The Internet has created a large network of information sources (Richardson, 2010). There are experts all over the world in every subject conceivable. Imagine being able to learn about the newest discoveries in science from the scientists who are doing the work or listen to an inspiring message from a celebrity? With TED, that’s possible.
Overview of TED
TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design) began in 1984 as a nonprofit. The current, online version is a collection of videos, essays, and other resources covering many subjects including entertainment, science, business, and global issues. Most of the videos are under 20 minutes, and many are fewer than 10 minutes. This resource can enable teachers to bring experts into the class to explain current findings, emerging technologies, or provide some thought-provoking ideas for discussion.
Using TED in the Classroom
One way to use TED in the classroom would be as an introduction to a discussion. There are a wide assortment of videos to choose from and some are only a few minutes long. Pick on that relates to the topic of the discussion in some way then let it lead the way into a discussion.
When I was teaching in the elementary, I used old 1940s movie serials to teach comprehension and writings skills like plot and character development. Sometimes I used them to raise ethical questions for discussion or to get my students to consider why the character might have made a decision instead of choosing a different option. With an adult class, that can go further.
Consider this one:
Following that, students could take a few minutes to jot down a reaction to that video. Some may agree. Some may reject part or all of the point. After personal reflection time, form students into groups to share how they feel or share a time when they spoke up or a time when they should have but didn’t. As time permits, perhaps the whole group could come back together and talk through some of the most important points their small groups discussed. Then to end the class, have the students jot down the most important thing they learned or the thing they want to know more about.
Another use for TED is simply as a textbook. One lament I had as a teacher, especially in the sciences, was how fast the information in the textbook was out of date. For example, long after the scientific community downgraded Pluto’s planetary status, our textbooks still listed Pluto as a planet. Videos like the ones featured on TED can be used as updates to the ancient textbooks used in many classrooms.
TED has a feature they call TED-ed, which is a set of videos that have lessons attached to them. Some of them appear to be quite juvenile, even when setting the filter for College/University, but there are some in there that are pretty complex.
Consider this one on Dark Matter.
In addition to this video, there were a series of questions and some links to further information just like a textbook. There is a self-checking option on the questions, but I could not get that to work.
Resources like TED provide a way for students to have access to thought-provoking and informative works that can drive discussions or fill in the blanks in old textbooks.
Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.