Students Share Their Big Ideas in TED-Ed Clubs

By Liana Loewus — January 23, 2014 1 min read
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The nonprofit TED (technology, engineering, design) recently launched an effort to get students presenting their own short, expert lectures.

The group, known for TED Talks and its tagline “ideas worth spreading,” began piloting TED-Ed Clubs in 100 schools across 20 countries last fall, and is now opening up the program to all students. As the promo video for TED-Ed Clubs explains, a facilitator—usually a teacher—applies to receive free instructional materials, including lesson plans for 13 suggested club meetings. The student attendees, 8 to 18 years old, prepare their own TED-like talks to present at the end of the program. The club members nominate the best presentation to be featured on the website, or to even be performed at a TEDYouth conference.

And that’s far from the only way TED is making its way into classrooms, according to education writer Alexander Russo. In the Harvard Education Letter, he describes a middle school where a teacher began broadcasting TED Talks during lunch once a week. The videos were such a hit the school started organizing its own yearly TED event with students and outside-expert speakers, the first of which had an audience of less than 100. This year 1,000 are expected to attend. A growing number of schools are hosting these types of satellite events, known as TEDx, Russo writes.

Some teachers are also using TED videos to flip their classrooms. TED-Ed, the group’s education arm, has library of videos—both TED Talks and otherwise—teachers can build lessons around.

It’s worth noting that not everyone is in favor of TED Talks—or at least one guy isn’t. At a recent TEDx Talk, visual arts professor Benjamin Bratton made a case for why TED Talks are a waste of time, comparing them to “informercials” and arguing that no one is solving any problems by oversimplifying complex material. He does so less than eloquently—but perhaps that’s part of his point (substance over style). And maybe his point is less relevant with students, who are likely honing their presentation skills above all else.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.