In 18 minutes, TEDx tackles issues

Speakers at TEDx Dartmouth included Micaela Klein '10, professor Mary Flanagan, professor Charles Wheelan and professor Larry Crocker.

Speakers at TEDx Dartmouth included Micaela Klein '10, professor Mary Flanagan, professor Charles Wheelan and professor Larry Crocker.

“Teaching is like making love once the senses are attuned to the experience, they love it,” French professor John Rassias said in his talk, “Teaching Heart to Heart,” part of Saturday’s TEDx Dartmouth event.

Rassias said the “best way to teach” is to employ “simple heart-to-heart involvement.”

Good teachers incorporate drama, energy, passion and competency into teaching methods, with an aim to both please and instruct students, Rassias said.

The Technology, Entertainment, Design conference featured 14 talks by members of the Dartmouth community on subjects ranging from the importance of visual literacy to Dartmouth’s disaster response in Haiti. Each talk was limited to 18 minutes.

Branko Cerny ’13, founder of TEDx Dartmouth, said he wanted to bring TEDx to Dartmouth because of the large influence TED had on his life.

“As a naive high school junior, when I saw my first TED Talk, it was an academic lecture, and I was amazed that I actually enjoyed it,” Cerny said in his opening remarks to the audience.

Cerny, who grew up in Prague, said he decided to attend college in the United States because he expected to enjoy all of his classes as much as he enjoyed his first TED lecture.

Cerny is a member of The Dartmouth Business Staff.

Economics professor Charles Wheelan ’88 explained specific reasons that government is necessary in his talk, “Why You Should Love Government.” Wheelan said his talk was intended to refute the statement “technology has made government irrelevant,” which was made at a public policy conference 10 years ago. Wheelan said he considers that “the stupidest thing” he has ever heard a smart person say.

Governments are vital because they protect countries, provide common goods, reduce transaction costs and secure intellectual property rights with regulations like copyright laws, he said.

Intellectual property rights are even more important in the modern age because pharmaceutical companies, inventors and entrepreneurs would not invest the money and time to develop their products if a mechanism to protect their intellectual property rights did not exist, Wheelan explained.

National defense cannot become a privatized industry because that would allow for free riders and would not be a sustainable business model, he said.

Philosophy professor Larry Crocker advocated for the implementation of intensive education programs in prisons in his talk, “Let’s Turn Prisons Into Colleges.”

“College education in prison will help control crime,” Crocker said. “It will also save tax money.”

Crocker said that recidivism, or repeat offenses, by criminals within three years of their release is a primary cause for the overpopulation of American prisons and can be curbed by implementing educational programs. He cited a study in Florida, which found that for every dollar spent on education for inmates who earned a college degree in prison, Florida taxpayers saved $3.53.

Education programs would be more effective at deterring crime than increasing the severity of punishments for most crimes, Crocker said.

“It’s mathematically impossible that we should cure the prison population problem through higher deterrence,” he said.

Basing her talk, “Critical Play,” on her recently released book of the same title, film and media studies professor Mary Flanagan explained the way in which play has historically reflected societal values and norms. She also discussed how games can be designed to reflect desired values and help children develop particular skills.

Flanagan described a 1973 study by Richard Nisbett, showing that rewarding children for actions they find intrinsically pleasurable decreases the pleasure that they would normally derive from that activity.

“If we’re trying to change and introduce human values and good social behaviors into our game, then what does it mean to then perhaps give rewards?” Flanagan asked. “Would that increase someone’s inherent desire to do good in the world?”

Flanagan gave one example from her laboratory, in which the joystick from the 1980’s computer game Atari 2600 was enlarged so that multiple children needed to collaborate in order to manipulate the device. She described the experiment as an innovative way to incorporate new skills and values to old games.

“By just shifting it in terms of scale, in terms of purpose, in terms of location, you can suddenly change a lot of behavior that goes along with that [play],” she said.

In his TEDx Talk, “Visual Literacy: Why We Need It!” Brian Kennedy, the director of the Hood Museum of Art, defined visual literacy as “the ability to construct meaning from images.”

The world’s entry into the “digital age” is an important reason to promote visual literacy, which he believes “enhances your intellectual capacity,” he said.

“We kind of lost visual literacy among visual studies, visual culture, visual communications and visual graphics,” Kennedy said. “What is necessary now, it seems to me, is that we reintegrate the capacity of our senses.”

Visual literacy must be integrated in all aspects of school curricula in order to enhance and promote communication across disciplines, he said.

“We need to train our ability to construct meaning from images,” Kennedy said.

Micaela Klein ’10 presented the findings of her ongoing senior thesis in her talk, “Learning to Defeat the Hydra: A Study of Terrorist Group Longevity.”

Most Americans’ perspectives on terrorist organizations have been shaped only by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Al Qaeda, Klein said.

Klein said her research tracks the 81,799 acts of terrorism that have been committed by 647 different terrorist organizations since 1970.

“Twenty-eight percent of the groups in my database have not killed a single person,” Klein said.

Klein said the U.S. government documents terrorist organizations by including them on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, but she warned that once a group is designated as an FTO, it is more likely to engage in violent attacks.

“Might our policies be legitimizing these groups and actually keeping them alive?” Klein asked.

She emphasized the importance of identifying the particular threat each organization poses to develop individual solutions to terrorist threats, rather than applying a uniform response.

Other TEDx Dartmouth subjects included the necessity to use cellulosic biofuels to develop a sustainable transportation system, presented by Thayer School of Engineering professor Lee Lynd, and the interaction between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex in provoking anxiety in the brain, by psychological and brain sciences professor Paul Whalen,

In his talk, neuroscience professor Richard Granger explained the evolution of the human brain and predicted its form in the future. Economics professor Bruce Sacerdote ’90 explained the way in which the recent financial crisis was similar to past crises.

Molly Bode ’09 discussed Dartmouth’s immediate, intermediate and long-term response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. James Shinn ’11 described the process of navigating London, an unplanned city, before the development of street signs and house numbers in the 1760s. Nicole Yunger Halpern ’11 talked about the connections she has drawn between words and numbers, emphasizing the stories that can be told with numbers and formulas. Narath Carlile DMS ’09 explained how a national paging system using open source technology is promoting more effective and efficient communication in African hospitals.

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