Five TEDxBerkeley Speakers Share What They Want to See Changed in the World

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Kim Polese opened the fourth annual TEDxBerekley event at Zellerbach Hall on April 20. The theme for this year’s event was Catalyzing Change and in alignment with the theme, she addressed the communications gap between education providers and students. Students don’t know what courses to take so they can succeed in the 21st century.

Our challenge is to preserve the excellence and transform the curriculum. She says, “We face a new crisis, the skills gap, which is a crisis which is affecting everyone so we need a revolution in the teaching model.” One of the things being done include the MOOC courses (massive online open courses), Passive versus active participants in online open courses (small online classes) and SPOCS (Small Private Online Classes).

The revolution is not about cutting costs, she asserts; it’s about this new transformational learning model that is more engaged and also it allows for mass distribution to more people. Only 50% of undergraduates receive a degree in six years. Moreso than that, 55% of students need remediation. The typical student attends multiple universities, which equates to lost dollars and time because so much of the credits don’t transfer over. Often, a student takes “on average” over a year of credits they wouldn’t need to take.

One idea she proposed is making it dead easy to get credits, boosting confidence. What is we offered and made those transfer of those credits seamless? Think about what Visa did to revolutionize the credit business, by swiping a card and it just works. If we standardize undergraduate classes so the credits can be applied as seamlessly as a Visa card is used today to pay for products and services.

There’s a growing divide in the STEM gap (science, technology, engineering and math), so much so that 33% of students just felt that they weren’t prepared enough. A sad stat considering in the U.S., we lag behind most developed countries.

Give out of every new jobs will be in STEM related jobs in the next decade and yet we’re lagging behind countries like Singapore, France and other developing countries. If we just focused on increasing the number of STEM graduates by 10% can produce 75,000 more STEM graduates by the end of the decade, which is close to what Obama’s goal is for higher education.

Women are turning away from computing, the percentage at its all time high was 34% and now its down to below 15%. The first programmers were women. During World War II, the army recruited a group of women out of the University of Pennsylvania to calculate bolistic trojectories and they called these computers women. She refers to the work of TED Prize winner Sugata Mitra. Known for his work in education research, Sugata Mitra won $1 million TED Prize to build his School in the Cloud.

Many who keeps tabs on education will know him for his project called “Hole in the Wall”, an experiment he conducted in 1999, where Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall near an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC and walked away.

Over time, while a hidden camera filmed the area, the video showed children from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process, teaching themselves now only how to use it themselves, but sharing that knowledge with their friends.

His goal is lofty – he invited the world to embrace child-driven learning by setting up something he refers to as Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs). He asked for help designing a learning lab in India, where children can “embark on intellectual adventures.”

Second in the session was Eden Full who is the Founder of Roseicollis Technologies Inc. She studied for two years at Princeton University and is currently taking gap years to work on her start-up full time after being selected for the inaugural class of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. Named one of the 30 under 30 in Forbes’ Energy category two years in a row and Ashoka’s Youth Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Eden founded Roseicollis Technologies Inc. to take her solar panel tracking invention called the SunSaluter to developing communities and established markets that need them.

The SunSaluter won the Mashable/UN Foundation Startups for Social Good Challenge and was awarded the runner-up prize at the 2011 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. While at Princeton, Eden initiated and curated TEDxPrincetonU. Proudly Canadian, she was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta. After coxing for the Princeton lightweight women’s team, Eden was selected to be the coxswain for the 2012 Rowing Canada’s senior women’s development team, where they won a gold medal at Holland Beker and the Remenham Challenge Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta, beating the German Olympic boat.

She shared her story about her patent-pending solar invention called SunSaluter which she has been using in East Africa. Provided extra electricity every day for one 60W panel to charge, plus not just the benefit of getting extra water but clean to people every day. She tested it out in a polit in Nyakasimbi Tanzania and thereafter with a partner in Kirindi Uganda. The goal is deploy 200+ units to 15,000+ villagers.

Curt L. Tofteland is the founder of the internationally acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) program. During his 18 years of work with Shakespeare in corrections, he facilitated the SBB/KY program at the Luther Lucket Correctional Complex, producing and directing 14 Shakespeare Productions.

“It is within the silence that we discover the absence of self,” he said to TEDxBerkeley audience, as he opened with lines from Shakespeare. “We arrive in this world, naked and alone and we leave this world, naked and alone; we take with us our memories and we leave behind our deeds,” he says reading a story that addressed life issues such as dealing with truth and ego.

His work in teaching Shakespeare to prisoners over the years was turned a movie and he also teamed up with filmmaker/director/producer Robby Henson and playwright Elizabeth Orndorf to create Voices Inside/Out – a 10-minute playwriting program at the Northpoint Training Center in Burgin, Kentucky. The program  has generated inmate authored plays that have been professionally produced at Theatrelab, an Off-Off-Broadway theatre in New York City.

Erica Wides from Let’s Get Real Show proceeded to take the TEDxBerkeley crowd into the world of “real food,” versus processed food, which has become the predominant food Americans eat today.  She says, “artificial has redefined the original. As Americans, we don’t even know what real food anymore.
Food has become a hobby or fetish for some of us, it’s become another utility like gas or electric of a real booty call.” She asserts that we don’t really know where real food comes from anymore, and that the “foodie elite” is sending out the wrong message, about things they don’t even care about. The elite want people to care about whether food is seasonable or organic. It’s not how mainstream America thinks she says, who throws out examples of how they “do think:” Where is the protein bar ranch? Is the gold fish in my gold fish crackers farmed or caught? Why should I spend time to get real organic meat when I can get an alternative for less than half the price?
How do you know what real food is in the first place? In your grandmother’s day, eating organic real food didn’t make you elite, keeping your teeth after the age of 50 made you elite.  The US has the one third of the world’s excess weight. Erica says with a sense of wit and humor that brings over 1,000 people to tears laughing: we’re becoming the cute potato people from the movie Wally. Even my home town of New York City, who was a thin walking city now has to widen its subway seats for people.
As for what’s real? If it grows or flies, it’s food. If you cook it at home to bake it into a pie its real food. If that food goes off to a factory to get processed before it gets to you, its not real food; its what I call “Foodiness.” People are convinced that this is real food. Foodiness recasts the supermarket products as real food when it’s not real food.
If we expect everyone to grow bees, grow their own fruit trees and go to organic markets, they’ll just keep eating protein bars and gummy snacks.  While real food might be really inconvenient it’s important to recognize that cancer and heart disease is even more convenient when we don’t eat or live well. The only way to make a sea change is for the elite to think like them. In other words, says Erica, “we need to get the scooter riders to stir fry rather than Kentucky fry.” 

I wanted Robert Neuwirth to speak at TEDxBerkeley ever since I first heard him speak at PopTech a few years ago. He is best known for his work with squatter communities and poverty. He wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, a book describing his experiences living in squatter communities in NairobiRio de JaneiroIstanbul and Mumbai.  

He brings us on a journey to West Africa and how locals came up with a creative way to source their own energy when the government couldn’t. Lagos residents use energy conservation. In his time in Lagos, he saw people get their water in large canisters not from fresh water sources or private wells. The Lagos government claims that it provides safe drinking water in sufficient quantities to its people, according to a newspaper he read on his way out of the country and yet, its far from reality. There is no real functioning water system in Lagos and other things are not efficient either. Apparently they waste N1.5 billion by leaving their computers on standby.

The electrical company in Nigeria was originally called NEPA, which the people refer to as “Never expect power always.” On a future trip, Robert noted that the name had been changed to PHCN, which locals now refer to as “Problem has changed name.” He says, “Lagos is the only city I’ve been ever been to where people have generator envy. It’s a home grown system that isn’t licensed. We can argue about their efficiency and so forth, but this is how Lagos gets electricity.”
Because of these issues, the Lagos government decided to privatize electricity and raised $156 million from private vendors who want to run the system and still, nothing has changed. This is a great example of where people organically get together to solve a problem when government isn’t able to.  Yet, privatization isn’t going to magically transform a system that couldn’t provide electricity to its citizens. If they hugely invest in a generation, we’re gong to need more money from the consumer and privatization doesn’t bring anything better to the consumer. More importantly, they don’t have the kind of democracy that talks this out.

Robert also talked about other initiatives there, where a marketplace was literally knocked down by Kai (the Kick Against Indiscipline squad) with no notice and no relocation because it was deemed a rough and dangerous place.  The mayor has a plan for a kind of urban, mega city. He wants it to be the African Dubai, pointing to Dubai as his model. Apparently, there is a substantial cadre of Nigerians who feel that way.  These decisions are designed to make them look better to the outside world yet of course, it needs to be more rational. 
Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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One Response to Five TEDxBerkeley Speakers Share What They Want to See Changed in the World

  1. Gold Coast Energy May 22, 2013 at 8:00 am #

    It has been believed that education is more easily understood than
    defined. That’s how the TEDxBerkeley envision education for the 21st
    century. “From thinkers to makers, and from makers to doers.” That is
    how education should be understood. “Catalyzing Change.” It is acting
    upon by “catalysis” to induced change. And TEDxBerkeley will serve as a
    starting “catalysis” for change.

    One speaker in TEDxBerkeley
    caught my attention. A young former mechanical engineering in Princeton
    University who developed a non-toxic, cheap, recyclable device made out
    of metal and bamboo that allows solar panels to follow or track the Sun
    without the use of an electric motor. It is actually known as the
    SunSaluter. People from East Africa knew the SunSaluter as energy-water
    nexus as it provides enhanced amount of energy while purifying water.
    This innovation from Eden Full is truly remarkable. It’s two in one. You
    get energy to power your electric devices while enjoying the purified
    water from SunSaluter. According to the blog written by R. P. Siegel,
    Eden Full knew that solar panels are very important to the society. In
    order to exhaust the full potential of solar panels, they need to track
    the sun the way that plants do.

    It is truly amazing to know
    people with innovative minds like Eden Full. I am pretty sure that there
    a lot of people who has the means and minds to create something that
    the society can benefit from it. “Catalyzing Change.” We need more
    people like Eden Full to develop and innovate things in the field of
    solar technology. Solar Energy is the future major source of energy.
    With great and innovative minds, sustainable and clean energy will be

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