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Early Childhood Education TED Talks

  • Sugata Mita and Spontaneous Learning
  • Infant Linguists and Learning
  • Boys and the Education System
  • Tinkering as a Model for Better Safety and Human Cognition
  • Changing Our Understanding of Infant Intellects

For those seeking a degree in early childhood education, it’s a truism that this time is one of the most critical for developing skills and intellectual proficiency. However, it cannot be argued that a disconnect between educators and educational systems appears. What are the remedies for this gap between understanding and implementation? What answers do researchers offer? How can we better understand the problems presented? Below, we’ve organized a list of five great TED Talks by experts in the field that touch upon various issues and salient themes.

1. Sugata Mita and Spontaneous Learning

This educational researcher has introduced several groundbreaking theories in recent years. Through unconventional methods, he deduced that if children are given access to a computer—which represents a source of accumulated knowledge—they will  teach themselves  a variety of skills in the absence of any guidance. He repeated this experiment in places around the world that have been deemed undesirable by many teaching professionals and always received startling results. Over time, his theoretical reach widened to explore the ways in which children will utilize group skills to teach and retain data even in the presence of a complete language barrier. He calls this a self-organizing system.

2. Infant Linguists and Learning

Patricia Kuhl addresses the infant propensity for linguistic acquisition. In her lecture, she explores how children from birth to age seven acquire and adopt languages, calling babies citizens of the world. In the beginning, we respond to all sounds, irrespective of our culture, but over time we become culture-bound. According to her research, after that upper threshold, our ability to learn new languages begins to decline, and she questions how this intersects with other critical social skills we gain.

3. Boys and the Education System

Ali Carr-Chellman explores the literacy needs of boys from age 3 to 13 in the American school system. While she acknowledges the gender inequality that skews in favor of males, she notes that males are twice or three times as likely as their female counterparts to experience disciplinary or cognitive issues during their early childhood education. This is likely a function of the dire disconnect between policies that sanitize, pedagogies that preclude the expression of violent or physical themes in creative exercises, and the realities of young boys.

4. Tinkering as a Model for Better Safety and Human Cognition

Tully offers a refreshing perspective on the need for little risks in children’s lives. Bruises, scrapes, and thrills are essential for  understanding legitimate boundaries  during a child’s early experience of the world. By attempting to keep our babies safer, we are making the world a more dangerous place for them with ever more restrictive safety rules. Using tools or practicing physical skills is a critical part of developing our brains at an early age. Rather than prohibition, he argues for guided danger—playing with fire, sharp objects, and exploring the physical world with a caring, vigilant parent.

5. Changing Our Understanding of Infant Intellects

Gopnik speaks about our growing body of knowledge of  the internal states of infants . Rather than being blank slates as we long believed, babies as young as 18 months possess intensive critical thinking skills and methods of gauging the desires of their fellows. This suite of behaviors holds an evolutionary benefit for our species because we are designed to learn in our early lives and apply at older ages. Infant neurophysiology is highly complex, and there is mounting evidence that we each conduct complex statistical, mathematical, and physical analysis of our lived environment.

Education is not an endeavor confined to a classroom, nor can it be restricted to a single, clean model. The explorations and inquisitions of the young mind must be permitted, even if they are a bit messier than fully formed adults would like. Early childhood education should incorporate this genius for mental work and physical effort rather than pressing each child into a static mold.
See also: Top 15 Cheap Online Master’s in Early Childhood Education Degree Programs

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