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“TED ideas worth spreading and TEDxTokyo”


Patrick Newell, TEDxTokyo

Thank you very much for inviting me here today. A quick question, how

many people here today are attending this university as a student? Raise

your hand please. Okay. I see some people… How many of the people are teachers in this room or sensei’s in this room? Okay. How many people in this room are lifetime learners? I want to see everybody’s hands, come on!

At the end I’m going to ask you, which maybe you’ve never experienced before, but I’m going to ask you what we’ve shared together. What will be memorable to you at the end? And I’m going to ask you to share that from the time, and ask you what we’ve shared together in the next 70 minutes.

What really touched you? What grabbed you? What is going to inspire you to do something new and different?

What I want to share with you today is my personal journey, and I don’t share this very often in an open forum, about the different things that I feel that I could do, “I can,” and the journey of reaching, “I did.”; and how it changed from “I can” to “we can.” And that’s what I’d like to share a little bit today. I’m also going to be asking you what’s your passion, breaking you into groups to share what is your passion, what is your interest, what is your dream, and then bringing that together with “I can” because if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.

So I was asked today to speak about TED, what’s TED all about? How do you synergize that with the technology, with language learning, or learning together? And I’m very fortunate because TED has just asked me to help lead their global education project, which is taking TED and synergizing that with learning. And so at the very end here we will come kind of to what that would look like, and with everybody’s help in this room, maybe some new ideas of how we can take technology, language, learning, and TED and bring that together. I would love to come away with some new ideas that I could share with TED in New York that came out of today. That would be very inspiring.

So my TED journey started a little bit with Tokyo International School. My wife and I, with very limited resources, two classrooms in one of our English schools 12 years ago, with 12 students, started an international school. I was 31 years old and I had this “I’m going to start an international school.” I was either too young, too dumb, too naïve, but guess what? I thought, “I can, I can do it.” Almost no money, no resources, but really the spirit of “I can.” Didn’t now how we were going to get to the end, didn’t know where we were going to get the students, didn’t know, but just this belief alone, starting with that.

And as time went on, the “I” turned into “we,” and then parents and families that had similar beliefs joined the school and it grew and the power of the “I” and “we” turned into what we see today which is 370 students from 45 countries around the world, and a shogakko and chugakko that we have with a long waiting list. Didn’t know how we were going to get there. Didn’t have the resources, but the “I can” was very clear. Very challenging, very difficult, but the belief was there.

About five years ago… As the school went on, I was the bus driver, I painted, I was a teacher, I was the cleaner, I was, you know… I was not only the kocho-sensei but I was the osoji-sensei as well. And about five years ago I was going around the classrooms and this is the face I was seeing here, there were too many of these faces, and they were full of confidence as if they said, “I can, I can, I can.” When you’re a child you might really feel like you can do anything, but they were dealing with this technology and they felt they could but the technology wasn’t allowing them to do it. The technology was the roadblock.

And so the kocho-sensei said to me, “Well, Patrick, now I’m the kocho-sensei, we’ve got to find something for you to do besides cleaning,” so we became the technology coordinator. And I said, “Wow. Huh.” I was born before 1985.

Raise your hand if you were born after 1985. So you’re the lucky ones.

You’re what we call digital natives. You were born with technology. You don’t know a world without technology. But I think the rest of us in this room are what we’re called digital immigrants and some people haven’t even immigrated yet. And this is the case with a lot of teachers. A lot of teachers haven’t quite immigrated yet, and they’re afraid to immigrate, but yet their students, these digital natives, do 100 different things and they put it together like magic, and we’re going, “Uh, ooh, uh, I don’t know how to do this.” And so what I wanted to try to figure out as a digital immigrant was how with the “I can” belief really not to make technology a challenge for these students.

And after some frustration and trying to figure it out, when you have this “I can” mentality you also think about, “Okay, I can, but who am I going to choose to make it become a reality?” And we chose Apple, Apple Computer, for a lot of different reasons. So we started working closely with Apple, and sure enough, little by little – and this isn’t an Apple commercial by the way, it might sound like one in a few minutes – and little by little things started working. The students started went from [makes a face] to “Yes, yes,” and “Wow,” and things started really humming and it was amazing to see what these students could do.

And then I found myself on my skateboard, skateboarding around the Apple campus, four years later as an educational consultant for Apple. And I had the biggest smile on my face when I took this picture on my skateboard on top of the Apple sign because only four years earlier as a digital immigrant really didn’t know how that was going to happen but believed that I could do it. I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there, but believed with working together with the right people and focused and keeping that belief that I can, not that I can’t but I can, it ended up me consulting with Apple. I was like, “Wow.” It’s another “I can” story and “I did” story, but it wasn’t just “I,” but the initial belief that “I” that then turned into the “we” and went beyond that. I was like “Wow, okay, what’s next? What’s going to be next?” And then I met this guy who was a consultant who organized the one-to-one laptop program for the whole state of Maine, Adam SCHECHTer. And I met this guy and the Governor of Maine had this vision that every student in middle school should have their own laptop. And Adam organized for the whole state – I can’t remember how many thousands of computers – this program.

Well, Adam was visiting my school. I had him come, I had the honor of having him come to the school and look at how we did our network. And he saw me cruising up on my skateboard. He’s like, “Who is this guy?” And then he started talking about different things and he said, “What’s your passion?” And I started sharing with him my passion.

I know in Japan it’s probably not a very common question to ask somebody, “What is your passion?” but I would like for you to turn to the person next to you and find out over the next two minutes and share your passion. It could be anything. It’s something that excites you when you get. It could be the silliest little thing. It could be collecting bugs. It could be finding the best cinnamon, or in my wife’s case the best black pepper in the world. You know, that’s one of her passions.

So turn to the person next to you and just share a passion that you have for the next two minutes, please.

Okay, can everybody hear me? Yes? You know, I love the Japanese word for passion: jonetsu, emotional fever. Wow! I mean, passion I thought was a really strong word in English, but jonetsu is like an emotional fever. That is, I mean, that’s great. I have a feeling I’m going to start forgetting that and say passion in English and start using jonetsu and everyone will be saying, “What’s jonetsu?” To me that really does grab it. I don’t know the roots of passion, the word passion, but the Japanese, sometimes the Japanese words I find are much more precise.

So my friend Adam asked me what my passion was, and so I shared my passion as well, which is, my passion is learning and sharing and riding, skateboards, surfboards, snowboards, anything that’s a board, so I have a lot of board meetings, off-site board meetings, and he just said, “You should be a TED. ” And I’m like, what’s a ted? Who’s Ted? Is it an airline? TED?

I’ve got a friend named Ted. No idea what Ted was. Who here, anybody has any idea what TED’s about ? What’s a ted? Who’s Ted? I was tedded yesterday.

So very few of you are unaware of TED in this room, which is not uncommon in Japan, and one of the reasons we brought TED to Japan was to raise the awareness of the magic of TED. And so there was a TED presenter this year that was asked to go up and give the definition of TED, somewhat of a humorous definition but there’s some truth to it as well.

So I started to explore, what is TED? And I went on their website and I was like, “Whoa, this is really, really cool.” They have a four-day conference and they gather together. When I started, there were about 800 speakers, who were all changers, do-makers and thinkers-Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Bono, and Richard Branson. All those speakers were given up to 18 minutes. They only got 18 minutes to share their idea? Wow, this is interesting. Where have you ever gone where somebody has a maximum of 18 minutes, and that’s if you’re a complete rock star in what you do, to share an idea.

And I started watching the talks. And I was like, wow, can I really attend something like this? I’m just this guy that runs a school and does a few little things in Tokyo. I’m not the founder of Google or Amazon or Apple or Forest Whittaker or Robin Williams or Cameron Diaz or Glenn Close or the president of Sony Pictures. I’m just some guy that runs a school in Tokyo that thinks big, so I applied. Why not? I thought maybe I can, what do I have to lose?

A lot of times when you think about “I can,” if you think about what you actually have to lose by trying, often the biggest thing you have to lose is your own ego, your self esteem. Often that’s what you’re actually losing. If you could control your own ego and your own self esteem by failing, and there are some companies in the world that give awards to their employees that make the biggest mistake. “What? You’re going to give someone an award for making the biggest mistake? That’s crazy.” But why do they do that? Because the person thought they could and they tried and they did. So often it just is an idea, you think maybe you can but then you don’t take it to the next level.

So I applied for TED and I was on the waiting list. And I was like, okay, well, that means I’m waiting to be in TED, right? Isn’t that what it means? Like, I’m on the waiting list, so that means maybe someday I’m going to get to go to TED, so this would be really cool. I’ll get to listen to these speakers and that will be really fun. And then I got in. And then I was sitting in the audience on the first day, and every time I see this picture that I took, I get the chills, because I had the chills, and I have chills right now, and luckily I have a long-sleeved shirt on so you can’t see that, but I have the chills and tears almost coming to my eyes because I was so emotionally moved by Dr.

Jill Bolte Taylor who was the top neuroscientist at Harvard University who had a brain stroke and describes her stroke from the perspective of a neuroscientist from Harvard. I mean, unbelievable. An unbelievable feeling to be there. And I said, wow, this is TED. This is the essence of TED. This is what it’s all about. Is just sharing these ideas and really shifting your thinking that you “can” do.

But then I found out TED isn’t just about sitting there listening to people.

They have all these other rooms where you can get massages and you can lie down and watch the talks like this if you want. And at the time I started, they didn’t have enough spaces in the auditorium for everybody so they created these other rooms. So I thought, “This is really cool.” And then, [loud, distorted rock music] they have live music block parties where they bring these bands in, and I was thinking this is just a bunch of old people who have lots of money and they’re nerds.

Well, I quickly found out when bands like that, but that wasn’t the case.

They actually could use more than just their brain; they could move too. And I was like, “Wow, this is just not listening to speakers. It’s much more than that.” And I was just more and more fascinated.

So then the performers on stage actually don’t just perform on stage, but they’re at the nijikai performing too. This is at 2 in the morning three weeks ago. This is a Hawaiian ukulele player named Jake Shimabukuro, and if you’re somewhat of a certain age you will know him because he’s the cutest, nicest, most loving, the greatest guy you’ll ever meet, and I have met very few younger Japanese women who go, “J-a-a-ake!” Well, he’s actually coming to speak at TEDxTokyo which is nice, but, so at 2:30 in the morning, [people shouting, ukulele playing] with 500 people in the Westin Hotel Lobby, Jake is playing. But with all the other performers as well, so it’s not just this [ukulele playing, screaming fans] Again, this is 2:30 a.m. in the Westin Hotel lobby where 500 to 600 people have gathered.

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