habits we are carrying with us and just be absolutely sure whether we want to hold on to them or not!





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