Saturday, November 20, 2010

TEDx for high school students near you

Parents worry about what their kids are doing online or in their free time.  We hear a lot about the concerns over the internet, social media and the access to strangers online.  But, we are just beginning to figure out some of the extraordinary opportunities for growth that all of these new tools can offer.

Now if you've never heard of TED conferences, it's time to learn.  TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and even the AARP website encourages participation. It's for everyone.  TED's slogan is "ideas worth sharing" and their website,, is loaded with over 700 ingenious performances, talks,pitches, patents, and ideas that range all over the encyclopedia of human experience across the globe.

Today I had the singular pleasure of seeing my daughters, Alice and Daphne Taranto, and their friend and creative partner, Zoe Kestan, present their magazine/website/blog/twitter page/facebook phenomenon called FAD at a TED conference sponsored by their school, Horace Mann in Riverdale, NY.  FAD magazine stands for FashionArtDesign and is an entirely student run enterprise.  They were joined by other hard-working passionate kids who are making extraordinary contributions to culture and making the world a better, richer place. 

This TED conference, called TEDx because it is entirely locally run and organized, had five New York City schools participating.  The format included the celebrated TED style of short talks, performances and demonstrations, two TEDTalks videos (including  JK Rawling from her 2008 Harvard commencement address--perfect on the day after the release of the latest Harry Potter movie); and bias free programming--a stipulation for licensure and use of the TED name.

Other impressive presentations included a student's performance of classical Indian dance followed by an extraordinary video of wheelchair "bound" dancers performing in India where she worked last summer. Four young men presented their latest apps for smartphones of which they have sold over 100, 000 to Apple's App Store online.  Another student presented his Zawadi by Youth, a student-run microfinance program which is funding small-scale entrepreneurs in the developing world and teaching NYC students about small business in emerging countries. Closer to home, Chelsea Dale, from Fieldston School, presented her program, On Giants' Shoulders, a mentoring program for privileged high school seniors who mentor weekly through Skype contact with younger students in the East Bronx. 

All in all these students were an inspiring mix of passion, hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and risk-taking.  Their ability to fearlessly embrace the world at large by wedding technology to compassion is impressive.  Let's hope that more schools and teachers like Dr Jeff Weitz at Horace Mann will organize and sponsor these programs and motivate high school students to pursue their passions and learn the value of sharing great ideas and the arduous but rewarding process of going from idea to product.

TED logo from

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