Since it began posting videos six years ago of its now-famous talks, TED has established itself and its “ideas worth spreading” as a forum for cutting-edge thinking about everything under the sun. Pioneers in social networking, neurology, art—you name it, the pithiest speakers of our day find an audience at TED’s two annual conferences. But the real audience is online. TED’s most e-mailed talk so far featured educator Sir Ken Robinson, whose 2006 talk argued that schools kill creativity. The E in TED may not stand for education (it stands for entertainment) but the New York-based nonprofit is responding to interest in educational topics.
This month saw the launch of TED-Ed, a dynamic new YouTube channel that features the work of content experts and professional animators in five-minute videos. Each TED-Ed video comes with supplementary quizzes, questions, quizzes and activities ideal for home instruction. (Click on "Quick Quiz," "Think" or "Dig Deeper" here for examples.) In the spirit of “flip” teaching, a method that reverses homework and instruction time, videos on TED-Ed can be assigned for home review, freeing up classroom time for discussion, application and projects. In a flipped classroom, students would view a video about sex determination, for example, and hear educator Aaron Reedy explain how gender chromosomes vary from one species to another. The next day in class might feature a discussion about how global warming effects temperature-dependent sex determination. After watching How Folding Paper Can Get You to the Moon (above), which explores the principles revealed by folding one piece of paper, students and their teacher could discuss exponential growth patterns in microbiology and economics. All of the quizzes and resources are editable, so teachers can customize their lessons and create their own instructional archives using TED-Ed videos or any other YouTube video. All in all, a lot more fun than film strips. And, to be sure, we'll add TED Ed to our emerging collection of Free K-12 Resources.