Tapping TED-Ed: Isenberg students’ lessons could go global

Published 12:20 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

by Rebecca Rider


SALISBURY — Johnsonville is going live.

While students in Anthony Johnson’s fourth- and fifth-grade classes have always had opportunities to make videos and post them online, this time the class is doing something different.

In December, Johnson was able to attend a weekend learning and training experience with TED-Ed in New York City. He was one of 30 teachers from 11 countries awarded the opportunity. There, he had the opportunity to pitch an idea: share what his students were doing on a global scale.

“It had to be innovative,” Johnson said of the pitch.

In August, Johnson was named the 2016-17 Rowan-Salisbury Teacher of the Year. In December, he was named the 2017 Teacher of the Year for southwest North Carolina. Students in his class build 3D models, fly drones, publish books, make movies and operate small businesses.

Now they get to showcase that work on an international platform.

TED approved Johnson’s idea, and helped fund the Johnsonville Learning Network, a weekly broadcast where students show what they’ve been learning in class that week. The students use innovative ideas and animation to put together their video.

“So we’re making the day come alive,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that the goal is “to inspire other teachers.”

The first episode is “a day in the life of a Johnsonville student,” and was created by a student wearing a GoPro camera for an entire day.

“It was their idea,” Johnson said, “… It’s their content — it’s not mine.”

While at the TED-Ed weekend, Johnson received training on the nonprofit’s animation techniques. He said he expected it to be high-tech, but was surprised when TED staff pulled out an iPad and explained that they use a free app. Johnson said he left the room momentarily to send his class a message to download the app.

“So when I got back on Tuesday, we animated,” he said.

Johnson said his original pitch wasn’t to showcase Johnsonville. As he went through the interviews to qualify for TED-Ed weekend, though, the concept was receiving a lot of notice from staff and other educators.

“So I said, ‘Maybe we have something here,’ ” he said.

During video sessions, students interview each other or guests, act as news anchors, record and edit video.

Isabella Figueroa, who was an anchor for the first video, said that the experience was nerve-wracking but good.

“I think it’s really fun,” she said, “… It’s the funnest classroom I’ve ever been in.”

Thanks to Johnson, Isenberg Elementary has also been approved for a TED-Ed club, where students will design their own TED Talks. At the end of the year, they could be selected to deliver their talk on TED’s big stage in New York.

“I can’t put a price tag on that weekend,” Johnson said of his New York experience.

And he hopes that his students will have the same opportunity.

“I have a great group,” he said, “I really think they’re going to flourish.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.