TED@Palm Springs: Ideas, Communities of Learning, and Dancing as Fast as We Can

To be working at the TED (Technology, Education, Design) Conference simulcast event in Palm Springs on a day when Infopeople announced Linda Demmers’ “Creating Learning Spaces in Your Library” webinar is yet another reminder of how wonderfully intertwined our various communities of learning have become in an onsite-online world.
Demmers, through her online Infopeople presentation, will be helping viewers explore how libraries can play larger educational roles in their communities. TED, in its 25th annual gathering of dynamic and innovative speakers, is bringing members of its worldwide learning community together in its new Long Beach home; those live Long Beach presentations (with approximately 1,300 attendees present), combined with the simulcast version here in Palm Springs (with an additional 400 people viewing and discussing the live large-screen presentations), is a trainer-teacher-learner’s dream come true.
The usual wide range of inspiring speakers on a variety of topics included futurist Juan Enriquez (author of As the Future Catches You); P.W. Singer (Wired for War); Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates talking about philanthropy and, in the second half of the talk, the importance of supporting great teachers; and, Seth Godin, drawing from his book Tribes to discuss how everyone has a leadership role in a Web 2.0 world.
Two talks with film previews were among the highlights of the late-afternoon/early evening session. Producer Jake Eberts provided a stunning nine-minute preview of Oceans, a beautifully moving underwater follow-up to Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s Winged Migration (scheduled for release in France this fall and a U.S. premiere on Earth Day—April 22—in 2010), and introduced Perrin to the audience. We didn’t even have a moment to catch our breath before Earth From Above photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand introduced his upcoming feature-length film Home, which will be released in its entirety online for free downloads in June 2009 and will also be distributed in a variety of other ways. Which raises an interesting question for libraries interested in creating learning spaces: might those with meeting rooms or more formal auditoriums plan ahead and access the free downloads so that library members and guests can gather to view the film and then engage in discussions immediately following the presentation? In an onsite-online world, the possibilities are increasing every day.
This being TED, surprises were the order of the day, and the Palm Springs version didn’t let us down: the first of the four days of TED talks ended with a brief and lively training session led by YouTube “Where in the Hell is Matt?” celebrity Matthew Harding, whose tongue-in-cheek videos show him dancing (intentionally) badly in visually stunning settings all over the world. Harding later confirmed, in a brief conversation, that his efforts to teach the nearly 1,700 audience members split between the two Southern California TED locations a few simple dance steps from India was his largest attempt to date. And even if we couldn’t dance to save our lives, we would have had to have been pretty curmudgeonly to not walk away from this “blended” joyful learning experience without large smiles and a sense of even better presentations waiting to be heard when everything reconvened this morning.
N.B.—To view TED talks, please visit the TED archives online; to participate in Linda Demmers February 18, 2009 “Creating Learning Spaces in Your Library” Infopeople webcast, please visit the Infopeople site.