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10 TEDTalks for Online Instructors

TED has been “bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, and Design” since 1984. The organization’s online presence has grown over the years and now features a collection of resources ranging from an educational online community to recorded local conferences, but the most popular component may be the TEDTalks.

TEDTalks are brief presentations (usually under 20 minutes) that capture “Ideas Worth Spreading.” They are recorded in front of live audiences around the world, and feature a variety of speakers, both well-known and not-so-famous.

While there are currently over 1200 videos in the collection, the following list was compiled with the online instructor in mind. The presenters seek to motivate, inspire, and inform us in the areas of teaching, learning, and technology.

  1. Daphne Koller: What We’re Learning from Online Education. A co-founder of Coursera, Koller discusses the need for increased access to effective educational opportunities, and how online delivery can make it possible with free options for learners across the globe. “Scaling the best-quality education” is the goal with an understanding of the importance of meaningful practice, interaction, and feedback.
  2. Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? Turkle explores the power of our technological devices and how their use may be changing who we are as well as our relationships with others. How are you connecting with your online students? She compares in-person conversations with those we have asynchronously via technology. This one is also included on a list of back-to-school talks from a TED intern.
  3. Sir Ken Robinson: Schools Kill Creativity. The most watched TEDTalk of them all, this presentation asks us to rethink the status quo of the traditional education system. “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” This is a call-to-action to embrace the unknown nature of the future and encourage learning through more creative means at all levels of education.
  4. Eli Pariser: Beware Online “Filter Bubbles.” Listed by The Huffington Post as one of the best TEDTalks, and also a favorite of mine, this talk challenges us to think a little deeper about how Internet searches work and potentially limit the scope of information we view. Pariser presents an effective comparison of two independent searches for the same keywords that yield different results.
  5. Steven Johnson: Where Good Ideas Come From. One of’s 5 All-Time Favorite Talks, this one addresses the history of the coffee house as a cultural center for discussion and the true nature of how ideas are generated. What we often consider a “Eureka! moment” is not a unique incident, but the result of long-term, often collaborative, thinking. Johnson asks you to reconsider how innovation, creativity, and “deep thinking” really happen, and how you can foster learning environments that encourage these activities.
  6. Jimmy Wales: The Birth of Wikipedia. Do your students use Wikipedia? This presentation from the project’s founder is featured on‘s list of TEDTalks. Providing insight into the goal to get “a free encyclopedia into the hands of everyone on the planet,” Wales describes funding, the volunteer support the organization receives, and how the whole process of contributing and editing works.
  7. Joe Sabia: The Technology of Storytelling. Digital storytelling is an engaging way to grab students’ attention and help them remember what they’ve heard. Sabia, through his on-stage iPad, shares how “new technology has always helped us tell our own stories.” This talk is also included in’s Best of 2011 list.
  8. Howard Rheingold: The New Power of Collaboration. Rheingold’s approach to open, community-based, co-learning environments has been referenced in multiple Inside Online Learning posts. This presentation takes us through an interdisciplinary history of collaboration and the future of participatory media in Rheingold’s own words.
  9. Jane McGonigal: Gaming Can Make a Better World. As an educational researcher and game designer, McGonigal focuses attention on four key “superpowers” of collaborative and supportive gamers that could be applied to solving real-world problems. If you aren’t familiar with virtual worlds and real-time games, this talk presents some interesting examples.
  10. David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization. Do you present data sets in your courses? Charts, diagrams, and infographics are just the beginning of what is possible. McCandless is a data journalist who creates visual representations of large data sets to find patterns and connections that aren’t necessarily obvious from reviewing the information as it exists in spreadsheets. This talk offers food for thought about how information design can help us interpret, or misinterpret, what’s happening.

Search for more talks of interest to you by speaker, keyword, and category on the TED website or via Google spreadsheet. But know this, as TechCrunch warned on a recent post about TEDTalks, “It will kill your day.” It’s easy to get lost in viewing one after another, after another, so schedule some time to continue exploring TED resources.

Pay it Forward

How can you share TEDTalks with colleagues and use them in class? From a professional development standpoint the TED platform can help you innovate and expand your own learning and that of others. Here are a few additional resources worth a closer look:

  • Use TED-Ed’s Flip This Lesson tool to guide a conversation about a video of your choosing. Consider how this might work with your online peers as part of faculty training, or with your online students as part of a course unit.
  • New TED mobile apps not only give you more options for access and features on-the-go, but also allow you to share your favorite talks with your personal learning network through your social media accounts.
  • Join the Teaching With TED community wiki and learn from other educators about how they are incorporating these resources in their traditional and online classrooms.

Share Your Ideas

Do you have a lesson you’d like to share? Consider attending, or submitting a presentation for, a TEDx event near you. And let other instructors know how you are using these resources to stay informed and inform your students.

Image credit: Jon Gosier, Flickr, CC-BY

August 29th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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