Jonathan Presents at Ignite Education 2015


I recently had the privilege to speak at the third annual City Neighbors Foundation Ignite Education event and I’m excited to share my experience!

Ignite Talks are a public speaking format developed by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis in 2006. Each talk is exactly five minutes long and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The slides advance whether or not the speaker is ready for them to advance; there is no ability to pause the slides once the presentation starts. The goal is for the talk to be rapid pace and to keep the topic moving forward. The tagline for the official Ignite Talks is “Enlighten us, but make it quick” and this is a great summary of the spirit of the event.


Ignite Education Baltimore is a local, education based spin-off from this larger series and it is hosted by City Neighbors Foundation each year. The overarching topic for this year’s Ignite Education event was “education and social justice in Baltimore,” and all the proposed talks had to relate to this issue in one way or another. The City Neighbors Foundation stated that one of the main goals was to get the audience talking and inspired about this larger topic, and that each talk should ideally be conversational and spark ideas and foster dialogue both during and after the event.


I submitted my proposal as soon as I found out about the event because I was interested in the challenging Ignite format and I considered it a great way to share my thoughts and experiences with the education community in Baltimore.  I thought that my talk would fit well with the topic and knew this event would be valuable public speaking practice and allow me to further refine my ability to think quickly. The driving factor for my submission was that I wanted to meet other educators and invite a discussion for my theme and highlight my passion for youth empowerment.


My talk explored how the integration of making and the Hacker Mindset in education in recent years has resulted in increased opportunity and a progression away from a consumer culture in education toward a producer culture where youth have a hand in their education and knowledge development. As these changes have gained momentum there have been big shifts on a large scale, but I wanted to dive in and dissect how this integration plays out on an individual level between teacher and student.

This was the overall goal of my talk and I integrated in two core concepts from Bruce Lee’s martial art philosophy Jeet Kune Do: the idea of being like water, embracing fluidity to change forms, and the importance of being willing to absorb that which is useful, regardless of the source. This was the driving force for my personal movement away from an ego-driven mindset in my youth education background to a more empowerment-driven mindset where I was willing to learn from youth and elevate them as experts. I related my personal experiences and how these guiding philosophical points that I borrowed from Bruce Lee have helped me change my approach to education and learning, and I relayed how working at Digital Harbor Foundation has shaped my growth as an educator. Here is a video of my talk that Jen took:

I greatly enjoyed the feeling of being able to deliver my talk in a clear and concise way while meeting the requirements of the Ignite format, but what I enjoyed most about the event was hearing the other Ignite talks. I came away with lots of insight and heard some amazing anecdotes. It was also great to recognize that there are many other educators with similar goals and approaches regarding youth empowerment and reimagining education. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to speak at this event and am thankful to the City Neighbors Foundation for giving me the chance to share my experiences!

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