TEDx delivers passion and perspective to RCHK
Written by Kelvin Cheung
Renaissance College’s first ever TEDxRCHK event took place last week on Thursday, December 6th. Hosted by a team of Year 13 students who have a passion for public speaking, this event was the first of its kind to provide a rostrum for Renaissance College students and teachers to express their individual ideas.
The event explored the theme of “perspectives”, which allowed for speakers and the audience to explore a diverse range of topics through different lenses, along with celebrating and fostering the value of public speaking. TEDxRCHK invited student speakers from Years 9 through 12. They covered an array of topics, ranging from environmental issues to the importance of having a balanced lifestyle, as well as the power of an adaptive and willing-to-change mindset - to name a few.
Tree-Huggers on Geopolitics
Opening speaker, Year 12 student Jane Chan, explained why sustainability matters. She discussed the political side of water security, with examples of Day Zero in Capetown, as well as energy security, and how these are under geopolitical stress. Chan also introduced the problem of humans reaching their carrying capacity, that is, the limits to which the environment can supply us with resources. Additionally, she boldly outlined predictions on how resource scarcity will very likely be the cause of our next World War, leaving the audience in shock as they grasped the political relevance of sustainability.
Think Tanks Shaping our Future
The second speaker was Eugene Park, a Year 12 student and founder of Project Matter, a student-led think tank that aims to address the issue of air pollution through research, awareness, and action. His speech was not focused on air pollution, but rather, an exploration of the real-life use of Think Tanks to assist in tackling global issues. Park began the speech with a simple thought-provoking idea: he posited that students who plan for the future usually seek advice from parents, teachers, and older students, however, adopting the perspective of large government agencies, and tasked with creating a policy that might affect the lives of millions of people, he stated that advice from parents, teachers, and older students, would not suffice. He then intrduced the idea of Think Tanks, organizations with bodies of experts who conduct research and advocate for public policy. He addressed how government agencies are beginning to progressively utilize think tanks, thus critically shaping our future.
The Idea of Perfectionism
Harsha Madhu from Year 9 talked about the idea of perfectionism. She explored the numerous interpretations of perfectionism and the projection of these perspectives via the Internet. She delved into the story of Amy, a perfectionist who experiences downfall in her secondary studies. She delivered the story in an easily relatable fashion for RCHK students, making references to the school’s ARR Report Card system. To illustrate, she gave the example of Amy achieving a grade of B in one of her subjects, which seemingly is not a problem for most students, but was extremely disheartening for her. Using Amy’s story, Madhu helped demonstrate how there is more consideration paid to the actual achievement grade than the understanding behind it or what the student has actually learned. She then proceeded to highlight that our interpretations of perfectionism are relative to us and vary with the different aspirations and goals of each person. She concluded that we should not let the obsession with our goals overwhelm or control us.
A Daily Addiction. A Phone.
Representing Year 11, Taylor Chung shared a case study from his Personal Project, presenting some of his findings on smartphone usage in adolescents. He addressed the extensive use of smartphones and electronic devices with some staggering statistics, and showed how these are reinforced by adolescents’ addiction to the Internet. He looked at the issue from a scientific perspective, highlighting brain activity under smartphone use, such as the production of Dopamine, a reward molecule in brains that helps to induce feelings of satisfaction. By addressing the science behind adolescent addiction to smartphones and the internet, he helped the audience broaden their understanding behind what and why we present addiction-like symptoms when using our phones. Lastly, he left the audience with a few tips on leading a balanced and healthy lifestyle on phone usage.
How to Change your Perspective in Life
"If you don't like something, change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it.” Our last student speaker from Year 10, Shevaun Yip, explained that all things in life can change when we look at them from different perspectives. She emphasized that we can only become the generation of change if we change our attitude towards the things that cannot be changed. She presented a quote from Viktor Frankyl: “What is to give light, must endure burning”. From this, she elaborated on how failure instigates change in us, and how we should not be afraid to change ourselves to fit a particular situation, and to believe there will always be something to gain out of the experience of “failure”. Additionally, she also presented the quote “never wish life was easier, wish you were better.” She illustrated that in order for change to be brought about, we must start from change in one’s character, attitude, and mind. Through the series of famous quotes and stories that she shared with the audience, Shevaun delivered a truly inspiring speech for us to change the way we think about ourselves and how this can subsequently and positively alter events in our lives.
To close the event, Anthony Copeland, RCHK Science teacher and technology coach, gave a speech on algorithms and Internet use. He expatiated on his belief that computer algorithms are one of the major underlying mechanics and cause for our frequent use of the Internet and electronic devices. He presented us with the example of how a website developed by an MIT student had collected data from him as he browsed the site. At first, it was no surprise for him to find that the system identified his IP Address and location but Copeland had not expected to find that the system was also able to detect which social media platforms he was still logged on to, whether the pages were still open, and which accounts were being used. He had also not expected the website to detect his computer’s battery levels, along with the numerous other software details made available. He proceeded to address how these pieces of information are fed into computer algorithms, for systems to better understand us. The systems’ understandings of us ultimately help them form a network that maps out our desires and interests: what excites us, what scares us, and essentially all the things that we want. He then elaborated on the dangers of algorithms, that if computer systems understand us more than we do ourselves, then perhaps there is a real danger of us no longer having absolute control over the way we feel. He wanted us to be aware of these underlying mechanisms and and hoped to help us to rediscover our own connections and understandings with ourselves, so that our interests in our lives will not be controlled by mere algorithms.
Without the work of the speakers and the TEDxRCHK organising committee, Renaissance College’s first ever officially licensed TEDx event would not have been possible. The organisers expressed special gratitude for the speakers’ effort and commitment over the past three months in preparing their speeches. They hoped that their unique and thought-provoking speeches would continue to remain in the audience’s minds and inspire them to make a significant impact on their own lives and on the lives of others.