TED offers teachers a thrilling new way to use video


After more than a year of planning and dreaming, we’re finally launching our new TED-Ed website, whose goal is to offer teachers a thrilling new way to use video.
The site is in Beta. But we think there’s enough there to show why we’re so excited about this.  Because the goal is to allow any teacher to take a video of their choice (yes, any video on YouTube, not just ours) and make it the heart of a “lesson” that can easily be assigned in class or as homework, complete with context, follow-up questions and further resources.

This whole process is explained really well in a video the TED-Ed team just created.

So don’t think of this site yet as a fully-fledged content library — the  60 video lessons there currently are strong, but they’re just seeds to demonstrate potential. Instead, think of TED-Ed as a new open platform.
Let’s step back a minute.  In recent years at TED, we’ve become enamored of a strategy we call “radical openness”: Don’t try to do big things yourself. Instead empower others to do them with you.

This has served us well. Sharing TEDTalks free online has built a global community of idea seekers and spreaders.  Opening up our transcripts has allowed 7500 volunteers to translate the talks into 80+ languages.  And giving away the TEDx brand in the form of free licenses, has spawned more than 4000 TEDx events around the world.

So it’s natural that we would look to this approach as we embark on our education initiative.

TED-Ed uses the power of “open” in two major ways. First, many of you joined in our excitement as we launched our new TED-Ed YouTube channel last month and invited teachers and animators to collaborate in producing the raw video content. It’s thrilling that almost a thousand of each have already stepped forward, and the first fruits of those collaborations are already coming through and are highly promising. Check out this one for example.

But the second part, launching today, incorporates the talents of a much wider group of teachers… and also many people outside formal education. Because what we’ve created is a set of tools that allows you to take a video and turn it into a powerful lesson that can easily be customized, shared and the usage of it made visible to you.

I’s not just professional teachers who can make use of it. Here, for example, is a lesson I just created in 3 minutes on TED-Ed. It’s a customization of a brilliant animated TED-Ed video about atoms. I’ve added my own headline, intro, questions and follow-up links. If you go there and answer those questions (from a logged-in account) I’ll be able to track how you did!

And it’s not just TED-Ed videos that can be treated this way. You can do this with any video on YouTube that allows 3rd party embedding, i.e. almost all of them.  I’m a fan of a YouTube video that cleverly demonstrates pendulum waves. It took me just a few minutes to turn it into this lesson. (You can’t yet add multiple choice questions to YouTube videos, but that’s coming.)

It seems to us there are many possible uses of this functionality. Our longer term dream is that we will be able to aggregate the best lessons that teachers create and share them with a wider audience.

So we see this next phase as being one of listening, learning and watching what people actually do with the site. Apart from anything else it will help enhance the educational potential of the rest of the TED website. One of the repeated requests from teachers regarding TEDTalks has been the desire to present them with added materials that allow someone to dig deeper. The TED-Ed tools allow anyone to do just that. (And we ourselves will be working with many of our speakers to encourage them to create such lessons based on their talks.)

High on our developmental priority list is to enable translation of our TED-Ed talks via the large community of translators already supporting TED.  We also plan to make it possible for teachers and students to log-in using their Facebook accounts instead of having to set up a TED account.

But I would love you to give TED-Ed a try in its current form.  Specifically, I’d like you to make sure you try “flipping” a video to turn into a lesson that you can then publish, even if you just keep the link private.  So go to the site, find a lesson, say this one, and click “flip this lesson” at the bottom right of the video.

The term “flipping” is intended as a respectful nod to the exciting concept of “flip teaching” in which lessons are assigned on video as homework to allow kids to learn at their own pace, and to open up class time. The benefits of flip teaching are still formally unproven — it’s early days — but it holds great promise:

  • Stu dents using video outside class can learn at their own pace. Those who get stuck can replay and watch again.
  • By allowing the students to absorb the basics of a lesson before coming to class, time is opened up in class for inquiry, discussion, collaboration, critical thinking and personalized attention.
  • Essentially, flip teaching allows teachers to time-shift and to expand total learning time.

We hope our new site will make it easier for teachers to experiment with this concept.

This would be a good moment to acknowledge the amazing encouragement we’ve had. Our Braintrust includes Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, two of the pioneers of flip teaching, plus many at TED who’ve inspired us such as Sir Ken Robinson, Salman Khan, John Hunter, Melinda Gates and Jackie Bezos.  Also the spectacular work done by Seso in developing the site. And needless to say, I happen to think our fast-growing TED-Ed team, led by Logan Smalley, are miracle workers.
Do please share your feedback, either here in the comments or by emailing education@ted.com. We’re eager to know how you think TED-Ed might best be used, and how we might improve it.  If it works, it will be, as ever, through the power of all of us.