Changing the world with Dave Eggers.

In the last post I mentioned that the TED prize broadcasts were going to be live so that anyone could see the video as it happened from the TED conference.

There were 3 sessions plus a musical performance. It was great to get an idea of the conference in real time even though one of the presentations in my view wasn’t up to scratch.*

In my opinion the most inspiring TED prize presentation was by Dave Eggers.

Dave Eggers at TEDDave has found a very practical and inspiring way of improving educational outcomes and helping teachers and parents with the Valencia 826 project which has now morphed into a national and international project now called Once upon a School.

A few days ago the video from that presentation was released and you can now view and download it.

The genius of this idea is that it provides a new model for adults to get involved in some very practical ways to support teachers, parents and of course – the kids themselves.

Dave’s wish and how you can help out.

Ironically the reason it has taken so long to finish this post is that my local school has a musical fund raising event called the Little Day Out and we have used a blog based system to provide a full website for the event.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Consequently in the past 6 weeks there has been the equivalent of 30 content posts from all the different teams involved so it’s been a bit busy! If you are in Auckland, NZ on April 5th feel free to come along – kids under 12 are free and full details are on the LDO website.

Working together with lots of volunteers is exciting and it is that same combination of focus and community passion that drives the Once Upon a School idea.

Dave tells a great story about how Valencia 826 came about, why they had to sell pirate supplies for the working buccaneer and how this project has become the model for six other innovative mentoring / tutoring centres.

There are now 1400 tutors in SF and Valencia 826 is now working with multiple schools to the point where they have been given classrooms to use directly for the programme.

As noted on the TED site Dave

“Dave Eggers’ first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was a memoir about becoming the official guardian of his 8-year-old brother at the age of 22. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; the New York Times called him a staggeringly talented new writer.

Since then Dave has written a number of other books, including You Shall Know Our Velocity!, followed by a collection of short stories, How We Are Hungry, and his latest book, What Is the What, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award…..

Much more recently he co-wrote, with Spike Jonze, the film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.”

Dave Eggers – Author, philanthropist and literary entrepreneur
“When we think about kids and education, we have to get back to the basic undeniable that kids are individuals, they learn in a thousand ways, and there are undeniable steps to greater education for all: better salaries for teachers, smaller class sizes, and more one-on-one attention.”

and here is a quick history of some of the flow on effects of the project from their website.

About 826 National

We started with after-school tutoring as the foundation of 826 Valencia in San Francisco.
But the volunteer corps grew so quickly and broadly — within a year we had 1100 tutors, from hundreds of occupations — that we were able to dream of many other ways to work with students, schools, teachers, and parents.

With an abundance of support, we were able to do much more than we intended.
We were able to begin hosting daily field trips where students learned story writing, editing and bookmaking. We were able to send tutors into schools all over the city at a teacher’s behest. We were able to host nightly workshops, open to all, taught by professionals.

We were able to give four yearly college scholarships and a monthly teacher award (attached to a monetary grant). We were able to publish paperback and hardcover books of student work, in addition to producing dozens of newspapers, chapbooks, student films, plays, radio shows and websites.

The essence of the program is that it’s like school, but it’s not school.
The students come to 826 because it’s fun, it’s warm, it’s full of people who care — but who don’t HAVE to care. That is, the average students knows his teacher has to help with his schoolwork, and he knows his parents have to help.

But there’s something very new and transformative about meeting a member of the community — a professional journalist, a radio disc jockey, a graduate student, an advertising copywriter, a software developer, a retired lawyer — and have that person give them 2-3 hours of undivided attention.

Almost without exception, student achievement and understanding leaps when they are given this concentrated one-on-one attention. Teachers and parents love the help, and the students get to ask a hundred questions until they truly understand a concept.”

Pirate picture

The reason that the first store sells pirate supplies is that the zoning required some form of retail activity and by fortuitous chance they decided on pirate supplies almost as a joke.

At the beginning this confused a few people and parents weren’t so keen on the idea but incredibly that part of the store now pays the rent while the tutoring centre does the real work.

“At San Francisco’s only independent pirate supply store, we offer a variety of goods, including lard, flags, eye patches, mops, glass eyes and the like.

All proceeds from the store go toward the writing center resting directly behind it.”

For those who want to know more about the TED conference David Cowan has posted an extensive series of very entertaining posts for each day of the conference. I have include the list below along with a few of his comments. Thanks David – almost as good as being there.

Thursday, February 28, 2008
TED 2008

“Having said that, there is still one conference I try to never miss. TED”

Friday, February 29, 2008
TED Thursday Morning: Life Origami

“Particle physicist Garrett Lisi closed the session. Garrett is an avid surfer who lives and works in a van on the beaches of Maui. He compares physics experiments to startups, since they hold great promise but they usually don’t work.

The connection to beauty is that Lisi is pursuing the grand unified theory of physics by advocating a mathematical model of the universe that isn’t proven, but it’s so elegant and beautiful that physicists like Lisi believe that it’s most probably correct. (As Dr. Suess wrote about Horton’s egg, “It should be, it should be, it should be like that.”) ”

Saturday, March 01, 2008
Helpful Tips To Survive a Nuclear Explosion

“Dave Eggers, author of several non-conventional books, the best of which is (in my humble opinion, but apparently not his) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. TED recognized Eggers for his campaign to build several inner city tutoring centers staffed by writers.”

David is also surprised by one of the TED prize winners. Karen Armstrong. I was too. I think she should give the prize money back. Her presentation lacked clarity and real vision in my opinion.

Saturday, March 01, 2008
TED Friday Morning: Music, Shrooms and Crows

An example is “I then got to hear novelist Amy Tan after all. I wasn’t expecting much, but somehow she still disappointed. As far as I can tell, the entire point of her talk was “How did I come to be such a creative genius?” The possibilities seem to include “God’s will, synchrony, or mysterious forces.” And finally her Big Question: “Did someone intend for me to be this way?” My big question: Who Has Time For This?”

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
TED Friday Afternoon: Shining Eyes

Title refers to the Benjamin Zander session.

Thursday, March 06, 2008
TED Saturday: Thank You For Being Here

All of these posts by David Cowan are great examples of how blogging can get to the heart of an event as it is filtered by an engaged participant.

Note: * The TED presentation by Karen Armstrong was unconvincing to me. Granted – the topic is a difficult one and the intention is good but I would have given the prize to someone else like Majora Carter who is unquestionably outstanding by way of contrast.

Update: 2010 – I was able to visit the Pirate supplies store at 826 Valencia on a trip to SF. The store is located in the Mission District. Have added an inside shot of the store now.