Forget what you know! Jacob Barnett is a 14-year-old PhD student studying quantum physics! Wow! He speaks in this TED Talks video about how learning is all fine and dandy, but real creations come when people stop learning and start thinking. What Barnett means by this is that you have to stop settling for the mundane facts that are simply presented to you in school and begin to open your mind to the possibilities. He describes, “In order to succeed you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective.” When you think, it is genuinely unique and creative in your own way. This is how new ideas and scientific findings are discovered. This video gave examples of geniuses, like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, and how their learning was inhibited through a school closing or something like that and it was the best thing that could have happened for them. They began to independently and creatively think and created great concepts such as quantum physics and calculus. I thought that Barnett’s reasoning was fantastic! Stop learning in order to start thinking! Now, being a 14-year-old and being a PhD student, much of Barnett’s scientific talk about the physics portion of things was nearly lost on me! I understood his main points in his discussion, but his examples were quite complex and I could not wrap my head around the quantum physics. It also amazed me how far Barnett had come in such a short time. At age 10, he was applying and beginning to attend college. WHAT!?! Now he’s a PhD student!? Barnett has autism and started out in a regular special education classroom, but he wasn’t learning anything, so he began thinking about what he was interested in. Soon enough, he had created his own theorem. At the age of 14! It just amazes me how talented some people are.

This TED Talk will definitely affect the way I go about teaching and educating. When I become a teacher, I will try to enable thinking more in my classroom, rather than just learning. I will give my students projects where they can explore their own interests and be able to think and create things. Giving students the opportunities to think and explore is a crucial part in the educational process. This video has given me a whole new perspective on the relationship between learning and thinking. They don’t go hand in hand. Many times one has to stop so the other can take over and flourish. I highly recommend this video to all future educators.

Barnett posed a challenge on his audience. He challenged them to stop learning for the next 24 hours. He challenged them to pick a special interest field. Something that each person enjoyed and was interested in. He challenged them to be the field. To think and create for the next 24 hours. Could you do that?

Photo CC-By Joe Desiderio




7 thoughts on “Learning vs. Thinking

  1. You did a wonderful job summarizing this TED talk video! I definitely find it crucial to our success to ponder ideas we would not normally. I was like Jacob to an extent in school. I always achieved more from assignments where I had free range to get creative and focus on a subject I was good at. Take the Independent Learning Project for example. We are given some of our “class time” to focus on something we enjoy. I find this very important. I agree with your thoughts of incorporating this into our classrooms. This kid is a genius for learning such complicated skills at a young age. What was your favorite thing to think about at 14? Mine probably would have been riding golf carts every day after school at my grandmas, not quantum physics! 


    1. Thanks for your comment! I definitely enjoyed the projects that I had free range. I do agree that Barnett is very talented. I think my favorite thing to do when I was 14 was play softball and sing in choir. Most certainly not quantum physics. Thanks again for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is crazy, 14 years old and doing this! I think a big thing to take away in this is time and what we want to learn/ master. The point of him being autistic is great. This is because when most people think of autism, they think that they cannot learn correctly and will be slow, but this demolishes that idea. To do the challenge it would take time and time most people will think they do not have enough of. That’s a good way to incorporate this video to your future classroom and to help your students.


  3. I really enjoyed watching this TED talk but something that stood out to me more then anything in it is when he said, If you want to succed you have to look at things with your own weird perspective and I love this! I agree 100%, people need to use there creativity more and imagination as well!


    1. I agree! To succeed you have to use your own unique perspective. I think some people struggle with being unique and original because as adolescents most people try to blend in and not stand out. But everyone should be unique. That’s the best part about being an individual. We are all different. Thanks for the comment!


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