Sunday, 26 April 2009

Using TED in the classroom

The annual TED conference brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers to give short and concise talks about their work to their peers. It's an invitation only event, but luckily for us the best and most popular talks can be seen and downloaded (as audio or video files) for free.

The talks range in length from around 3 - 25mins and can be used in a number of ways in class.
One of my favourites, as it's short but also very interesting and relevant is this one by Richard St. John. In 3mins he gives us the 'Secrets of success in 8 words'.

Here's how I have used this in my lessons > level B1+:

1. Get your students to brainstorm what they think leads to success. This could be done as a pair activity with reporting to the whole class or as a whole class brainstorming activity.
2. Depending on the technology available to you, play the presentation in audio format only for students to listen for the key words. Play it 2 or 3 times if necessary. At this stage though, tell them to listen only for the key words. He speaks quite fast. This talk can be downloaded in MP3 format to you computer. From there you can either play it directly from a laptop, from an MP3 player, or burn it from your pc to a cd and play it on a cd player.
3. Compare St. John's tips with those the students brainstormed and discuss. You could also have a few comprehension or questions based on his content.
4. Show your students the video. This can be downloaded separately and shown on a laptop or using a projector, or viewed directly on the website, depending on which technology you have available in the classroom. If none of the above options are available you can get students to watch the video at home before the next lesson.
5. Conclude by discussing the power of presentation visuals, body language, and being able to see the person you're listening to. Your students will understand more from the video than from the audio version of the talk. In this sense you could change the topic and lead into the topic of presentations with your students, if they're Business English students, for example. If not, I still think this video/presentation is relevant for all students as success is not merely confined to business.

If you try this with your group(s), please post a comment and let me know how it goes or if you can recommend any variations to the suggested lesson plan.


Anne Hodgson said...

Dear Mike,
I like the way you prepare your students for this video, which makes it more accessible to lower level learners.

This is an unusual talk in the TED series, as it is shorter than the standard 18 minutes and many of the talks are more scientific in nature. I use them all the time, especially with my biotech students, and these the questions we ask for each presentation:

1. How does the presenter bridge the gap between his/her own scientific community and the community at large?
2. What is the take-home message?
3. Reconstruct the logical structure of the talk (that creates the scaffold to work on general presentation language.

Often enough, watching these intellectually stimulating talks touches off valuable conversations, as it did in my class yesterday (

Have a good day!

Mike Hogan said...

Thanks Anne,

That looks like a nice way to use the longer talks on TED. I'll have to give it a go.

All the best,