Reimagining education for a hyper-visual culture: Rave’ Mehta at TEDxMiami 2013

Reimagining education for a hyper-visual culture: Rave’ Mehta at TEDxMiami 2013


Translator: Viviane P.
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven I’m here to show you
how a graphic novel on Nikola Tesla can change the way
we approach education today. Right now, we have 42 million adults
that can’t read past fifth grade, we have a million kids a year
that are dropping out of school, and we have one out of
every four children today that are going to grow up
not knowing how to read. And on top of that, we also have
a serious STEM deficiency. We’re now ranked 25th in math
and 17th in science, yet we’re going to produce
1.2 million STEM-related jobs but only fulfill a third of them
in the next 10 years. So, what’s going on
with our education system that’s allowing this to happen? Well, I believe our fundamental problem
is that we’re not engaging our kids. In fact, I think we’re using
a 20th-century teaching approach in a 21st-century classroom. And it’s not working; well, it can’t work. Here’s why. In the 21st century, we’re rapidly evolving
into what I call hyper-visual culture. In fact, right now we’re sharing
over 500 million pictures a day, and that’s going to double every year. And, probably most of you
are on Facebook, but kids today are growing up
with apps like Snapchat and Instagram, where all they see are pictures with a caption of a few
little words underneath them. But these pictures speak
a thousand words to these kids. It tells them a story. And then they’ll scroll through 10
of these pictures in less than a minute and essentially just digested
10,000 words worth of information in that short amount of time. However, when they go to school,
we hand them a textbook, and they open this book up and they see
a lot of words but not a lot of imagery, and we lose them. Reading is too slow for them;
it’s too inefficient. These kids today
are hyper-visual learners. So, what if we took a visual-learning
approach to these kids? What would that look like? How would that work? Aha, well, I’m going to show you. When I was a kid, I loved reading comics. There’s something about the visual art
and storytelling brought together that would just pull me in. It made me feel
like I was reading a movie. And then, reading about
our superheroes, like Superman, just made me believe
anything was possible; it set my imagination on fire. But when I was eight years old,
I moved to India, and the comic culture there
is a little bit different. They had two main lines of comics. One was around our Indian mythology; so, it was stories about our Hindu gods
and goddesses and what they did. So instead of Superman,
I was reading about Shiva. But the other is around our history and the kings and queens that ruled India
over thousands of years and even modern leaders
like Mahatma Gandhi and how he inspired an entire revolution
through nonviolence, which to this day still blows me away. I loved reading these stories! They were so immersive,
they were so interesting, that one summer I read over 100 comics and learned so much
about our history and culture in such a short amount of time. So, I recognize that our Western mythology
has been covered by our superheroes, but what about our history? What about our real-world heroes, the people that actually
made a difference in our lives? So, being an engineer
and a techie myself, I thought, “Why don’t I start a science-inspired line
of non-fiction graphic novels around engineers,
scientists, and inventors that use the power of their mind
and imagination to create things
that help change our world? I’ll call it The Inventor Series, and I’ll start with Nikola Tesla
as my first inventor.” Well, I had three major hurdles
I was up against. One, I’d never written
a graphic novel before, nor was I from the comic industry, so I had no idea where to begin. Two, there’s no real action in the story
like we see in comics today. There’s no violence, blood,
gore, sex, profanity, so what’s going to keep
people’s attention? And three, [NO ZOMBIES]
there are really no zombies. (Laughter) So, the real question was, How could I make a story
about a bunch of engineers interesting … without zombies? So, we started with the character design. I worked with my artist Erik Williams
to reimagine these characters and make it more edgy, make it
more interesting and relevant to us today. So we gave Tesla more of
a steampunk rock band/mad scientist look to make him more edgy,
just like his ideas were. But then we gave Edison
more of a Japanese anime flair with a rigid facial structure
to reflect his personality in the story. We also used an environment to really reflect the emotions
of these characters in the story. So, here you can tell that Tesla,
in this case, is completely defeated, yet here, he looks completely in awe
with what he just discovered and created. So I thought, “Well, maybe with my writing style
and our cinematic approach to our art, just maybe we could
keep someone’s attention.” Well, in 2012 we decided
to release our graphic novel at the San Diego Comic-Con, and to our surprise, it ended up being
one of the top-selling graphic novels for our comic publisher, Arcana. Since then, we’ve sold over 30,000 copies, we’re now the number one
non-fiction graphic novel on the market, and our publishing partner, Scholastic, is now distributing it
through all their Scholastic book fairs, which has a reach of over 35 million kids. And – (Applause) Thank you. And Apple even featured it on the very front page
of their iBooks section, next to Star Wars, Watchmen, and Superman, three of the biggest
fictional properties on the planet. In fact, they also featured an electronic
dance album I produced around the story, which, we just found out, was just now pre-nominated
for the Grammys in four categories. (Applause) Thank you. But what got me most excited was when schoolteachers started
buying the book for their classroom because that’s why I originally did this; my intention was to connect with kids
so they could learn because that’s how I learned. I started visiting classrooms and teachers
to see how they’re using it, and it was interesting. Different teachers used it
in different ways. The history teacher used it to teach
the Second Industrial Revolution from, or the art teacher used it
to teach visual narrative, and then down the hall, the English teacher
used it as a literary source so their kids could reflect
upon the extreme dichotomy of these two personalities
of Tesla and Edison and how it reflects in our culture today. But what I saw most consistent
across all these classrooms were all these kids were engaged. They were interested. They wanted to learn more. In fact, they were even having fun. [IT’S WORKING!] (Laughter) So I think I’m onto something here. So, my mission now is to take
what I already started with, which is this one graphic novel
on Nikola Tesla, and expand it into a series of non-fiction
graphic novels on other inventors so we could engage our kids
to read and learn but also inspire STEM learning. In fact, we could also introduce
real-world role models that these kids can aspire to be like
and even be inspired by because once these kids are inspired, they’ll research everything
they can on a topic. They don’t need us anymore. They learn way faster on their own
and through each other than if we’re in the way. All that you have to do
is just ignite them. You just have to light their fire. And if we could light their fire, then not only can we empower a whole
new generation of independent thinkers, but we can inspire a whole new culture
of independent creators because in the end, those are the ones
who change the world. Thank you. (Applause)

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  1. I completely agree with you. There is lack of engagement in a addition to an outdated teaching approach in most countries, so kids get bored and lose interest in learning very fast.  Implementing a hyper-visual technical approach for teaching is a must to increase and keep people's attention for learning. Great Job!

  2. Cretinous. Kids have no attention span BECAUSE of our hyper-visual culture. Forget 'efficient' reading and take time to understand.

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