As a former teacher, I’ve been there. You want to inform and inspire. But what touches us doesn’t necessarily move our students.
TED Talks can be inspirational. Some argue that such videos are even a necessity for scholars in the digital age, making their work accessible. Imagine one of your own best and brightest someday onstage giving such a talk. What better way to prepare them than to show them how it’s done? The right TED Talk is not just a way to kill a Friday afternoon. It can jumpstart the imagination, dispel myths and give students insight into a field and the exciting aspects of it. Once they are motivated, you can step in and relate it to what you are doing. So which talks will impress your students? Go to the TED website and you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with the sheer volume of seemingly fitting videos. Who has time to go through them all? Not a busy teacher for one. Not to worry. We’ve got your back. Here are some TED talks you should show in your classroom.
Doing a lesson on cell structure? Science animator and illustrator David Bolinsky’s TED Talk will blow your class away. “The Inner Life of a Cell,” uses state-of-the-art animation to bring the subject, no pun intended, to life. Here’s one that fits both evolution and engineering. Biologist Robert Full shows the astounding abilities animals have developed in nature, and how engineers are incorporating these in robotics design. For computer science or math lessons Blaise Aguera y Arcas Photosynth will delight and amaze. Formerly of Microsoft, Aguera y Arcas is the co-creator of Photosynth, a new software program that can change a simple photo into a whole 3D environment. Doing a lesson on the brain? Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor has a heart wrenching story she tells in, “My Stroke of Insight” that is guaranteed to move the entire class and bring the subject home. A massive stroke took all of Taylor’s functions one at a time. Her motion, memory, speech and even her self-awareness were slowly erased. Your students will be struck by her moving story and how she was able to overcome such obstacles, using her own harrowing experience to fuel her work.
For the intersection of physics, engineering, art and design try sculptor Arthur Ganson’s talk “Moving Sculpture.” A one-time artist-in-residence at MIT, Ganson’s “gestural” sculptures borrow a lot from nature, but depart from it too in some intriguing ways. Anyone teaching physics or engineering has at least mentioned the CERN supercollider. Here Brian Cox with his rock star hairdo and likeable style brings his work at CERN to life. Do you have a lot of short attention spans in some of your classes? Game designer Will Wright’s “Spore, Birth of a Game” will have them riveted. This fast-paced talk from the creator of SimCity and The Sims is a great addition to any physics or computer science course. So there you have it. Sure, you could wipe out your TV viewing schedule and watch nothing but TED Talks from now until June. Though for many that sounds great, teachers are on the clock way more than they should be. Here, we have done the legwork for you.