Monday, April 21, 2008

Unleashing the Power of TED

All of us have seen presentations that dull our intellect and shorten our lives. We cope and endure often times by giving the occasional head nod and then staring at the floor believing that in this case your closed eyelids might be construed as concentration. I hope we've all also had the opposite experience. It can actually happen. I've stumbled across something interesting that you might have already heard of but I find completely addicting and it is called TED. It is just one more little example of how technology can alter the classroom experiences are students experience.

What is TED? The better question is what isn't TED. TED is an annual conference held in Monterey California that focuses on Technology, Entertainment, and Design. TED was founded by Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks in 1984 with the intention and mission of sharing "ideas worth spreading".

To be asked to be a TED presenter is a very prestigious honor. TED's philosophy is that every idea worth sharing should be able to be explained in under 18 minutes. Why am I sharing all of this with you? TED's main focus in on sharing ideas which is what we do in education. TED's website contains 18-minute presentations on thousands of different topics. You can search by subject or presenter. No more need to pay the $6,000 annual membership fee to TED to attend the conference. To be fair many of the archived videos have only sound. You can find the author and then search for them on and thanks to other nerds like me they've been copied and posted there for you to use with your students.

TED talks are available in a wide array of topics and you can find many that have direct links with what we are doing in our classrooms. The videos make great discussion starters for a variety of classes.

I've posted an example of a couple of TED talks below. One is an incredible "mathmagica" deal and the other is a presentation on whether or not education as we know it kills creativity. It's interesting to say the least and the speaker is British which makes the audio even more fun to hear.

How could you use TED in class? How could you use TED as part of homework assignments? Could we run our own TED-like conference with students competing to share their ideas? Imagine connecting our various high schools through our own TED like seminar live on USTREA. Lots of creative potential from TED. Give it a look and share your thoughts.

ARthur Benjamin: Lightning calculations and other "Mathemagic"

Ken Robinson "Do Schoools Today Kill Creativity?"


Dan Tully said...


By chance, I was e-mailed a link to a talk on the same day that you posted this entry. It was the first time I had heard of TED. I did spend a little free time looking around the site. I think there are some interesting and poignant topics there which could be used to stimulate conversations in many classes, science, ethics, social studies to name just a few. I did find it a little difficult to sort through the many entries to find the best ones. I wish the entry captions were slightly more specific. There's probably a blog listing "the best of TED" though. It's a great idea to bring the best thinkers together in one place, and what better place to do it than the web.

More interestingly perhaps, though is that e-mail I received an apparently oft-referenced link to a TED speech by Johnny Lee about the usefulness of the Wii remote control. Apparently it can be used to create a $40 smartboard. Interested? Try the youtube link here:

Dan Tully
Notre Dame High School
Niles, IL

Mike Parent said...


TED is a powerful tool. I use it with faculty who are seeking deeper meaning about issues.

By the way, my FAVORITE TED video is from Gever Tulley (

I will be sending my sons to his Tinkering School.

Shelley said...

Charlie, I'm a long-time TED fan, too... thanks for this entry explaining some of the glory.

Meanwhile, do you Twitter? I'd love to follow you up.

Shelley, aka @butwait