Tag Archives: TED

If Something Bores You, Dig Deeper

I caught a bit of inspiration at the tail end of the following TEDEd video, “The Wacky History of Cell Theory.”

The video conclude with the following quote:

If something bores you, dig deeper. It’s probably got a really weird story behind it somewhere.

Of course, as professionals who have chosen to teach our favorite subject(s), little about these subjects bore us. However, that doesn’t often apply to our students. Many topics bore them. While the message in the video could apply to students taking some initiative to dig deeper for those “weird” stories behind “boring” content, the responsibility also lies with teachers to find and share these stories.

Storytelling is vastly overlooked in a standards-driven educational environment. However, just because standards and curriculum direct what we should teach it doesn’t mean that we can’t find new and interesting ways to deliver said content. Imagine how much more engaged students would be if there were stories like the one above for every content strand and state standard.

Maybe some of our work or even casual reading choices this summer could be re-purposed for digging up these stories. Let’s find ways to tell the stories behind the topics that bore our students most. Better yet, let’s have our students dig up these stories and tell each other.

The key is to remember that all the content we cover in school has an interesting story or collection of stories behind it. This is what connects this content to the real world. Knowing that an idea learned in school has a story involving real people with common obstacles makes that content even more authentic in its origins. Plus, a really engaging story can be something to which students can connect.

How have you used storytelling to further your students’ understanding of a topic? Which topics lend themselves best to storytelling? In what ways could you imagine storytelling helping your students understand various concepts?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

How to Use TED Ed

A very exciting development happened late last month when the popular conference series TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) entered the education arena with TED Ed. TED announced the establishment of the educational site featuring the best minds providing talks in lecture form while accompanied with engaging animation. Included with the lectures are quizzes and other teacher tools geared toward customization.

As pointed out at Teach Paperless, the site’s concept of a lesson is disappointingly narrow, even traditional. Blogger Shelly Blake-Plock suggests that learning happens when students do rather than just consume and that TED’s model is all about consuming their video content. He concludes, “If I took the name TED out of this scenario, I would suggest that many educators would say that this format is exactly the type of traditional assessment that project-based, inquiry-driven, personalized learning is at odds with.”

How should we use TED Ed in a progressive classroom?

One model is one that TED promotes. Like the Khan Academy, the flipped schooling method is gaining momentum. Basically, teachers provide these lectures and tutorials for students to digest on their own and complete assessments so that a more active and engaged kind of learning can happen in the classroom. Teachers can guide student learning in class while someone else (TED presenters and animators) dispense the knowledge outside the classroom, in-place of homework.

The only trouble with the flipped classroom is when we rely too heavily on the resources and assessments in evaluating student learning. The video lectures also take over and become the only measuring stick of learning as opposed to the growth and experimentation that happens in class.

Where I see TED Ed video lectures and their ilk supporting learning is as a resource. The difference between these lectures and more traditional resources is that someone has compartmentalized and presented the content in a way that is engaging to visual and auditory learners. It’s a new way to deliver information. It also doesn’t help that the videos are entertaining.

The assessment pieces accompanying TED Ed videos (as well as Khan Academy, MITx, etc.) also have a legitimate application when not teachers do not disproportionately depend upon them. As a formative assessment tool, these online quizzes allow for instant feedback to be given to students as well as providing a way for teachers to check in on student progress in order to know when best to intervene. Again, it’s a valuable tool that should be used appropriately and not consume instructional focus.

TED Ed should be seen as a supplemental resource to the many great things we do to promote learning and growth in our students. It should not replace inquiry, project-based learning, and other student-centered forms of instruction.

Another place these TED Ed videos can support learning is in an area all TED videos have thrived over the last several years: inspiration. Imagine showing a video of an engaging presenter clearly providing authentic uses for knowledge with animation that gives their words life. Why can’t students then create their own TED Ed videos to demonstrate their learning? Why can’t they teach each other using this method?

The key is not to depend on TED Ed to teach for you. The videos TED is releasing are beautiful, insightful, and inspiring. This is where their value lies and should be tapped for bringing so much life to otherwise boring and/or confounding content.

Other sites that function similarly to TED Ed and similar resources:

How have you used TED videos in your classroom? What are some of your favorite TED Ed videos? Have you submitted your own lesson for TED yet?

Zac Early is a blogger and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

The Power of Simple Ideas

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It is difficult to find ways to address higher level thinking while helping students understand difficult concepts. The complexity of some topics can be debilitating, so much so that teachers will cover them superficially or avoid these concepts altogether. However, this is not how our brightest minds see difficult content.

MythBusters‘ Adam Savage makes a living out of demystifying the great enigmas of our time. In the TED talk below, he attempts to demonstrate how we can understand complex scientific concepts by incorporating simplicity and a bit of creativity…

Consider how the inertia example might play out in class. Without even defining inertia, students could try to explain what they think happens to cause the ball react as it does. Can they recreate the same phenomena using different materials? This builds a basic foundation for later understanding a concept as complex as inertia. Then, one might introduce the terminology to match whatever definition the students discover. The simplification of such a scientific concept allows students to grasp it on their level.

Even by simplifying scientific knowledge, we don’t dumb it down. The three simplified and creative scientific discoveries Savage describes in his talk require some higher-order, abstract thinking. Simplifying science really just makes it more accessible for our students.

What scientific concepts have you been able to break down into their simplest forms in order to help students understand better? How can simplifying science not benefit student understanding? How can you use this TED talk to help your students better understand difficult scientific ideas?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Introducing TED-Ed: Lessons worth sharing

With the success of sites such as the Khan Academy and the plethora of university lectures available online, teachers and students are on the lookout for the best in classroom lessons accessible throughout the internet. Now, the leading online lecture series, TED, has created a YouTube channel of the best teachers giving the best lectures one will find anywhere. To amplify these lectures, TED is recruiting inventive animators to bring the talks to life.

Check out their promotional video. There are links at the end of the presentation to nominate an educator, suggest a lesson, or nominate an animator. Watch…

TED-Ed‘s description for the series:

TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos.

The collection is just starting to accumulate topics, but some impressive talks are already available. Categories currently available include Awesome Nature, How Things Work, Playing with Language, Questions No One (Yet) Knows the Answers To, and Inventions that Shaped History. The cross-curricular nature of the videos are a great starting point for any teacher looking to design an interdisciplinary unit.

Of course, one could always submit their own lecture for the series at TED-Ed’s website. TED sends a kit for recording your lesson. Animators then make the lesson come to life. The result, as one can see from the videos already available, are pretty engaging, even entertaining.

How do you see the TED-Ed video series fitting in with your teaching? Which topics would you like to see in the series? How are these videos more useful to teachers than the normal TED talk series?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: Understanding SOPA

Even XKCD got in on the act. - Click for source.

You may have heard the news or noticed that many of your favorite websites this week blacked out their content in protest of the legislation known as SOPA and PIPA. These laws seek to protect copyright holders by censoring sites that share their copyrighted media. There are varying opinions on the issue, but, for the most part, internet companies and their users are against these bills.

Columbia, Missouri native and social media expert Clay Shirky lays out the legislation and why it’s bad.

For further insight into SOPA and PIPA, follow the links below as well as the video we posted on PIPA a while back here.

While protecting copyrighted material from pirating is an important issue, we must consider how this legislation as well as the media industry’s inevitable next attempt at clamping down on media sharing will affect how we use the internet in schools. Consider all the sites that depend on user-generated content such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, and countless others. Then consider how we use these same sites in our schools. The value sites that enable sharing – copyrighted or otherwise – bring to the 21st century learner’s education is invaluable.

This isn’t really a political argument as most of the bills’ original backers are now backing out of their support. However, it is important for us to stay aware and be prepared for the next round of legislation proposing to do the same things SOPA and PIPA intended to accomplish.

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: How many lives can you live?

The following TED talk inspired this post. Watch the talk first…

How are we insuring that our students get opportunities to experience other lives and perspectives? How do we provide opportunities for our students to share their own experiences?

One purpose of education is to provide for our students opportunities to share in experiences outside of their own. Empathy and a greater understanding of context is developed through experiencing other’s lives, simulated or otherwise. Simulations and virtual field trips are one way to do this, but interaction with people across cultures and continents can do this as well. The trick is to find ways that we can take advantage of all the technology available to us in order to allow our students to experience others’ lives through authentic interaction.

Simulations, virtual field trips, video conferencing, social networking are just a few ways this can be done. How are you insuring that students experience as many “lives” as possible?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger for the eMINTS National Center.

Friday 4ALL: Looking Backward to Build the Future

One-room schoolhouse
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Besides my daily duties as an eMINTS Instructional Specialist (eIS), I have hobbies and interests outside education. It’s a rare day when one of these interests actually intersects my work. One such hobby that has crossed my work desk has to do with my interest in craft beer. Yes, that’s correct. I’m trying to make a connection with beer and education.

Before you skip this blog post, hear me out.

Below is a TED talk from craft brewer Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery. Caligione, besides founding one of the most inventive breweries in craft beer, is an accomplished writer and industry advocate. He’s a self-made success, something we all hope for our students. His talk focuses on the idea of looking backward to build the future. Watch the video (20 minutes) and scroll below to see how I’ll relate this to education.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that we can find many solutions to current issues in education by looking backward. As Caligione explains, he had to look back and then look back even further to find a model that spelled success for him and Dogfish Head. Consider the following ways we can look backward to build the future:

  • When classrooms were more teacher-centered, direct instruction was used with more frequency. Direct instruction is still an important approach when a specific process must be used to complete a task.
  • In the one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear, learning was a community effort. Older students helped younger students to the point that these students often grew into their own teaching positions. How can older or more capable students help those who struggle?
  • Many children would learn their trade working as an apprentice to a skilled craftsman. Are there ways we can creat apprenticeships for our students or find them mentors to help guide them in meeting their goals?
  • Since the beginning of time, people have learned by doing, experimenting. Finding a way to feed off this natural inclination we have to learn by doing could be the key to new understandings among our students.

All of the answers to our educational quandaries are not always found in new approaches. Sometimes, we have to look back to move forward. How have you looked to the past in order to build for the future with your students?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and is an avid craft beer enthusiast and home-brewer.

Thursday’s Tip: Avoiding Filter Bubbles

What’s a filter bubble? Watch the video below for some background…

As you can see from Eli Pariser’s talk, filter bubbles can really limit our exposure to different perspectives. While it would be nice if companies like Google, Facebook, etc. would eliminate such algorithms, that’s not going to happen any time soon. There are things teachers can do to combat the search bubbles their students and classes unwittingly create.

Creating a website or using a social bookmarking tool like Delicious can allow you to post links to resources that you would prefer your students to use. While this practice won’t inherently allow for a variety of perspectives to be represented, it does at least off the teacher control over the variety of resources used.

Building off of the social bookmarking idea, classes could share an account where they store all their resources. This way, students with different search results can enrich each other’s research. The same thing can also be accomplished if students have their own social bookmarking accounts and merely “friend” or follow each other. Social bookmarks can even be used as an RSS feed, sending new bookmarks to one’s RSS reader as they come.

So, there are workarounds for filter bubbles. It’s good to be aware that our preferences influence search results and that not everyone will find the same resources.

What are some ways you might overcome filter bubbles when your students conduct online research?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. A hat tip goes to Brooke Higgins for pointing out this video.