A couple of months ago I gave the opening talk (14 minutes) for a day long TEDxSomerville (MA) event. There was a full house, more than 300 people, and, as I later found out, many of them were part of a burgeoning ‘creative economy‘ in the city. Somerville, I learned from one of the TEDx speakers who followed me, is one of the most popular places in the country for artists.
I tried to pull off something quite unusual for the TED format. I tried to shift the attention from the speaker, from me, to the participants in the audience. It was an effort to take our Right Question approach and see if it could be used in a TED setting. I led participants through a quick experience in our Question Formulation Technique as they explored “obstacles to my learning at TEDxSomerville today.” I tried out some ways to make it work as a participatory learning experience, but felt that I could improve on a second go-around. But, even this initial attempt at a participatory TED talk got some of the audience excited. During the breaks many people told me how much they enjoyed starting off the day with a thinking exercise that pushed them think about their learning agenda for the day and made them more aware of their own thinking. They talked about how they noticed they were more alert and more deeply engaged with the speakers that followed. Next time, I’ll include a road sign: “Metacognition at Work!”
By leading off the whole day I functioned as the guinea pig for a series of technological challenges. But, in the end, it wound up being a great experience. The TEDxSomerville organizers deserve a big thanks for doing a masterful job in the editing process.