How I Ate My Dog Food at TEDx Monterey


One of the several unpopular assignments I force upon my students is the Sophomore Speech. I am capitalizing Sophomore Speech because it has become a thing at our school … a proper thing. Every single one of my 10th grade students is required to write a personal essay and convert it into a speech to be delivered in front of the entire school during our assembly period we call Break.

The word speech has fallen out of fashion these days. It’s much cooler to give a talk than a speech, but talk doesn’t alliterate with sophomore. I guess I could have called them 10th Grade Talks, but as I said, the Sophomore Speech is a thing, so I’m going with it.

Of course, I don’t win many votes for Most Popular Teacher of the Year when I announce this assignment to my students. Most members of our species tend to avoid public speaking whenever possible, and you won’t be surprised to hear that some students consider this the waterboard of English assignments.

“Mr. Brookhouser, I really need to get out of this. I am about to throw up thinking about it.” I reassure students that we work up to the speech with baby steps, and I remind them that Mrs. Rees, the incredible 9th grade English teacher at York, has done an amazing job getting them ready. While I have seen tears shed as a result of this assignment, I’ve yet to see any vomit. I’m ready, though. Our bleach supply is ample.

I tell my students that I want them to be very powerful people. I don’t mean that they should all aspire to be CEOs or senators. I’m talking about influence, not status. I’m sure there are many people doing great things and making the world a better place without ever having to speak to groups of people. I’ve just never heard of them. Few people in power get out of public speaking. After my class is over, my students will have the choice to avoid ever having to speak in front of a large group again. I just don’t want them to reject that opportunity without knowing that they’re actually capable of doing it. When they embrace the opportunity, they embrace power.

It would also be great if they used that power for good and not evil.

Last time I was invited to the Googleplex, an engineer introduced me to the notion of “eating your own dog food.” Maybe the phrase came from Alpo advertisers who claimed that their product was so good that they enjoyed it themselves. Regardless, tech companies started using the phrase to suggest that either the software they were developing was good enough for them to use themselves or it was not, and if not, they shouldn’t make it at all.

When I give trainings, many people ask me about the security of data in Google Drive or Gmail. I tell them what Googlers tell me. Google employees are super concerned about their internal communications getting compromised. They use Google Drive. They use Gmail. They believe in their product. They eat their own dog food.

Teachers produce products too. We create lesson plans, assessments, and grades and comments at the end of the year, but the most important products we make are experiences that lead to growth.

Hearing about dog food at Google led me to ask how much of my dog food experiences I’m consuming. If speaking in front of large groups of people is such a worthwhile experience, why don’t I do it more frequently. It’s true that I do speak in front of my students daily, and I also give tech trainings to teachers throughout the year, but I wouldn’t call them speeches.

So last winter, I came across a post on the TEDx Monterey site accepting TED Talk proposals (note the alliteration in TED Talk). So I applied to talk about the 20% Project in my class.

A few weeks later I heard back from the organizers who wanted to learn more about the project, so we had a video conference over a Hangout. Bob and Eva, I learned quickly after meeting them, are ultra organized, super smart, and wildly creative. They asked me to explain what the 20% Project is and why I do it.

I was ready for this question. I went with great depth into the studies about creativity and motivation and Google and Daniel Pink and The Candle Problem and carrots and sticks and autonomy and mastery and purpose and science! After about 10 minutes of this, Eva cut me off. “Kevin, we all know about this stuff. We want to know why you decided to take on this project and how it looks in your classroom.”

“Oh. Right.” I was not ready for this question.

She wanted me to tell a story, not lecture on pedagogy. Eva asked me to do exactly what I ask my students when writing their personal speeches. Dog food.

I guess I explained my story well enough for Eva and Bob to give me a chance at writing a proper piece that people would actually want to hear because they let me move on to the next step.

So I wrote and rewrote. I devoured honest feedback from friends and colleagues. Through the process, I kept going into theory, and Eva kept reminding me to go back to story.

Then I practiced. In front of the mirror, in front of my dogs, in front of the homeless men on the streets of Santa Cruz.

With my microphone scotch taped to my ear and cheek, I was two eternal minutes away from taking the stage. My wife sat in the audience with students, parents of students, fellow teachers, and I was pretty sure I would stand up there and forget how to get my mouth and tongue to make so many different sounds. I wondered how much I would owe TEDx if vomit ruined the mic.

I paced the “green room” while Ailis Dooner, the 10th grader who has pretty much single-handedly discovered that algae can cure cancer, eyed me. She was scheduled to follow me and asked me how I was doing. “I’m a little nervous, but I think I’ll be ok,” I lied. She knew it. Then Ailis looked me in the eye, and with the fierce commitment of a prized gladiator owner, she said, “Adrenaline focuses the mind.”

I didn’t forget everything. My mouth worked. I showed my slides. People clapped.

I’m pretty sure I now have a little better understanding of what it’s like to be one of my students. I’m reminded about how scary this assignment can be, but I still don’t fully understand it. I’m a grown-up who has lots of experience talking in front of large groups of people, I don’t consider myself someone who is particularly afraid of the job, and I’ve never been told that some grade depended on my willingness to go through with it. But I feel more empathy for them, and I hope that will allow me to support them more next year.

It may not be the exact same vintage my students eat, but I ate my dog food this past weekend, and I’m proud to announce, it stayed down.

SXSWedu: 17 year-old Nikhil Goyal: How I’m Disrupting Education

Today at #SXSWedu,  I had a moment to talk to Nikhil Goyal, author of One Size Does Not Fit All,  a prescription for fixing American schools.

From Nikhil:

“I’m bringing together the stakeholders in the school system- the parents, the educators, and the students.”

Nikhil shared his thoughts about how he’s organizing and meeting with the thought leaders of our time to Take Education Forward.

EdGamer 81: John Hunter Brings Us World Peace


Happy Holidays EdGamer listeners…this week we give you a gift…our very first interview with a Ted Talk speaker…the amazingly insightful John Hunter. Mr. Hunter is the innovative force behind the World Peace Game and he is having a huge impact on the gaming and learning field. Join us for one of our most interesting episodes yet. Don’t miss this EdGamer first…tune-in and level-up!


Show Host: Zack Gilbert

Show Contributor: Gerry James

Guest: John Hunter

Here’s our Show Notes

Contact us with any questions or comments-


EdGamer artwork by Tricia Fuglestad



Keynote Theater #005: Popping Filter Bubbles with Eli Pariser

This week on the Keynote Theater: 

Our broadcast today explores Eli Pariser’s TED Talk from last May  entitled, “Beware Online Filter Bubbles.” And who better to explore the the validity of the Web, than two of education’s brightest librarians, Emily Thompson, and Adrienne Matteson. Some of the big questions that come from this talk are: how do we trust the Internet? How do we teach young students that the Web is “filtered” and manipulated? It’s an important topic. Let’s discuss!

Join the Show Live every other Wednesday at 10pm EST/ 7pm PST.


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TED: Poised to be the Biggest Brand in Education

If you were to walk up on the street and ask the average Joe the Plumber what they thought when you said the word “education,” what would they tell you?


“Teacher strikes.


If you were to ask them the same question about what was education’s biggest brand, they might say…Pearson? Or Houghton Mifflin. (“who?”)

That’s one of education’s inherent problems. Education is not associated with a brand, per se. It’s associated with…dreck. Nobody in the general public gives a toot about teachers’ squabbles or the name of a testing company. That’s a big problem if we are to make education rise above all else. There is one company, however, that’s ever-so slyly making a rise to the top of the eduction sphere.

That company is TED. While TED doesn’t point itself out as an education company, their missions and goals have all of the earmarks of Taking Education Forward. From their About Us page:

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

I don’t know, but that sounds like the mission of a company that’s interested in education. Let’s also look at the most recent developments of TED, which would be TEDed. If the original version of is basically giving standard lectures, TEDed would stand to be the evolution of “sit-and-get” lessons by including a teacher-led piece into the mix. One of my biggest annoyances with Kahn Academy was that they have been very bad at involving real teachers who are great at what they do.  With TEDed, a real, honest-to-God teacher is giving the lesson, then it’s being handed off to an animator, then teachers around the world are asked to “flip” that lesson by adding their own questions, and inserting their own curriculum into the mix. That is collaboration.

I’ve been flipping my lessons for 4 years, and TEDed is the first flipped lesson platform that shows real potential.

Watch this lesson from April Gudenrath called Insults by Shakespeare:

Remember how difficult it was to read Shakespeare in high school? Not only was it scary for students to learn, but you, most likely, had a teacher who was more scared about teaching Shakespeare to you, then you were about learning it. What we needed was an introduction to Shakespeare that took the edge off- that made us comfortable with the style. We needed pre-teaching, which is exactly what Ramsey Mussalam makes such a good case of in his YouTube Teacher’s Studio lesson on Flipped Teaching. We needed to give our schema something to grasp on to.

Recognizing the Brand

TED has been educating us for the past few years online- it’s only now that they’re starting to look more and more like their mission is education. TED has something many other education companies never thought of: a brand. They have a recognizable logo, they have a format, a presentation style, something that screams, “I know what that is, and who it comes from.”  They also have something called brand association. When you see the TED logo, when you hear a TED Talk or lesson, you feel something positive.  You also associate the word idea with TED. And you also know what a TED Talk is, versus, just a simple keynote. When you hear the word Pearson, the only thing you probably feel is a sick stomach (test anxiety coming back?).

The question that quickly comes to mind is: why has no other education companies ever cared about branding?

Just a couple weeks ago, this video clip appeared online. It’s from a purported TED Talk from the year 2023. If TED’s mission is to share ideas, and be the biggest brand associated with sharing ideas, then we have a lot to look forward to.


Keynote Theater #003: Dissecting Salman Khan at TED

This week on the Keynote Theater: 

Our broadcast today dissects the Salman Khan TED Talk from last year, Let’s Use Video to Re-invent Education. For this talk, I’ve invited some expert Flipped Classroom folks, the original Flipped Classroom guys, Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams. To top it off we are also joined by YouTube EDU consultant James Sanders. We dive deep into Khan’s ownership of the Flipped Classroom idea, and his unwillingness to give so many teachers credit for the millions of tutorials already online. However, we give him kudos for taking the message to a mass crowd. Let’s discuss!

New Time for the live broadcast: Wednesdays at 10pm EST/ 7pm PST.


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Contact us with any questions or comments-

iDig Video 003: Video on the iPad!

This week on iDig Video: Video on the iPad! In “Hot Topics of the Week” – The new iPads are on the shelves – hear our discussion about them and the new Apple TV. iMovie and Garageband have special new features on the iPad and we look into how these apps can be used in the classroom. Also Khan Academy’s new iPad App;  TED video lessons for high school and college students; and YouTube for School – how you can use these resources that are changing the face of education!

Show Host: Jonathan Furst, Jim Crawford


Give us some feedback! Email to send us a note. Or leave a comment below. 

EdReach Winter Viewing Party: Epic Win

We know that it’s Winter Break for many of you. Educators treat this time in many different ways. At EdReach, we know this can be a great time for us to catch up on watching some of those “fav-ed” videos that we clicked on so many months ago. We reached out to the EdReach contributors and asked them:

What would you recommend as some sweet holiday viewing vids for educators?

Here’s Episode 2 from LiTTech Show host Emily Thompson:

“I love the concept of making an Epic Win part of everyday life. “

Start a Google Hangout with this video right now!!

Stay tuned for Episode III of the EdReach Winter Viewing Party this Friday.


Razor’s Ed Show #6: Enfeeble, Me?!


Razor's Ed with James O'HaganIn this weeks show, I break down the article “Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?” by Jaron Lanier. When you put this article up against Salman Khan’s and Conrad Wolfram’s TED talks, you really begin to question is what we are doing in the classroom with technology the right thing? Does Salman Khan present a good way to teach math, or does Conrad Wolfram’s ideas fit better with how we want students to think about mathematics? Throw in what Seymour Papert had to say about math education and technology in 2004 and it is a deeper debate than what a 20 minute TED presentation shows.Continue Reading …

Speaking to make a difference … TEDxNYED

Today, Saturday, March 5, 2011 is an opportunity to hear some of the best educational minds that continue to make an impact on education. In New York today, there is the 2nd TEDxNYED. This is a great event and it will have us all thinking for days to come.

Schedule of Speakers
List of Speakers

TEDxNYED, an all-day conference focusing on empowering innovation in education, is being held in New York City on Saturday, March 5, 2011.

TEDxNYED is operating under license from TED, organizers of the immensely popular TED Conference, an annual event where some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers are invited to share what they are most passionate about. In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading,” TED has created TEDx, a program of local, organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.