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TEDx Manhattan Beach, a conference on education

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TEDx Manhattan BeachWhat if every school’s walls were made of chalkboards so the whole campus facilitated interactive learning? Do students really need to attend school during certain hours or can school be available 24 hours a day? How can digital technology facilitate new education models?

Manhattan Beach leaders have invited 20 speakers to TEDxManhattanBeach, an independent, locally organized conference inspired by TEDTalks, to discuss these questions during a day of thought-provoking conversations on education. The event will also feature breakout sessions, or hands-on interactive groups to discuss and simulate the ideas mentioned in the talks. The conference will be held on Oct. 22 at Manhattan Beach Middle School.

“If we present ideas to thought leaders, they’ll have conversations and talk to other people and make change,” said Marla Zaslansky, co-president of the Manhattan Beach Education Foundation. “It doesn’t mean those are the right things, but those are things that make you think, ‘Oh, that’s totally different than what we do today.’ And that’s the goal.”

Zaslansky organized the conference with John Marston of TED and parent volunteer Kate Bergin.

Part of Zaslansky’s role on the education foundation is keeping up to date with trends in education by attending conferences like Leadership 2.0 and the Computer Using Educators Conference. After being so inspired by these conferences, she thought, “Wouldn’t it be incredible if our constituents would be exposed with amazing ideas we’re hearing?”

So, she hit the books – Zaslansky researched who had breakthrough ideas on education, whether regarding technology in learning or questioning current curricula.

One speaker’s talk is titled, “Why math instruction is unnecessary.” John Bennett, a Bay area math teacher, will discuss alternatives to math, like games and logic puzzles.

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Open Education Solutions, will give the talk, “Innovations in Education.” Vander Ark was the first executive director of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he implemented $3.5 billion in scholarship and grant programs. His book, “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World,” examines the potential of digital learning.

Paulo Bilkstein, assistant professor at Stanford University, will discuss nanotechnology in the classroom. Zaslansky compares his method of teaching to what in the “old days” was home economics. Bilkstein teaches science and math by having his students build projects and such devices as train tracks that, when in use, create music. One interactive breakout session will include South Bay sixth-graders working on one of Bilkstein’s projects.

Also among the 20 speakers is Thomas Suarez, a South Bay sixth-grader who established his own company, CarrotCorp. He develops iPhone applications – his most successful is ‘Bustin Jeiber,’ a $0.99 game that lets users whack Justin Bieber. It’s similar to the game, Whac-a-Mole.

The city and the Manhattan Beach Unified School District, among other local businesses and agencies, have sponsored the event.

Residents anticipate the conference not only putting the city at the forefront of the conversation on education, but also providing resources for the community to better grasp what’s going on in the field. “It’s not just about public school education, it’s about our community education,” said Lester Silverman, at a city council meeting.


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