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Do you know TED?

Are you looking for new content for your online course, or perhaps interesting online materials to augment your own lectures and existing content? Meet the TED organization. 

"TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out
(in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become
 ever broader."

TED's goal is to inspire positive, global change in a host of areas ranging from public health and environmental wellness to the arts and education. This change comes through the dissemination of innovative ideas. TED organizes multiple conferences throughout the year to provide a forum for these ideas. The events themselves are expensive to attend, but the individual speaker presentations are posted online as TEDTalks. While these presentations were not created specifically for use in academic courses, they are gaining popularity with instructors and students.

TEDTalks in Education

These recorded presentations, from a wide array of speakers, are an integral part of a new TED initiative for education. These videos are ready for use in your online in classroom. The speakers are dynamic, they challenge your thinking and perspectives, and they are brief (many are under 20 minutes in length).

The videos themselves can be viewed on the TED site, but also on YouTube. They are also released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license that makes them available without cost and easy to use in your course via URL. Here are several TEDTalks I have bookmarked recently – a small preview of what is available for you and your students.

Mike Matas: A next-generation digital book 

In less than 5 minutes, this speaker demonstrates an interactive book developed for the iPad/iPhone. The video demonstration is here, along with a brief question and answer period with the presenter. The TED page also includes a string of comments from viewers discussing what the future might be for such an application and if it can really be called a "book". After viewing the video, what do you think? Consider adding your reaction to the discussion.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow

In a psychology lecture of sorts, this speaker presents the concept of reaching a state of "flow" in our lives. What makes us happy? Where do we find fulfillment and satisfaction? Form most of us, it is about more than just material wealth. Descriptions of flow as experienced by experts, athletes and business leaders are provided, all strikingly similar. The concepts of attention, apathy and the intersection of challenge and skill levels are addressed. The related comments provide viewers' thoughts and reflections on experiencing "flow". Have you experienced "flow" in your work?

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity

How can we educate today's children for what their lives will be like in the future? This presentation is Sir Ken Robinson's humorous call-to-action for all of us to rethink how we approach the structure of public education. A balanced approach is needed that identifies and encourages the many ways in which children are creative and also extends that creativity into adulthood. Through Robinson's stories you will consider your own educational experience and how you came to your career field.

Teaching with TED – Jackie Gerstein, EdD, established a wiki devoted to the use of TED in education. The wiki contains additional resources and reflections, including a page of examples from teachers who are using TED in their classrooms. Among the suggestions:

  • Talks to launch faculty discussions about making changes, small and large in organizations.
  • Talks to launch student discussions about society and environment.
  • Talks as examples on new ways for students to think about and present statistics.
  • Talks as examples of social media and posting thoughtful comments to a public site.

If you are already using TED resources, consider joining this wiki group and sharing your experiences!

Find a Presentation – The TEDTalks online spreadsheet makes it easier for us to find presentations on a particular topic via title (solar energy, religion, civil rights) or from a specific speaker (Temple Grandin, Al Gore, Jane Goodall). New talks are added every week to the almost 1000 talks already cataloged.

Get Involved!

TED Education Brain Trust 

The TED education initiative is a new focus of the organization, just started in March 2011. This online community is a members-only forum for "educators, organizations and creative professionals" It's free to join and there are currently over 4500 members registered. The community discussions are focused on getting your input.

  • Suggest ways in which the videos could be used in specific educational settings.
  • Brainstorm new topics for future TED presentations and events.
  • Help to tag videos with keywords that will help educators find the most relevant presentations.

Local TEDx Events

While TED sponsors conferences each year internationally, the TED movement is taking hold in local communities. Organizers are pulling together speakers and topics of local interest to distribute information and spark discussion. Check this site to see if there is one scheduled in your area.

Subscribe to TED

New information and opportunities are If after exploring the TED resources you want to stay in touch, connect with them online via Facebook and Twitter as @TEDtalks and @TED_ED

TED is a celebration of creative thought. While some ideas may be controversial, the conversations and debates that emerge have their own value. Think about how you might use TED resources to spark conversation and creative thought in your courses.