Tag Archives: TEDActive


TED Talk Fridays kick off at ThinkFun: Education and Introverts

Coming off the heels of yet another incredible TEDActive experience, I wanted to find a way to bring some of the TED magic back to the office. Last month, I instituted TED Talk Fridays here at ThinkFun, and the response was fantastic!

Ted Logo

The format is super simple and agenda-less – I wanted this to be an informal time to gather and get inspired by new ideas. The conversations that organically bubbled up in response to the talks were far more powerful than any prompt I could have planned.

We started off with – who else – the amazing Sir Ken Robinson and his epic 2006 talk on How Schools Kill Creativity. With over 16 million views, this seemed a safe place to begin, and it generated some fantastic discussion about our own school experiences and the directions we may have gone if the system allowed for more creative exploration.

Next up was Susan Cain, speaking in 2012 about the Power of Introverts.

Interested in watching along with us? As our TED Talk Fridays continue, I’ll post links to the 2 videos we watch and will look forward to you joining us virtually – please share your comments or any ideas these videos spark!

TEDActive: My Week at Brain Camp

What do you get when you stir together 700+ brilliant minds from 50+ different countries for a week in the desert? You get the amazing brain gumbo that is TEDActive!


While I thought nothing could top the 2011 Late Night Game Suite experience… only to have the experience exceeded in 2012 with Giant Swish and a wildly creative Game Creation Challenge – this year’s conference managed to be the best by far!


This year’s many talks flung our brains in just as many different directions – from a former street performing mime to a guerilla gardener in South Central LA – to a giant squid hunter to Shane Koyczan’s moving talk on bullying that brought the room to tears and to their feet – the content was nothing short of awesome, my mind is still buzzing!

In between sessions, attendees had a chance to explore all kinds of fantastic hands-on play experiences…


Giant Rush Hour soaked up some desert sun!

Artist Kiel Johnson created some incredible giant cacti for the DIY cardboard mini golf course on the putting green!




What better way to relax between talks than with Giant Jenga!


It’s a bit tough to take in all that’s going on in this photo below – but it’s my absolute favorite – look closely and you’ll see it’s a picture of a camera taking another picture of Giant Rush Hour WITH an iPad featuring the Rush Hour app – holy puzzle mania!

My geeky little heart almost skipped a beat.


Read more about all the fun and learning at TEDActive in this fantastic TED blog post!  For more fun photos from ThinkFun at TEDActive, visit our Facebook Album.

Brain Buzzing? Must be time for TED!

I feel like a kid packing for summer camp!

My suitcase filled with games and toys may be to blame.

TED bag

I am so excited to take my toys and head to Palm Springs this weekend for my third TEDActive Experience! For those unfamiliar, this incredible conference happens concurrently with the TED Conference in Long Beach, with 700 individuals coming together to watch the TED Talks via live simulcast and then engage in meaningful experiences, conversation, and activation around these ideas worth spreading!

I have been so fortunate to be part of this event for the last 2 years (see my recaps from 2011 Game Suite and 2012’s Giant Swish and Game Creation Challenge workshop!), and am thrilled to return to help make this year’s conference the most PLAYFUL one yet!

TED Active - game on

In partnership with the amazing TEDActive team, we’ve curated some amazingly fun game experiences for conference participants, from mega Rush Hour to a Caine’s Arcade-inspired cardboard creation.  I can’t wait to share all the fun next week will bring – stay tuned!


Game On! TEDActive Takes on a Game Creation Challenge

In addition to the Giant Swish game, I led a Game Creation Challenge during the TEDActive pre-conference activities.  As the name implies, this TED conference stresses active learning through hands-on collaboration and creation.  As someone whose life is devoted to promoting the value of hands-on play and exploration, this was a perfect venue to push the envelope and try something new and fun!

I designed a workshop to capitalize on the fun of game play and to explore the ways gamification can make play richer and more intentional.  Gamification is the application of game elements to routine tasks with the goal of changing behavior, and it can be a powerful way to get people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t want or think to do.  I wanted to explore what can happen when you take a behavior people love – like play – and tweak the experience to ensure a particular learning is stressed.

For more on gamification, see great examples by IDEO in this post!

As my workshop was lead-up to an intense week of active collaboration, I wanted to craft an experience that would foster the values of TEDActive and encourage communication and focus through play.  I identified two powerful skills to target:

  • Improving Collaboration
  • Harnessing Competitive Drive, that force that pushes us to be better, faster, smarter, stronger

Here’s how it went down:

Participants formed 5 teams.  Teams had 30 minutes to design a creative timed challenge using a range of materials to spark creativity.  I provided prompts and everything from traffic cones to Scrabble tiles to musical instruments to get the juices flowing!

The Challenges that emerged were incredibly creative and SO diverse!  I’ve compiled them into a booklet which you can download here… Several participants suggested that, with a few drinks, this could be the ideal unofficial TEDActive Late Night Games Guide, but I leave it to you to decide when and where to try these out for yourself!

Download the Unofficial TEDActive Games Guide – 2012.doc

While we began by creating Challenges (not games), step 2 was to “gamify” them, bringing them together to create a master game.

During Competition, Teams rotated through challenges, working together to complete each in the fastest time.

Score sheets showed how other teams had done and served as a powerful as a kick in the pants to push harder and be faster.  The team that completed all 4 new challenges in the shortest TOTAL time was our winner!

I had such fun creating this workshop, but the real excitement stemmed from the conversations it sparked among participants on the power of play… an “idea worth spreading” that surfaced in discussions throughout the week!  See more photos of the workshop in action below or by clicking here.


 Photos courtesy of Aaron Sylvan, who managed to play AND photograph the fun!

Big Thinkers Need Big Games… Giant Swish is a Hit at TEDActive!

I’ve just returned from an incredible week at the TEDActive Conference in Palm Springs, CA… an idea-packed week that I spent learning, listening, exploring, and of course – playing!  This year’s talks were as mind blowing as ever, and I’ll look forward to sharing my favorites as they are posted.  In the meantime, I’m super excited to share the fun way one of our games joined in on the fun and provided a brain workout to some of tomorrow’s greatest thinkers!

TED 2012: Full Spectrum

You may remember photos from last years TEDActive where I hosted a late-night game party for attendees.  This year we upped our game (sorry, couldn’t resist!) and brought the fun to Palm Springs in a big new way!

The incredible company Event Artistry took ThinkFun’s transparent card game Swish and supersized it, creating a 9 foot tall wall with humongous cards each 2 feet tall!  Unlike the regular game which is played with a 4×4 array, this board was designed for a special type of new Swish challenge involving only 12 cards.

A little perspective... these cards are HUGE!

We wanted to challenge players not only to find Swishes of 2-5 cards, but also to find multiple Swishes in order to completely clear the board!  In case you’ve never played before, here’s a quick intro to the game play with an example of a 3-card Swish:

To create this new challenge, we went straight to the game’s inventors, a brilliant pair of teachers in Israel (read more about Zvi and Gali here!).  They developed a program to generate a selection of 12 cards that contain a specified number of 2, 3, 4, and 5 card Swishes!  Once the cards are laid out, players are challenged to “Swish” all the cards until none remain.   This new Swish Generator program is incredibly cool – and opens up a whole new world of possible ways to play this game as a solo challenge.  I played so much Swish leading up to the conference I may need to add it to my resume!  Click here for more photos of the giant game!

The Giant Swish was installed in a poolside cabana – and attendees stopped in to play and stretch their brains in between the incredible talks all week!

A 3-Card Swish emerges!

Think you’re up for the challenge?  Here’s one for YOU to try!  The 12 cards below are numbered in the corners.

Take on the Swish Challenge!

In case it’s difficult to read, the numbers are:

9    13   18   11

22   21   23   14

5     17    4     1


Can you figure out how to group all 12 cards into Swishes of either 2, 3, 4, or 5 cards in such a way that none are left over?  Please share your number groups in the comments please and I’ll reveal the solution shortly!

TED 2011 – Isabel Behncke: Evolution’s gift of play

“Play is the glue that binds us together... Play is our adaptive wild card in order to adapt successfully to a changing world…. will we make the most of our playfulness?  Play is not frivolous, play is essential.”

Primatologist and TED Fellow Isabel Behncke Izquierdo shows how a wild bonobo ape society in the Congo learns from constantly playing.   Play appears to be the bonobos’ key to problem-solving, creativity, forming connections, and avoiding conflict.   If it works for our close cousins, why not for us?

TED 2011 – Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter…

In a truly ovation-worthy talk at this year’s TED Conference, 22-year old poet Sarah Kay explains her use of spoken word poetry as a problem-solving tool.  Prepare to be blown away!

“I write poems to figure things out.  Sometimes, the only way I know how to work through something is by writing a poem, and sometimes I get to the end of the poem, and look back and go, ‘Oh so that’s what this is all about.’  And sometimes, I get to the end of the poem and haven’t solved anything!

TEDActive 2011 Highlights – The World Peace Game

I had the great honor of attending the TEDActive conference last week, and I’m still swirling from the inspiring ideas shared and incredible connections made!  TEDActive brings together global innovators – the doers, makers, and thinkers of the world – to interact and learn from one another while experiencing a live simulcast of TED2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder.

If you’ve not experienced the brain food that is TED (Technology. Entertainment. Design), I encourage you to check out the site and browse through the talks from years past.  My favorite talk to date comes from Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity expert who spoke about the ways our education system must change to cultivate creativity and support multiple intelligence.  Here’s a post I shared on Robinson’s original talk and a follow-up speech he gave more recently.

While I enjoyed the week soaking up ideas and getting inspired – my real “work” came into play once the talks ended, when I hosted a late night Game Suite for attendees to come play games and unwind until the wee hours! It was such a blast to break out my favorite games and watch the smartest people I’ve ever met break a sweat in a heated Jenga tournament, trash-talk over a Chocolate Fix challenge, and race to solve Rush Hour puzzles!  A collection of the great photos from the late-night games can be seen here.  Here are a few of my favorites!

This year’s TED Talks did not disappoint, covering an incredible range of topics and disciplines with some truly mind-blowing and memorable moments each session.  In one particular talk, surgeon Anthony Atala unveiled a 3D printer that uses living cells to output a transplantable kidney (literally, a kidney was printed over the course of 7 hours and brought out on the stage!)… unbelievable!

I found myself making little stars in the margin of the program guide to remind myself of talks to revisit and share once I returned home…  it is truly a testament to the incredibly engaging TED lineup that my guide is now so starry it resembles a mini solar system!

I won’t barrage you with my complete list of highlights, so I’ll break my favorites down into separate posts and share in bite-sized chunks!  First up….


John Hunter, a teacher in Charlottesville, Virginia, engaged his 4th graders in an political science simulation called the World Peace Game. The game triggers an eight-week transformation of the children from students of a neighborhood public school to citizens of the world.

This clip from the film World Peace..and other 4th-grade achievements shows the project in action and reveals how a wise, loving teacher can unleash students’ full potential, I dare you not to be inspired!

One of my favorite quotes beautifully demonstrates the power of teacher language, as John Hunter tells his young learners, “One of you is in a position to leverage something good for the world, and you may save us all.”