Ages of discovery

22nd July 2011 at 01:00

The best learners are the youngest and oldest people in society, an exclusive conference in Edinburgh heard.

Audience members - largely from outwith Scotland - paid pound;3,700 to attend the five-day TED Global event last week, which attracted stars from fields as diverse as Hollywood film, robotics, politics and architecture.

Alison Gopnik, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of California, said toddlers aged 18 months could do complex maths and were better at designing and testing hypotheses than adults. They were flexible and open-minded in a way that adults could best mimic by falling in love.

Bunker Roy, founder of the Barefoot College for illiterate students in India, found men wanted to leave their village once they became skilled. The solution was to train grandmothers in disciplines such as solar engineering.

Meanwhile, entry to a "fringe" event in Edinburgh cost pound;5. One FED session looked at how inexpensive video-conferencing techniques had helped Glasgow schools forge links with hospitals and open up areas such as medical ethics.

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