In John Green’s The Nerd's Guide to Learning Everything Online, he postulates that online community forums such as Tumblr, Reddit, and YouTube are, for many, more valuable classrooms than the “actual” classrooms housed in your traditional brick and mortar school building. While Green’s presentation could be critiqued via any number of Jason Ohler’s Digital Storytelling Assessment Traits, I have chosen to focus on only three: Originality / Voice / Creativity, Presentation / Performance, and Media Application. I chose these three not only because they are present in Green’s presentation, but because they seem to be of obvious importance to Green himself.
Originality / Voice / Creativity
As the author of the celebrated novel, The Fault in Our Stars, it should come as no surprise that Green’s authorial voice comes through loud and clear during his presentation. He obviously possesses a wide range of knowledge. In this presentation alone, he covers the relatively obscure cartographical novelty of “paper towns,” the causes of World War I, and, via videos created by others, Physics and Abstract Mathematics, among others. All of this is done in a creative, humorous manner. Much like his novel, this presentation contains philosophical underpinnings that transform what could have been a somewhat mundane topic (online learning communities) into something of greater merit: a window into how one man, due to the all too familiar extrinsic motivations of money and career, jumped the various “hurdles” that public education placed before him and, once cleared, gained an intrinsic motivation to learn for the sake of learning.
Presentation / Performance
Green’s presentation style is loose, humorous, and warm. Though obviously quite intelligent, he comes across as someone who would be just as comfortable talking about football as he would The Theory of Relativity. As someone whose favorite intellectual archetype is the “barroom genius,” I truly appreciate Green’s ability to deliver a rigorous presentation in common, layman’s language. The genius of Ernest Hemingway was that he could boil down the complexities of human existence into palatable, economic writing, a skill much more difficult than one might think. I believe that Green’s easygoing demeanor helps to accomplish a similar feat in this presentation.
Green scores high marks here, as well. The images and videos that he uses during his presentation highlight his main points without becoming too “busy” and overwhelming his spoken content. All too often, presenters look for dramatic, splashy images that, while visually stimulating, detract from their spoken words. Green clearly chose his media with this thought in mind and did not commit this common mistake.
The only area that I think could be strengthened in this presentation is the transitions between the videos that Green displays towards the end. While the videos are excellent examples of what an online learning community can produce, it might have been nice to pick only one video and then let its author detail the reasons and methods about its creation, as well as his or her insights regarding online learning communities. This might give that section the “human touch” that Green so expertly weaves in the rest of his narrative.
All in all, this was a funny, insightful TED Talk that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone.
Insights? Comments? Please feel free to post below.
I am a Special Education teacher currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Information & Learning Technologies (Option: K-12) at CU Denver. I work at Boulder High School in Boulder, CO. Here you will find my thoughts on education.