Inspiring change gets Queens teacher to TEDx stage

Nick
Nick Moase
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Ian Kent, a teacher from Queens County and advocate for change in the school system, is taking the stage in Halifax this weekend to hopefully inspire change in others. 

Kent is spoke on Sunday, March 10 at the Nova Scotia TEDx conference, taking place at Dalhousie University.

Giving a TED talk has always been a dream of his, and he says he is very excited and proud to have spoken at the conference.

"TED is a big thing for me. I'm a big believer in the TED movement," he says. "I've definitely given this talk more thought than any other talk I've ever done."

Kent's talk was titled Exploring Technology and Interactivity in the Modern Classroom,

"A big part of the talk is about using Open Source tools, not trying to rebrand and remake things that are actually poorer versions of the commercial stuff we use every day," he says

Open source is rights free material, usually software, that anyone can use and change as they choose. An example of this is the Linux operating system and the word processing package Open Office.

The theme of the TEDx conference is "Chances worth taking in an age of indifference," and Kent will be speaking on changing the education system.

The self-described "guy who says the things we are often told not to say," is getting attention for his push for change in the education system.

The philosophy of TED is "ideas worth sharing," which brings together people who try and make a difference in the world. Since 2006 they have put up their videos of the conferences on their website, www.ted.com, free for anyone to view. The collective videos have been viewed over a billion times.

TEDx is an independent offshoot of the movement, with conferences taking place around the world.

"TED has been a big thing for my own learning, because I'm not much of a traditional learner," says Kent.

He prefers experience based learning, and says the TED videos were interesting and well packaged way to learn things. There is no shortage of videos that can motivate and inspire change.

Kent says the videos can also be a good tool for teachers as well, to help with the learning process. Once it could be used in the schools that is.

When he first came back to Nova Scotia and teaching at Forest Heights, TED was blocked. Seeing it as a tool rather than a waste of time, he helped make a case for it to be opened up.

Kent wants teachers to have access to the best tools they can when teaching, but in some cases the system can hinder education rather than enhance it. He's made a point over the years to point out flaws in that system, which hasn't always sat comfortably with others.

For example, most schools are equipped with firewalls to block out certain websites, such as Facebook and Tumblr. However a simple one letter change in the URL can beat the firewall.

Kent says it's amusing to see the reaction when he goes to give talks that involve these sites and is told they cannot be accessed. When he gets up to do his talk, he simply uses the exploit, much to the amazement of his audience.

While Kent is known to speak out, he is quick to point out it is not to just cause trouble.

"If you can say it, and it is something as ludicrous the firewalls of Nova Scotia being beaten by one letter, I really can't get in trouble for saying that," he says.

Kent adds he does it from wanting to better the education system. He believes that there are good people at all levels of the education system that want the best for the students as well, but making that change can sometimes be difficult.

"Change is a scary thing, and a lot of time change takes work, and there are unknowns that make people uncomfortable," he says.

Change is happening however, and he says all you have to do is look at the new middle school in Liverpool.

Kent remembers coming back to Liverpool in 2007, and since he had a strong technical education background he was curious to see what technology the then junior high had. He was a little shocked to see computers that were well beyond their useful life span, in a room that was barely used.

Now it is a fully wired school, with iPads in the hands of every student. Kent clarifies he was not the driving force in this, and was just another voice pushing for change, but it does take those voice out there to get things moving.

"There's a want for this. There are schools that have staff that want to be inspired by this," he says.

Kent is a teacher at the adult high school, sits on the Assisted Technology Board with the South Shore Regional School Board, is the VP of Communications for the Queens local teachers union, and sits on the provincial professional development committee with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

More information can be found on TEDx Nova Scotia at www.tedxnovascotia.ca/index.php. All talks will be uploaded to YouTube over the coming months, and can be found by searching TEDx Nova Scotia. 

Organizations: Dalhousie University, Open Office, Assisted Technology Board South Shore Regional School Board Communications for the Queens Nova Scotia Teachers Union

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Forest Heights, Liverpool

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