Why schools need to use TED Talks


“Doing things without PASSION separate us from the most important discoveries of our lives. If we don’t put our heart on what we do, probably we will miss an opportunity of a life! Not to make money, but to make meaning.” TEDxYouthDay

Imagination! Creativity! Global Learning! Curiosity! Innovative!

These are five of many words to describe the plethora of talks found on TED.  Talks are on a wide range of topics from health, environment, technology, design, and entertainment to name a few.  After I discovered these talks my first thought as a then teacher was how cool it would be to implement them into the classroom with my kids. So off I went. While teaching and learning in Dubai, I used a talk from TEDIndia by Kiran Bir Sethi on Teaching Kids to Take Charge. My students were shocked by the images they viewed of kids their age engaged in civic and communal work. It was a focus on their voice and their needs.   They saw the image “I Can” on the screen and many saw this as the most memorable part of the talk. This talk was one of the first tasks as part of a final unit of inquiry called What’s Fair. The students were going to design a colloquium to engage their parents, the community, and stakeholders on the topic of health care around the world, in their home countries, and in Dubai. Unfortunately my rebel ways would cause this to not occur as I was relieved early from my job due to being invited and accepting attendance to several education events in Dubai and Southeast Asia with the Ministry of Education, Parentology, and collaborative work in Thailand.  This was a move that my closed-minded administration did not agree with at the time.

So why are more schools not using these talks? Is it we do not know about them or we do not know how to implement them into our already fun curriculums?

TED talks are new for many. I find in my work and travels that people either know about them or do not. If they do know about them we are thrust into a grandiose conversation about have you seen this and have you seen that. If they do not know about them and are curious I share the website, iPhone application, and show a sample talk if time permits.  Usually I start them with Derek Sivers How to Start a Movement

So why schools should use TED Talks?

  • Most schools claim to be working towards a world class, international standard. TED is just that and more. Talks are from around the world and offer a variety of perspectives in multiple languages. One (Patricia Ryan) even challenges the idea of English only.
  • In some education context there is a shift towards science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There are talks that address STEM. Check out Gever Tulley.
  • Compared to some education materials that are expensive and claim to be engaging and really are not, TED will keep the interest of students. Oh and the cost for TED talks = free ninety nine.
  • TED also has TEDx which is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. schools may be inspired to create their own TEDx event crafted by students, educators, or other stakeholders.
  • For educators and schools seeking innovation check out TEDxNYED.
  • TED also has a focus on youth. There is a TEDxYouthDay. The quote at the start of this blog comes from a reaction to TEDxYouthDay.

So go on. I dare you – double dog dare you- to use TED talks in the classroom, in summer school, in your youth groups. See what reaction your students have to the ideas worth spreading and what new ideas emerge from them as a result.

Have you used TED talks with your students? What have you used? If so, how did it go? How did your students respond? Have you created tools to use with the talks? Plan on using a talk? New to TED? What other reasons should schools use TED talks?

Check out TED ED Brain Trust.

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