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TEDx event to highlight tech, education

Ashley Morales



TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. Local, self-organized talks are branded as TEDx events. Photo provided.

St. Petersburg College (SPC) is bringing together a diverse group of speakers to share their unique perspectives and innovative ideas with the local community for a TEDx event April 10.

The event, which will take place at SPC’s Palladium Theater in downtown St. Pete, will focus on the theme “Redefining Learning for the Next Generation.”’ There will be 10 speakers, on various topics:

  • Bozena Gasior – Autism and music
  • Kristen Jacobsen – Experiential & diverse learning
  • Christine Laurenzi –  Student-centered and paced learning
  • Tara Newsom – Dignity and freedom in academics & classroom
  • Nick Padlo – Mental health -incorporating recovery principles
  • Brian Peret – Project-based learning of technology for success
  • Tony Selvaggio – Business and social good models in education
  • Marlee Strawn – Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education
  • Theresa Worthy –  Emotional intelligence  & mental wellness
  • AJ Eckstein – Magic of mentorship

“Our goal is to ignite conversations that lead to actionable change in how we think about education,” Dr. Emmanuel Hernandez-Agosto, SPC College of Business Dean and organizer of TEDx St. Petersburg College, said in a prepared statement. “We believe this event will be a catalyst for reimagining learning in a way that prepares our children, and all learners, for the future.”

Brian Peret is the Cambell Park Neighborhood Association President and Director of CodeBoxx Academy, a coding school in St. Petersburg. Peret’s presentation will highlight the importance of providing individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the exponentially growing technology industry.

“Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows there’s going to be half a million tech jobs created over the next 10 years,” Peret told the Catalyst. “If we look at the jobs that are going to be needed, they’re going to be ever more diverse as technology is innovating all industries. These are jobs that don’t require four-year degrees and pay people a wage that can afford them to live in many of our modern communities. So, through technology, we have an opportunity to provide for our next generation.”

Brian Peret (far right) will draw on his experience as Director of CodeBoxx Academy to discuss the opportunities that a rapidly evolving tech sector presents in education, noting, “These AI tools are going to make it all the more important that we have technical literacy as a baseline for our community.” Photo provided.

Like Peret, Marlee Strawn’s TEDxSPC talk will also be very much future-focused. Strawn is the Head of Education at Scholar Education, an online platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to provide teachers with tools to create personalized lesson plans, assessments and learning content, with a specific focus on special education and English as a Second Language (ESL) students.

“As an educator for almost two decades and even in my own experience as a student, as a teacher, and as a principal, I have seen it all,” Strawn said. “I’ve seen the most advanced students and I have seen the students who have struggled the most, and there has been an evolution of tools to support both ends of the spectrum. With AI, we will have an influx of new ways to support learning that, honestly, we can’t even imagine at this point.”

“So my messaging is going to be that we are definitely going to be seeing changes in the tools that are available to teachers to help students learn, but at the end of the day, the teacher is the heart of the classroom,” Strawn added. “I remember how the teachers that impacted me the most made me feel; there’s such a humanistic component of teaching that just will not be replaced by AI. So while teachers will always be the heart of the classroom, it’s no secret that we’re in a huge teacher shortage, and that’s because there’s so much on their plates. AI will alleviate some of that.”

While many of the speakers for next week’s event are touching on how technology will shape education moving forward, many are focusing on other aspects of the “Redefining Learning for the Next Generation” theme, including mental and emotional health, mentorship and entrepreneurship.

Organizers previously limited capacity to 100 tickets but released additional tickets after quickly selling out. Peret said the history and credibility of the TED brand likely impacted ticket sales.

“TED talks, for over a decade now, have been the standard for innovative thinking. They’re where I go when I want inspiration or think about what’s going to be coming next on the horizon,” said Peret. “I’m extremely honored and humbled [to be speaking]. It gives me a whole new perspective of what it means to go up there and spread this message, because we know the work that we’ve done, we’ve seen the successes; now it’s time for us to spread those successes, and I think TED talks are a tremendous vehicle to do that.”

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    April 4, 2024at4:30 pm

    This sounds very interesting. However, why bother writing about an event that is already sold out? And why limit attendance to 100 in a theater that hold 850 people?

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