5 TED talks about education from 2017

We rounded up five of our favorite TED talks that captured some of 2017's most pressing issues in education.

From the science of attention to the limits of grit—here are our picks and a brief synopsis of each presentation:

1: The boost students need to overcome obstacles: According Anindya Kundu, a doctoral candidate in sociology at New York University, disadvantaged students can't rely on personal grit alone to navigate college. In reality, students need mentors and opportunities to help them develop the skills needed to persevere, he says. Kundu shares a few stories of students who overcame immense personal obstacles by leaning on their mentors and support networks.

Related: Two ways to help first-generation students navigate your college's "hidden curriculum"

2: 3 fears about screen time for kids: For today's parents, a child's relationship with screens can be a source of anxiety, says Sara DeWitt, a children's media expert and vice president at PBS Kids Digital. Parents often fear that mobile devices will disrupt their children's development, she adds. Pulling from her research at PBS, DeWitt explores the potential mobile devices have to help children develop, connect, and grow.

3: Can a robot pass a university entrance exam? Todai Robot, an AI project led by mathematician Noriko Arai, passed the University of Tokyo's entrance exam with flying colors—without understanding any of the material. Instead, the robot relied on searching and optimizing to choose the most likely answers. Robots can memorize knowledge, but only humans can understand it, Arai says. To help students compete with AI, educators need to shift teaching away from memorization to meaning, she argues.

4: How to design libraries that students actually want to visit: Michael Bierut recalls his experience designing a logo for New York City's public school libraries. What began as a seemingly straightforward project soon flared into a newfound passion for bringing energy and art into the city's libraries, says Bierut, a lecturer in design and management at Yale University.

3 ways to optimize and reallocate library space

5: The science of attention: Paying close attention is not only about what we focus on, but also about what we filter out, says Mehdi Ordikhani-Seyedlar, a computer neuroscientist. By investigating the neurological patterns that occur when our brains pay attention, Ordikhani-Seyedlar hopes to build a computer model that can help those with ADHD retrain their focus (Arai, TED, April 2017; Bierut, TED, March 2017; DeWitt, TED, April 2017; Kundu, TED, June 2017; Ordikhani-Seyedlar, TED, April 2017). 


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