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Learning with 'TED in a Box'

What we learned organizing a pop-up TED experience for refugees settled in the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan

Photo of Saad Hamid
7 18

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While traditional practices involve using books & paper material to interact with students, our team at TEDxIslamabad did something entirely new and unique when we organized Pakistan's very first TEDxKids event back in the summer of 2012.

The idea we had in mind was to use TED in a box to conduct a TEDx event specially targeted towards refugee kids who were living in the outskirts and slums area of Islamabad.

What's TED in a box?

Designed by consultants at IDEO, TEDx in a Box contains everything needed to host a TEDx event: a projector, subtitled TED talks, a sound system, microphones and a how-to guide.

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What we did and what we learned?

Our very objective with TED in a box event was to take education and learning beyond just books and make it fun and interactive with the kids and while doing so, use tech that is mobile and works everywhere (hence TED in a box).

What came through was a series of things that we learned.

1. Teaching kids with TED talks works.

We invited a few speakers and asked everyone to prepare small 5-minute TED talk styled talks and it turns out that the children there were most interested in listening to these talks instead of plain old 'lectures' because they seemed more fun, open and interactive.

2. Verbal communication is the key

While we learned that such communities are only well-versed with their mother-tongue ('Pashtun' for them), we also learned that they could understand verbal communication in another popular language ('Urdu') but when it came to reading / writing, they were totally blank and couldn't read or write either in Pashtun (their mother tongue) or even Urdu. Verbal communication and audio/visual interaction turned out to be the key

3. Pop-up educational experiences work best

Since these children and their families are not used to living under a permanent housing so they welcome pop-up educational experiences such as the one we did with TED in a box. It makes education more fun and exciting

4.  Classrooms of the future have no teacher

Yes, while that may seem like a daring statement, its true. Classrooms of the future have no teachers, rather facilitators and what we learned in this whole exercise is that the kids there loved creating their own curriculum and were self-learning throughout the program instead of being guided into learning through a converged stream of knowledge.

If you want to know more, please read about the whole event on the official TEDx blog


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Saad Hamid

Curator for TEDxKids and also In-Country Community Manager for IDEO Amplify

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Photo of Akampa Tanbull

@ Saad Hamid. I do agree with you. The future will not be all about class room lecture but more of self organized learning environments. This could even be the trend to reduce on unemployment challenge especially in developing Countries that seem to be so stuck with in an old era of education systems and curriculums... Like what my Beloved Country Uganda is stuck in!! We need more and more of such initiatives for the next generations to think outside the box for themselves!! Than our generation.

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Photo of Saad Hamid

Indeed we do :) love your thoughts. You know I visited Uganda like a month back and I was surprised to find out that a lot of youth issues (regarding education and employment) in Uganda are the same as the challenges faced by the youth in Pakistan.

Perhaps together we can come up with new ideas to solve these problems.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Great post Saad! Clearly the event that you held resonated with the children. My question would be how to build on the energy that an event like this brings to the school? 5 minute talks are great thought starters - Might a few of them be the beginning of further exploration for the kids? Was there follow up to the event at the school you were working with?
I read the blog post linked here and and also looked at the website for the Pehli Kiran School where you held the event. The school itself is very interesting. Maybe put up a post about their model for others to read here? The approach to education seems very relevant to a refugee population. Might be some inspirations for this challenge as well? http://jaqtrust.org/HowWeWork.aspx

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Photo of Saad Hamid

Hi Bettina

Unfortunately we never did a follow up event. We want to, and perhaps this challenge will inspire us to go back to the community.

The Pehli Kiran Schools are actually very interesting. I don't know their model but what they do is they create temporary school environment for refugees located in the outskirts of Islamabad (capital of Pakistan). These refugees have long migrated and now find shelter in the slums of Islamabad and the JAQ Trust has built these temporary schools for this kind of displaced population.

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Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Saad. I read on the JAQ Trust website that the school follows the communities if they migrate from one informal settlement to another. What an unusual organization! Providing this type of consistency for youth that are moving due to life circumstances seems very powerful. Might also be therapeutic?
Thanks for sharing!

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Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on this post being featured in this week's highlights! https://openideo.com/blog/refugee-education-weekly-highlights-april-10-2015

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Photo of Meena Kadri

Loving the insights here, Saad. So great to hear about the TEDx in a Box in action in this context.