Join us for TEDWomen 2020: Fearless on November 12

TEDWomen 2020 is nearly here! The day-long conference will take place on November 12 via TED’s new virtual conference platform. TEDWomen attendees will experience TED’s signature talks as well as an array of live, interactive sessions, community “idea dates,” small-group speaker Q&As and more. The talks featured in the program have been developed in collaboration with an incredible group of TEDx organizers from Lagos, Nigeria; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Montreal, Canada; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Sydney, Australia. TEDWomen will celebrate and amplify dynamic, multi-dimensional ideas from these communities and around the world.

In the midst of uncertainty, the greatest peril is to retreat or become immobilized. At TEDWomen, we’ll hear from bold leaders who are stepping forward and taking action.

TEDWomen 2020 speakers and performers include:

  • Kluane Adamek, Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief
  • Kylar W. Broadus, Human and civil rights attorney and advocate
  • Kemi DaSilva-Ibru, Women’s health specialist
  • Adie Delaney, Educator and performer
  • Elizabeth Diller, Architect, artist and designer
  • Julia Gillard, 27th Prime Minister of Australia
  • Jamila Gordon, AI advocate
  • María Teresa Kumar, Civic leader
  • JayaShri Maathaa, Monk
  • Megan McArthur, NASA astronaut
  • Madison McFerrin, Singer and songwriter
  • Renee Montgomery, WNBA champion and activist
  • Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Economist and international development expert
  • Angélique Parisot-Potter, Legal and business integrity leader
  • Sophie Rose, Infectious disease researcher
  • Apiorkor Seyiram Ashong-Abbey, Poet and author
  • Gloria Steinem, Feminist activist and writer
  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Politician
  • Tracy Young, Builder
  • View the full speaker lineup

TED has partnered with a number of organizations to support its mission and contribute to the idea exchange at TEDWomen 2020. These organizations are collaborating with the TED team on innovative ways to engage a virtual audience and align their ideas and perspectives with this year’s programming. This year’s partners include: Boston Consulting Group, Dove Advanced Care Antiperspirant, Project Management Institute and the U.S. Air Force.

TEDWomen 2020 is taking place on November 12, 11am – 6pm ET. TEDWomen applications will be accepted until 9am ET, November 9 (or until sold out). Learn more and apply now!

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Symbiotic: The talks of TED@BCG 2020

Is TikTok changing the way we work and learn? Qiuqing Tai talks about the rise of short-form videos at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

How can we make advances in technology that don’t require massive job losses? Work with nature to protect both the planet and humanity? Ensure all people are treated equitably? In a day of talks, interviews and performances, 17 speakers and performers shared ideas about a future in which people, technology and nature thrive interdependently.

The event: TED@BCG: Symbiotic is the ninth event TED and Boston Consulting Group have partnered around to bring leaders, innovators and changemakers to the stage to share ideas for solving society’s biggest challenges. Hosted by TED’s Corey Hajim along with BCG’s Seema Bansal, Rocío Lorenzo and Vinay Shandal, with opening remarks from Rich Lesser, CEO of BCG.

Music: The group Kolinga, fronted by lead singer Rébecca M’Boungou, perform the original song “Nguya na ngai” — a stunning rendition that’s equal parts music, poetry and dance.

The talks in brief:

Qiuqing Tai, video visionary

Big idea: Short-form videos — 60 seconds or less, made and shared on apps like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram — are changing the way we work, communicate and learn.

How? More than 1.5 billion people around the world regularly watch short videos, and more than half of them are under the age of 24, says Qiuqing Tai. This bite-sized content is quickly becoming the new normal, with people turning to it not only for entertainment but also to discover new interests and skills. Meanwhile, businesses use short-form videos to find new customers and diversify their audiences. In 2019, Tai led a research study with TikTok, finding that the platform’s short-form content generated an estimated $95 billion in goods and services sold, and helped create 1.2 million jobs globally. There has also been an explosion in short-form educational content, as social enterprises and education startups experiment with 15-second videos for people who want to learn on the fly. There are valid concerns about this young medium, Tai admits — data privacy, the addictive nature of the format, the lack of contextual nuance — but, with the right investment and policymaking, she believes the benefits will ultimately outweigh the drawbacks.


Matt Langione, quantum advocate

Big idea: If not traditional supercomputers, what technology will emerge to arm us against the challenges of the 21st century?

What will it be? For nearly a century, we’ve relied on high-performance computers to meet critical, complex demands — from cracking Nazi codes to sequencing the human genome — and they’ve been getting smaller, faster and better, as if by magic. But that magic seems to be running out due to the physical limitations of the traditional supercomputer, says Matt Langione — and it’s time to look to newer, subatomic horizons. Enter quantum computing: an emerging hyper-speed solution for the urgent challenges of our time, like vaccine development, finance and logistics. Langione addresses fundamental questions about this burgeoning technology — How does it work? Do we really need it? How long until it’s available? — with a goal in mind: to disperse any doubts about investing in quantum computing now rather than later, for the sake of lasting progress for business and society at large. “The race to a new age of magic and supercomputing is already underway,” he says. “It’s one we can’t afford to lose.”


Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard, discusses financial inclusion and how to build a more equitable economy. He speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Ajay Banga, CEO of Mastercard

Big idea: Let’s introduce those who are un-banked or under-banked into the banking system via a mobile, digital economy.

How? Roughly two billion people don’t have access to banks or services like credit, insurance and investment — or even a way to establish a financial identity. These people must rely solely on cash, which can be dangerous and prone to fraud by middlemen (and costs about 1.2 percent of a nation’s GDP to produce). As an advocate of “financial inclusion,” Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga believes that banks, fintech and telecom companies, governments and merchants can build a new, more equitable economy that relies on digital transactions rather than cash. How would its users benefit? As an example, a grocer may not be able to afford supplies for the week if she’s paying cash, but with a mobile payment system, she could build enough of a transaction history to establish credit, and with enough credit, she could build a “financial identity.” Such identities could revolutionize everything from small business to distributing aid — all using tech that’s already in place, and that doesn’t require a smartphone.


Nimisha Jain, commerce aficionado

Big idea: For Nimisha Jain, shopping was once an activity full of excitement, friends, family and trusted sellers. But for many like her in emerging markets worldwide, online shopping is intimidating and, frankly, inhuman, full of mistrust for unscrupulous sellers and mysterious technology. Is there a way for online sellers to build genuine human interactivity into virtual shopping, at scale?

How? Fortunately, it’s possible to combine the convenience of online shopping with a personalized experience in what Jain calls “conversational commerce,” and some companies are doing exactly this — like Meesho in India, which allows shoppers to interact with the same person every time they shop. Over time, the agent learns what you like, when you would like it and, once trusted, will fill your shopping cart with unexpected items. But this model is not only for the developing world; Jain’s research shows that customers in the West also like this concept, and it might someday transform the way the world shops. 


Emily Leproust, DNA synthesizer

Big idea: We need to rethink what modern global sustainability looks like — and pursue a new kind of environmentalism.

How? By working with the environment, rather than against it. As it stands, nature has been adapting and reacting to the presence of human developments, just like we’ve been adapting and reacting to nature’s changing climate, says Leproust — and we must course-correct before we destroy each other. She advocates for a path paved by synthetic biology and powered by DNA. Embracing the potential of biological innovation could help across the board, but Leproust singles out three critical areas: health, food and materials. If we focus our energy on pursuing sustainable outcomes — like lab-developed insulin, engineering foods to be immune to disease and harnessing the potential of spider silk — human civilization and the natural world could thrive in tandem without worry.


“Technology is fundamentally infiltrating every aspect of our daily lives, transforming everything from how we work to how we fall in love. Why should sports be any different?” asks esports expert William Collis. He speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

William Collis, esports expert

Big idea: We revere traditional athletic prowess, but what about the skills and talent of a different sort of athlete?

What do you mean? Video games should no longer be considered children’s play, says esports expert William Collis. They’ve grown into a multibillion-dollar sporting phenomenon — to the point where traditional sport stars, from David Beckham to Shaquille O’Neal, are investing in competitive games like Fortnite, League of Legends and Rocket League. It takes real skill to be good at these video games, reminds Collis, which he breaks down into three main categories: mechanical (much like playing an instrument), strategic (equivalent to tactical choices of chess) and leadership. Beyond that, being a pro-gamer requires adaptability, creativity and unconventional thinking. Collis’s message is simple: respect the game and the valuable traits developed there, just as you would any other sport.


Bas Sudmeijer, carbon capture advisor

Big idea: Carbon capture and storage — diverting emissions before they hit the atmosphere and burying them back in the earth — is not new, but analysts like Bas Sudmeijer think it could both contribute to the fight against climate change and allow big polluters (who are also big employers) to stay in business. But for carbon capture to make a significant contribution to emission reductions, we must spend 110 billion dollars a year for the next 20 years.

How can we offset this enormous cost? Sudmeijer believes that “carbon networks” — clusters of polluters centered around potential underground carbon sinks — could solve the economic barriers to this promising technology, if they’re created in conjunction with aggressive regulation to make polluting more expensive. And the clock is ticking: current carbon capture operations trap only .1 percent of greenhouse gases, and we need to increase that number 100- to 200-fold in order to slow global warming. Fortunately, we have a historical model for this — the push to supply gas to Europe after World War II, carried out in a similar time frame during a period of similar economic stress.


“One of the best ways to safeguard democracy is to expose everyone to each other’s stories, music, cultures and histories,” says Mehret Mandefro. She speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Mehret Mandefro, physician, filmmaker

Big idea: A robust and well-funded creative industry drives economic and democratic growth. A thriving creative industry isn’t just “a nice thing to have” — it’s a democratic necessity. 

How? With a median age of about 19, Ethiopia’s youth are rapidly graduating into a labor market with an astronomical 19-percent unemployment rate and few opportunities. To create enough good-paying jobs for its expanding workforce, Mehret Mandefro says the government should expand the creative sector. She says that putting culture on the agenda could boost industries like tourism and drive the country’s overall economic growth. The creative industry also plays an important social and democratic role. In a period of strained relations and rising ethnic divisions, society must make a choice, she says: “From my perspective, the country can go one of two ways: either down a path of inclusive, democratic participation, or down a more divisive path of ethnic divisions.” For Mandefro, the answer is clear. She sees the arts as the best way for people to share in one another’s culture, where music, fashion, film, theater and design create connection and understanding between groups and strengthen democratic bonds. “One of the best ways to safeguard democracy is to expose everyone to each other’s stories, music, cultures and histories,” she says.


Antoine Gourévitch, deep tech diver

Big idea: The next chapter in the innovation story, driving us into the future, is the potential and promise of deep tech.

How? Antoine Gourévitch believes deep tech — tangible, intentional collaboration at the crossroads of emerging technologies (think synthetic biology, quantum programming and AI) — will change the ways we produce material, eat, heal and beyond. Deep tech ventures — one of the most notable examples being SpaceX — focus on fundamental issues by first identifying physical constraints that industries often encounter, and then solve them with a potent combination of science, engineering and design thinking. Thousands of companies and start-ups like this currently exist worldwide, sharing an ethos of radical possibility. They’re governed by four rules: be problem-oriented, not technology-focused; combine, intersect and converge; adopt a design thinking approach, powered by deep tech; and adopt an economical design-to-cost approach. In understanding these guidelines, Gourévitch wants us to embrace the idea that innovation requires rethinking, and that this cross-disciplinary approach could offer a revolution in making what seemed impossible, possible. 


Tilak Mandadi, empathy advocate

Big Idea: Empathy training should be part of workplace culture. Here are three ways to implement it. 

How? After the trauma of losing his daughter, Tilak Mandadi’s decision to return to work wasn’t easy — but his journey back ended up providing unexpected support in processing his grief. At first, he was full of self-doubt and sadness, feeling as if he was living in two completely different worlds: the personal and the professional. But over time, his coworkers’ friendship and purpose-driven work helped transform his exhaustion and isolation, shedding light on the role empathy plays in a healthy work culture — both for people suffering with loss and those who aren’t. Mandadi offers three ways to foster this kind of environment: implement policies that support healing (like time away from work); provide return-to-work therapy for employees who are dealing with grief; and provide empathy training for all employees so that they know how to best support each other. Empathy can be a learned behavior, he says, and sometimes asking “What would you like me to do differently to help you?” can make all the difference. 


Documentary photographer Olivia Arthur presents her work at TED@BCG, including this photo of Pollyanna, who lost her leg in an accident at the age of two and now dances with the aid of a blade prosthesis. (Photo courtesy of Olivia Arthur)

Olivia Arthur, documentary photographer

Big idea: Across the world, people are merging technology with the human body in remarkable ways, sparking radical meditations on what it means to be human.

How? Through photography, Olivia Arthur intimately examines the intersection of humanity and technology, capturing the resilience and emotional depths of the human body. In her latest project, she collaborated with amputees who have integrated technology into their bodies and researchers who have invented robots with strikingly human traits. Inspired in part by photographer Eadweard Muybridge, Arthur focused on gait, balance and motion in both human and machine subjects. These included Pollyanna, a dancer who mastered the delicate skill of balance while using a blade prosthesis; Lola, a humanoid robot who confidently navigated an obstacle course yet looked most human when turned off; and Alex Lewis, a quadruple amputee who challenges perceptions of humanity’s limitations. Arthur describes her photos as studies of our evolution, documenting how technology has catalyzed a profound shift in how we understand, enhance and define the human body. 


Wealth equity strategist Kedra Newsom Reeves explores the origins and perpetuation of the racial wealth gap in the US — and four ways financial institutions can help narrow it. She speaks at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Kedra Newsom Reeves, wealth equity strategist

Big idea: We need to narrow the racial wealth gap in the United States. Financial institutions can help.

How? As last reported by the US federal government, the median wealth for a white family in the United States was 171,000 dollars, and the median wealth for a Black family was just 17,000 dollars — a staggering tenfold difference. During a global pandemic in which inequities across finance, health care, education and criminal justice have been laid bare, Kedra Newsom Reeves says that we must make progress towards reducing this gap. She tells the story of her great-great-grandfather, who was born into slavery, and how it took four generations for her family to accumulate enough wealth to purchase a house. Along the way, she says, a range of policies purposefully excluded her family — along with marginalized communities across the country — from building wealth. Now, financial institutions can help undo that damage. She offers four critical actions: ensure more people have bank accounts; increase awareness of checking and savings accounts specifically made for low-income communities; find alternative ways to establish creditworthiness, and then lend more credit to marginalized groups; and invest, support and promote Black-owned business, particularly by increasing the amount of venture capital that goes to Black founders.


Ishan Bhabha, constitutional lawyer

Big idea: Debate can broaden perspectives, spark creativity and catalyze human progress, so instead of censoring controversial speech, private entities should create pathways for productive discussion.

Why? In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech but only protects citizens against censorship by the government — not by private entities. But just because a conference center, university or social media platform can ban speech on their own turf doesn’t mean they should, says Ishan Bhabha. When faced with the decision to allow or prohibit meritless speech, he argues that more often than not, more speech is better. Instead of restricting speech, groups should err on the side of allowing it and work to create an open dialogue. “Ideas that have little to no value should be met with arguments against it,” he says. Private groups should protect against hate speech that can cause lasting damage or even violence but should respond responsibly to other ideological speech and mediate discussion, which can promote productive disagreement and lead to a valuable exchange of ideas. Universities, for instance, can offer students mediated discussion groups where they can openly try on new ideas without the threat of sanction. Twitter now responds to unsubstantiated posts on their platform by flagging content as either misleading, deceptive or containing unverified information and provides links to verified sources where users can find more information. Bhabha argues that these practices add to a rich and vigorous discussion with the potential to improve the arena of debate by raising the standard.


Johanna Benesty, global health strategist

Big idea: Discovering an effective COVID-19 vaccine is just the first step in ending the pandemic. After that, the challenge lies in ensuring everyone can get it.

Why? We’ve been thinking of vaccine discovery as the holy grail in the fight against COVID-19, says Johanna Benesty, but an equally difficult task will be providing equitable access to it. Namely, once a vaccine is found to be effective, who gets it first? And how can we make sure it’s safely distributed in low-income communities and countries, with less robust health care systems? Benesty suggests that vaccine developers consider the constraints of lesser health care systems from the outset, building cost management into their research and development activities. In this way, they can work to ensure vaccines are affordable, effective across all populations (like at-risk people and pregnant women) and that can be distributed in all climates (from temperature-controlled hospitals to remote rural areas) at scale. It’s the smart thing to do, Benesty says: if COVID-19 exists anywhere in the world, we’re all at risk, and the global economy will continue to sputter. “We need all countries to be able to crush the pandemic in sync,” she says.


Rosalind G. Brewer, COO of Starbucks, explores how to bring real, grassroots racial changes to boardrooms and communities alike. She speaks with TED current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers at TED@BCG on October 21, 2020. (Photo courtesy of TED)

Rosalind G. Brewer, COO of Starbucks

Big idea: When companies think of DEI — diversity, equality, inclusion — they too often think of it as a numbers game that’s about satisfying quotas instead of building relationships with those who have traditionally been excluded from the corporate conversation. Rosalind G. Brewer believes that the current moment of racial consciousness is an “all-in” opportunity for hidebound leadership to step out of their comfort zones and bring real, grassroots racial changes to boardrooms and communities alike.

How? With Black Lives Matter in the headlines, the pandemic illuminating inequalities in health care and income, and so many brands engaging in “performative justice” PR campaigns, it’s a crucial time to not only include more BIPOC in the corporate workplace, but also to listen to their voices. As brands like Starbucks diversify and absorb the stories of their new partners, Brewer believes they will do far more than satisfy quotas — they will nurture future leaders, open minds and bring ground-up change to communities.


Kevin Roose, technology journalist

Big idea: By leaning into our creativity, empathy and other human skills, we can better collaborate with smart machines and “future-proof” our jobs.

How? Artificial intelligence has become smarter, faster and even more integrated into our lives and careers: algorithms have been trained to write financial articles, detect diseases and proofread legal documents at speeds and scales dramatically faster than any individual human could. But this doesn’t necessarily mean robots will inevitably replace us at work, says Kevin Roose. While an algorithm may be able to scan exams and detect disease faster than a human, a machine can’t replace a doctor’s comforting bedside manner. Instead of trying to compete with smart technologies at what they do best, we need to invest in developing the skills that machines aren’t capable of — creativity, compassion, adaptability and critical thinking.

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Formative assessment in the computer science classroom

In computing education research, considerable focus has been put on the design of teaching materials and learning resources, and investigating how young people learn computing concepts. But there has been less focus on assessment, particularly assessment for learning, which is called formative assessment. As classroom teachers are engaged in assessment activities all the time, it’s pretty strange that researchers in the area of computing and computer science in school have not put a lot of focus on this.

Shuchi Grover

That’s why in our most recent seminar, we were delighted to hear about formative assessment — assessment for learning — from Dr Shuchi Grover, of Looking Glass Ventures and Stanford University in the USA. Shuchi has a long track record of work in the learning sciences (called education research in the UK), and her contribution in the area of computational thinking has been hugely influential and widely drawn on in subsequent research.

Two types of assessment

Assessment is typically divided into two types:

  1. Summative assessment (i.e. assessing what has been learned), which typically takes place through examinations, final coursework, projects, etcetera.
  2. Formative assessment (i.e. assessment for learning), which is not aimed at giving grades and typically takes place through questioning, observation, plenary classroom activities, and dialogue with students.

Through formative assessment, teachers seek to find out where students are at, in order to use that information both to direct their preparation for the next teaching activities and to give students useful feedback to help them progress. Formative assessment can be used to surface misconceptions (or alternate conceptions) and for diagnosis of student difficulties.

Venn diagram of how formative assessment practices intersect with teacher knowledge and skills
Click to enlarge

As Shuchi outlined in her talk, a variety of activities can be used for formative assessment, for example:

  • Self- and peer-assessment activities (commonly used in schools).
  • Different forms of questioning and quizzes to support learning (not graded tests).
  • Rubrics and self-explanations (for assessing projects).

A framework for formative assessment

Shuchi described her own research in this topic, including a framework she has developed for formative assessment. This comprises three pillars:

  1. Assessment design.
  2. Teacher or classroom practice.
  3. The role of the community in furthering assessment practice.
Shuchi Grover's framework for formative assessment
Click to enlarge

Shuchi’s presentation then focused on part of the first pillar in the framework: types of assessments, and particularly types of multiple-choice questions that can be automatically marked or graded using software tools. Tools obviously don’t replace teachers, but they can be really useful for providing timely and short-turnaround feedback for students.

As part of formative assessment, carefully chosen questions can also be used to reveal students’ misconceptions about the subject matter — these are called diagnostic questions. Shuchi discussed how in a classroom setting, teachers can employ this kind of question to help them decide what to focus on in future lessons, and to understand their students’ alternate or different conceptions of a topic. 

Formative assessment of programming skills

The remainder of the seminar focused on the formative assessment of programming skills. There are many ways of assessing developing programming skills (see Shuchi’s slides), including Parsons problems, microworlds, hotspot items, rubrics (for artifacts), and multiple-choice questions. As an MCQ example, in the figure below you can see some snippets of block-based code, which students need to read and work out what the outcome of running the snippets will be. 

Click to enlarge

Questions such as this highlight that it’s important for learners to engage in code comprehension and code reading activities when learning to program. This really underlines the fact that such assessment exercises can be used to support learning just as much as to monitor progress.

Formative assessment: our support for teachers

Interestingly, Shuchi commented that in her experience, teachers in the UK are more used to using code reading activities than US teachers. This may be because code comprehension activities are embedded into the curriculum materials and support for pedagogy, both of which the Raspberry Pi Foundation developed as part of the National Centre for Computing Education in England. We explicitly share approaches to teaching programming that incorporate code reading, for example the PRIMM approach. Moreover, our work in the Raspberry Pi Foundation includes the Isaac Computer Science online learning platform for A level computer science students and teachers, which is centered around different types of questions designed as tools for learning.

All these materials are freely available to teachers wherever they are based.

Further work on formative assessment

Based on her work in US classrooms researching this topic, Shuchi’s call to action for teachers was to pay attention to formative assessment in computer science classrooms and to investigate what useful tools can support them to give feedback to students about their learning. 

Advice from Shuchi Grover on how to embed formative assessment in classroom practice
Click to enlarge

Shuchi is currently involved in an NSF-funded research project called CS Assess to further develop formative assessment in computer science via a community of educators. For further reading, there are two chapters related to formative assessment in computer science classrooms in the recently published book Computer Science in K-12 edited by Shuchi.

There was much to take away from this seminar, and we are really grateful to Shuchi for her input and look forward to hearing more about her developing project.

Join our next seminar

If you missed the seminar, you can find the presentation slides and a recording of the Shuchi’s talk on our seminars page.

In our next seminar on Tuesday 3 November at 17:00–18:30 BST / 12:00–13:30 EDT / 9:00–10:30 PT / 18:00–19:30 CEST, I will be presenting my work on PRIMM, particularly focusing on language and talk in programming lessons. To join, simply sign up with your name and email address.

Once you’ve signed up, we’ll email you the seminar meeting link and instructions for joining. If you attended this past seminar, the link remains the same.

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