35 TED-Ed Lessons for Teachers and Students

June 2nd, 2016 No Comments Features


Within TED-Ed’s growing library of lessons, you will find carefully curated educational videos, many of which represent collaborations between talented educators and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform. This platform also allows users to take any useful educational video, not just TED’s, and easily create a customised lesson around the video. Users can then distribute TED-Ed lessons, publicly or privately, and track their impact on the world, a course, or an individual student.

Below are 35 of our favourites. Feel free to discuss and share your own in the comments section.

1. Which Came First: The Chicken or the Egg?

It’s a question that has perplexed everyone from the ancient Greeks to modern scholars. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Take a crack at this curious conundrum.

2. Some Study That I Used to Know: What do you remember from high school?

How much do you remember from your time in high school? The video in this lesson (a parody of Goyte’s very popular music video) does a good job of articulating some of the biggest frustrations students and educators. This lesson encourages users to reflect on what they got from their time in high school, and to consider how to get more from future school experiences.

3. Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

We all want to come up with the next great idea. Whether you are an artist trying to craft a beautiful painting or a business person trying to come up with the next great company, we all chase great ideas. Steven Johnson explores the question, “Where do good ideas come from?”

4. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

This lesson illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace. You’ll be surprised, no doubt — but watch out! You might find that your motivations are misplaced.

5. To This Day Project: Lessons about bullying

Have you ever been bullied? Do you know someone who has been bullied? Are you a bully? Find out how bullying touches us all and get involved so that you can help stop bullying in your community and around the world.

6. How Art Can Help You Analyse

Can art save lives? Not exactly, but our most prized professionals (doctors, nurses, police officers) can learn real world skills through art analysis. Studying art like René Magritte’s Time Transfixed can enhance communication and analytical skills, with an emphasis on both the seen and unseen. Amy E. Herman explains why art historical training can prepare you for real world investigation.

7. Not All Scientific Studies Are Created Equal

Every day, we are bombarded by attention grabbing headlines that promise miracle cures to all of our ailments — often backed up by a “scientific study.” But what are these studies, and how do we know if they are reliable? David H. Schwartz dissects two types of studies that scientists use, illuminating why you should always approach the claims with a critical eye.

8. Working Backward to Solve Problems

Imagine where you want to be someday. Now, how did you get there? Retrograde analysis is a style of problem solving where you work backwards from the endgame you want. It can help you win at chess — or solve a problem in real life. At TEDYouth 2012, chess grandmaster Maurice Ashley delves into his favorite strategy.

9. How to Use a Semicolon

It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity crisis. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that’s why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti; we’re confused about how to use them properly. Emma Bryce clarifies best practices for the semi-confusing semicolon.

10. How Spontaneous Brain Activity Keeps You Alive

The wheels in your brain are constantly turning, even when you’re asleep or not paying attention. In fact, most of your brain’s activities are ones you’d never be aware of…unless they suddenly stopped. Nathan S. Jacobs takes us inside the always active, surprisingly spontaneous brain.

11. How Misused Modifiers Can Hurt Your Writing

Modifiers are words, phrases, and clauses that add information about other parts of a sentence—which is usually helpful. But when modifiers aren’t linked clearly enough to the words they’re actually referring to, they can create unintentional ambiguity. Emma Bryce navigates the sticky world of misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers.

12. Open Letter to the President: Physics Education

American high school Physics courses typically fail to address any modern topics in Physics–intriguing topics, like black holes and antimatter, and applications that play a huge role in our everyday lives, like GPS systems and lasers. Why don’t these topics get covered in high school courses?

13. Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety — especially in an uneven economy — means taking on big responsibility.

14. The Benefits of a Bilingual Brain

It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like traveling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.

15. The Sweaty Teacher’s Lament

Justin Lamb would love to be the compassionate teacher. Or the tough but fair teacher. He’d even settle for the wacky teacher, if it meant he could shake his current, less flattering alias: the sweaty teacher. In “Sweaty Teacher,” a lively spoken word performance, Lamb defends the “geysers he calls armpits,” reminding us that sweat isn’t just a product of humidity — but of hard work, too.

16. How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries

Adam Savage walks through two spectacular examples of profound scientific discoveries that came from simple, creative methods anyone could have followed — Eratosthenes’ calculation of the Earth’s circumference around 200 BC and Hippolyte Fizeau’s measurement of the speed of light in 1849.

17. Just How Small Is an Atom?

Just how small are atoms? And what’s inside them? The answers turn out to be astounding, even for those who think they know. This fast-paced animation uses spectacular metaphors (imagine a blueberry the size of a football stadium!) to give a visceral sense of the building blocks that make our world.

18. What Percentage of Your Brain Do You Use?

Two thirds of the population believes a myth that has been propagated for over a century: that we use only 10% of our brains. Hardly! Our neuron-dense brains have evolved to use the least amount of energy while carrying the most information possible — a feat that requires the entire brain. Richard E. Cytowic debunks this neurological myth (and explains why we aren’t so good at multitasking).

19. The Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s 4am, and the big test is in 8 hours. You’ve been studying for days, but you still don’t feel ready. Should you drink another cup of coffee and spend the next few hours cramming? Or should you go to sleep? Shai Marcu defends the latter option, showing how sleep restructures your brain in a way that’s crucial for how our memory works.

20. Why Are Some People Left-Handed?

Today, about one-tenth of the world’s population are southpaws. Why are such a small proportion of people left-handed — and why does the trait exist in the first place? Daniel M. Abrams investigates how the uneven ratio of lefties and righties gives insight into a balance between competitive and cooperative pressures on human evolution.

21. The Beginning of the Universe, For Beginners

How did the universe begin — and how is it expanding? CERN physicist Tom Whyntie shows how cosmologists and particle physicists explore these questions by replicating the heat, energy, and activity of the first few seconds of our universe, from right after the Big Bang.

22. Questions No One Knows the Answers To

In the first of a new TED-Ed series designed to catalyze curiosity, TED Curator Chris Anderson shares his boyhood obsession with quirky questions that seem to have no answers.

23. The Benefits of Good Posture

Has anyone ever told you, “Stand up straight!” or scolded you for slouching at a family dinner? Comments like that might be annoying—but they’re not wrong. Your posture is the foundation for every movement your body makes and can determine how well your body adapts to the stresses on it. Murat Dalkilinç gives the pros of good posture.

24. The Science of Symmetry

When you hear the word symmetry, you might think generally of triangles, butterflies, or even ballerinas. But defined scientifically, symmetry is “a transformation that leaves an object unchanged.” Huh? Colm Kelleher unpacks this abstract term and explains how animals’ distinct symmetries can tell us more about them — and ourselves.

25. What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia affects up to 1 in 5 people, but the experience of dyslexia isn’t always the same. This difficulty in processing language exists along a spectrum — one that doesn’t necessarily fit with labels like “normal” and “defective.” Kelli Sandman-Hurley urges us to think again about dyslexic brain function and to celebrate the neurodiversity of the human brain.

26. Rethinking Thinking

Every day, we meet people and process our interactions–making inferences and developing beliefs about the world around us. In this lesson, Trevor Maber introduces us to the idea of a ‘ladder of inference’ and a process for rethinking the way we interact.

27. How to Build a Fictional World

Why is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy so compelling? How about The Matrix or Harry Potter? What makes these disparate worlds come alive are clear, consistent rules for how people, societies — and even the laws of physics — function in these fictional universes. Author Kate Messner offers a few tricks for you, too, to create a world worth exploring in your own words.

28. How Languages Evolve

Over the course of human history, thousands of languages have developed from what was once a much smaller number. How did we end up with so many? And how do we keep track of them all? Alex Gendler explains how linguists group languages into language families, demonstrating how these linguistic trees give us crucial insights into the past.

29. Three Anti-Social Skills to Improve Your Writing

You need social skills to have a conversation in real life — but they’re quite different from the skills you need to write good dialogue. Educator Nadia Kalman suggests a few “anti-social skills,” like eavesdropping and muttering to yourself, that can help you write an effective dialogue for your next story.

30. Grammar’s Great Divide: The Oxford Comma

If you read “Bob, a DJ and a clown” on a guest list, are three people coming to the party, or only one? That depends on whether you’re for or against the Oxford comma — perhaps the most hotly contested punctuation mark of all time. When do we use one? Can it really be optional, or is there a universal rule? TED-Ed explores both sides of this comma conundrum.

31. The Power of Simple Words

Long, fancy words designed to show off your intelligence and vocabulary are all very well, but they aren’t always the best words. In this short, playful video Terin Izil explains why simple, punchy language is often the clearest way to convey a message.

32. The Art of the Metaphor

How do metaphors help us better understand the world? And, what makes a good metaphor? Explore these questions with writers like Langston Hughes and Carl Sandburg, who have mastered the art of bringing a scene or emotion to life.

33. Beware of Nominalisations (AKA Zombie Nouns)

Few mistakes sour good writing like nominalisations, or, as Helen Sword likes to call them, zombie nouns. Zombie nouns transform simple and straightforward prose into verbose and often confusing writing. Keep your nouns away from elongating nominalisations!

34. How Did English Evolve?

When we talk about ‘English’, we often think of it as a single language. But what do the dialects spoken in dozens of countries around the world have in common with each other, or with the writings of Chaucer? Claire Bowern traces the language from the present day back to its ancient roots, showing how English has evolved through generations of speakers.

35. The Case Against “Good” and “Bad”

Don’t take the easy route! Instead, use this little trick to improve your writing — let go of the words “good” and “bad,” and push yourself to illustrate, elucidate and illuminate your world with language.


Saga Briggs is Managing Editor of InformED. You can follow her on Google+ or @sagamilena

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