VideoTED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It’s hard to believe that TED has been around since 1984. In the last few years has it become so popular, perhaps because of the spread of TED TV and the appearance of TED Talks on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) affiliates. TED Talks are not slide shows, lectures, or bulleted PowerPoints. TED Talks have been called brilliant, inspirational, powerful, motivational, and passionate. There are over 900 talks, all 18 minutes or less, on a broad array of topics, by thinkers, creators and innovators who are challenged to “give the talk of their lives”.

According to teachingwithted, TED Talks gives you the opportunity to learn from disciplines outside your own from experts in their fields. At an annual conference they create “exhilarating behind-the-scenes tour of this stimulating and paradigm-shifting meeting of the minds…. where theoretical physicists, 11-year-old violin prodigies, and venture capitalists present and exchange bold new ideas that will change everything. A veritable Cirque du Soleil of the psyche, TED (Technology Entertainment Design) brings the talent, energy, and collective spirit of the planet’s top doers and thinkers together to plot a better future.”

Why should you use TED in your classroom?

Why schools need to use TED Talks from the Global Education Collaborative Know.Do.Serve.Learn Weblog suggests educators can encourage student reactions and ideas by:

  • Offering a variety of perspectives in multiple languages.
  • Illustrating the shift towards science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

And teachers should use TED Talks because:

  • They are engaging …and FREE!
  • Have a focus on youth. (See TEDxYouthDay, held Nov. 19-21, 2011; click on the map for upcoming events Jan. 15, 2012 in Washington, D.C. and Feb. 12, 2012 in New York City).

TED Talks are free for educators as long as you follow the Creative Commons license, and credit the source. Some of the best talks invariably show up on lists for educators, for example these 15 TED Talks for Teachers to Watch Before 2010 (it’s not too late!):

TED Talks directly about education
1. John Wooden on Winning vs. Success.
2. Clifford Stoll Teaches Physics to Eighth Graders.
3. Don't Eat the Marshmallow. (About behavior.)
4. Bill Gates Talks About Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Education.
5. David Merrill Introduces Siftables. Siftables are little computer blocks that can be manipulated to create words, equations, pictures, and designs.

TED Talks with implications for education
6. Tom Wujec - 3 Ways the Brain Creates Meaning.
7. Jimmy Wales - The Birth of Wikipedia.
8. Julian Treasure - 4 Ways Sound Affects Us.
9. How Cell Phones, Twitter, and Facebook Can Make History.
10. Matthew White Gives the Euphonium a New Voice.

11. Lead Like the Great Conductors.
12. David Pogue on the Music Wars
13. Pranav Mistry - The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology.
14. Benjamin Zander - On Music and Passion
15. Dan Pink - The Surprising Science of Motivation

Bonus extra: Sir Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity (or see this animation).          

To that list I would add Michelle Obama’s plea for education, the first lady’s speech to a girls’ school in England about empowerment through strength, dignity, compassion and education, and JJ. Abrams Mystery Box, which touches on imagination and critical thinking. Or see these suggestions from Eight Great TED Talks About The Future Of Education And Teaching: Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers; Mae Jemison on teaching arts and sciences together; Charles Leadbeater: Education innovation in the slums and Arthur Benjamin’s formula for changing math education where Benjamin suggests that the culmination of math learning should be statistics and probability, not calculus. (See his demonstration of “mathemagic”). Another math-related talk, Dan Meyer: Math Class Needs a Makeover, says “paint-by-numbers classwork, [robs] kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them.”

The TEDx Classroom Project

TEDx programs differ from TED Talks in that they are “created in the spirit of TED’s mission, ‘ideas worth spreading,’ … designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.”

The TEDx Classroom Project is a comprehensive classroom model for teaching about TED Talks, encouraging ideas, and creating a problem-based curriculum. Tenth-grade English classes were charged with analyzing over 600 TED Talks, then creating, giving, and publishing a five-minute, then answering the question "What Matters (to Me)? in a TED-inspired talk of their own. You can download rules and advice as well as directions to see how the project progressed and visit the TEDx Classroom Project blog to read student and teacher comments.

Educator Christian Long was inspired to create the TEDx Classroom Project after seeing the TEDx Terry Talks, an independently organized TED event --a student event that challenges students to give the “talk of their lives.”

If full length TED Talks are too long for your class time, you might be interested in the TED-ED Brain Trust, a private forum for education that has created short animations, micro-documents, presentations and film clips that are under 10 minutes in length. Subjects include examples of drawing, stop motion, 3D animation, cartoons, nature and music, Lego® mechanisms, slow motion water droplets, and more. Educators and students can also suggest and submit their own creations. For more information and peer advice, see the TED-ED Brain Trust forum.

Best teacher resources

Highlights at Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day, include The Best Teacher Resources For “TED Talks” (& Similar Presentations) and The “Best” TED Talks (Well, Really, The Ones I Use With My Classes). These pages list resources and name titles for classroom use, respectively. Ferlazzo’s resource page links to The TED Commandments – rules every speaker needs to know, which give you insight into the presentation style of TED Talks:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out Thy Usual Shtick.
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
  3. Thou Shalt Reveal Thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
  5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt Thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of Thy Failure as Well as Thy Success.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither Thy Company, Thy Goods, Thy Writings, nor thy Desparate Need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside Into Outer Darkness.
  8. Thou Shalt Remember All The While: Laughter is Good.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Read Thy Speech.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them That Follow Thee.

Ferlazzo points out that there are other sites you can use for classroom talks. Pop! Tech uses “big thinkers” and short presentations. Ignite allows presenters to use 20 slides and five minutes to make their point, and Big Think has over 600 presentations. Ferlazzo has used TED Talks in his classroom with his Theory of Knowledge class (“The Raspyni Brothers juggle and jest” and Lennart Green does close-up card magic); to teach about self control (Joachim de Posada says, Don’t eat the marshmallow yet); and for classroom management (Daniel Pink’s On The Surprising Science of Motivation).

Teach students about How to learn? From Mistakes, a TED Talk from Diana Laufenberg, 11th-grade American history at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.

For more classroom tested lessons, visit Real world examples of how TED has been used in the classroom and other peer-submitted examples at teachingwithted.

TED Talks in the content area

In TED Talks Demystified for Teachers, from the History Teacher’s Attic, Jeff Mummert notes that “organizing knowledge or research by discipline is, it should be pointed out, in stark contrast to the real objective of TED Talks in general” but he has taken the liberty of organizing talks by title and run time into categories: American History, World History, Geography, Language Arts, Education, Art, Music, Mathematics, Biology, Physics, Health/Physical Education, Civics/Government, Psychology, Anthropology, Earth Science/Environment, Statistics, Economics, Family/Consumerism, Technology/Computers in Education and Astronomy. For more history-related TED Talks see Angela Cunningham’s TED Talks for Social Studies Educators.

Bionic Teaching uses an interesting filter for TED Talks uses the Exhibit program created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From Hans Rosling: Debunking third-world Myths with best stats you have ever seen; your students will learn that statistics can be interesting and some of the creative ways you can use data.

In 100 Great Tech Talks for Educators, you’ll find a list of talks on global connections, the Internet and news media, leadership, educational technology, the brain and psychology, and teaching methods.

A Teacher Looking for Classroom Success tells you how he uses Video Links for Use in the Classroom incorporating TED Talks among other videos to enliven his statistics, physics, algebra, and personal development classes.

Andy Woodworth, a New Jersey librarian and library advocate, has received awards for his always entertaining, never dull library blog Agnostic, Maybe. On his post TEDucation: 5 TED Talks Librarians Should Watch (and Why) (in addition to Ken Robinson who seems to top everyone’s list) Andy cites:

1.William Kamkwamba: How I Harnessed the Wind

2. Malcolm Gladwell – What We Can Learn from Spaghetti Sauce

3. Mark Bezos – A Life Lesson from a Volunteer Firefighter

4. JR – Use Art To Turn the World Inside Out

And our favorite librarian/educator Dr. Joyce Valenza, spoke at the recent TEDx Philadelphia on See Sally Research on how quickly research has changed. Her talk was hailed as a “must see.”

In Reflections of a Science Teacher Sandra McCarron discusses the integration of Jared Diamond’s on why societies collapse to make correlations to her lessons on biodiversity and ecosystems. You can find more of her lesson plans at Messing About with Science.

Continuing the science theme, Five TED Talks That Will Make You Actually Care About Earth Day: Chris Jordan: Picturing Excess; Sylvia Earle: How to Protect the Oceans; William McDonough: The Wisdom of Designing Cradle to Cradle; Janine Benyus: Biomimicry in Action; and Michael Pollan: The Omnivore's Next Dilemma. View all of these talks in one place at Earth Day the TED Way.

In for Good is a list of TED Talks for English classes: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Danger of a Single Story; Elif Shafak: The Politics of Fiction; Jonathan Harris: Collecting Stories; Pranav Mistry: The Thrilling Potential of Sixth Sense Technology; James Geary: Metaphorically Speaking; Erin McKean: Redefining the Dictionary; and David McCandless: The Beauty of Data Visualization.

Ten Speaking English Activities using include TED Talks that can be used with adult English language learners to teach prediction, vocabulary, debate, post-viewing interviews, critique, body language, the five W’s (and how), and critical thinking.

And finally, for your own inspiration and professional development, look into setting up your own “TED Talk Tuesday” or “Webspiration Wednesday” as featured at iLearnTechnology: An edublog about integrating technology into the classroom.Top of FormBottom of Form

A directory of all TED Talks by date, speaker, title and short summary--updated in real time--can be downloaded via a Google spreadsheet or see all the TED directory for talks tagged “education.”

TED coming to NJ

Rowan University and the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) will be hosting the South Jersey TEDx conference in fall 2012 featuring the topic: Education and Economic Development (Learning and Earning). Stay tuned at for more information or contact Charles Ivory,

Patricia Bruder, president of Linchpin Solutions LLC, consults for the Educational Information and Resource Center (EIRC) located at the South Jersey Tech Park at Rowan University, Mullica Hill. EIRC is a public agency specializing in education-related programs and services for teachers, parents, schools, communities, and non-profit organizations throughout New Jersey. Learn more about EIRC at or call 856-582-7000. Contact Patricia Bruder at