Summer PD Part 1: TED Talks for Teachers

Written by Natalie Gilbert

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen (or at least heard of) Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED Talk, Do schools kill creativity? It has been viewed over 38 million times and an RSA animate was created to illustrate his message. Many other, albeit slightly less popular, talks have been created about education, such as using gaming to engage boys, how to make science fun or the child-driven education. However, there are many TED Talks that aren’t directly related to the classroom but can still be applied to education. Presentations about business, psychology, and leadership can be useful for teachers to learn new concepts that could help improve teaching or as sources of inspiration to share with students ahead of an upcoming unit or project.

We’ve dug into the TED archives and come up with some of our favorite. We invite you to enjoy these videos and reflect on how they can be applied to your teaching practices:

  1. The power of believing that you can improve

This TED Talk is a must-watch for all educators. Psychologist Carol Dweck has researched growth mindsets, which is the idea that your ability to learn and solve problems can be developed. This is juxtaposed against fixed mindsets, which is the idea that your brain’s capacity is limited. This research provides great insight into how to frame challenges for students, and how to better understand their reactions when faced with a tough problem.

  1. Grit: The power of passion and perseverance

Angela Duckworth left her consulting job to teach grade 7 math. This is where she learned that an IQ test alone doesn’t measure student intelligence and that there needs to be a better understanding of students and learning from a motivational and psychological perspective. She quit teaching, became a psychologist, and now studies how and why certain students are successful. This talk will teach you about the importance of grit in a student’s ability to learn. You can also read her book of the same name.

  1. The unexpected benefit of celebrating failure

Astro Teller is the head of X, the “moonshot factory” at Google. He shares examples of several projects that failed, and explains the value of making mistakes to inform better design. This talk embraces failure as a positive learning experience, and encourages the audience to shift their perspective when faced with failure. This talk would be great to show students before engaging in project-based learning, as it encourages the celebration, not shaming, of failed endeavors. It also touches on the importance of discovering mistakes, and how they can be used to alter the direction of the project’s path.

  1. How young Africans found a voice on Twitter

Twitter is constantly touted as essential for developing professional learning networks and communities for educators. But it can also be a powerful tool for young people to connect, especially on a global level and to give voice to people who aren’t usually heard. If you’re still skeptical of the benefits of Twitter or other social media channels, then this is an insightful talk to watch.

  1. Three rules to spark learning

Teacher Ramsey Musallam moves beyond educational jargon and looks at how to promote inquiry in the classroom. He emphasizes that student questioning is the most valuable tool that a teacher can have, and he explains how to encourage students to ask questions that promote learning.  

  1. Why good leaders make you feel safe

Simon Sinek is a leadership expert and the author of several informative reads, including Start with Why. In this talk, he speaks about leadership and the qualities of a great leader. While it is in a business context, there are many parallels  to the classroom. Just as a business manager has employees, teachers have students who need to be mentored and supported. Simon speaks about creating trust and safety in order to make employees feel secure, which is a principle that can be applied to the classroom and to your students.

  1. Tribal leadership

David Logan looks at the five stages of tribes that humans form, and how they influence our lives. This talk provides interesting research and ideas that could be translated into how you develop and promote healthy tribes and school culture within your classroom. David Logan has also written a book that expands on his research of tribes called Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.

  1. The surprising habits of original thinkers

This is an interesting talk to gain perspective on the different study and work habits of students. Adam Grant shares the ‘sweet spot’ of procrastination, and to a certain extent, how it can help to develop original thinking and creativity. If this is of interest to you, Adam Grant also wrote a book about the same topic, called Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Happy watching!

About the author

Natalie Gilbert

Natalie has spent the last five years working in both traditional and experiential education settings in Haiti, India, and South Korea. Her background is in journalism and education, and she is currently pursuing her M.A. in Educational Technology. She enjoys running, exploring new neighborhoods, and cooking.

Leave a Comment