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What Is TED-Ed’s Role in Today’s Classroom?

Tech Disruptions
Screen shot of a TED-Ed video created by Aaron Reedy, science teacher in Chicago, which explains a lesson on gender determination.

TED-Ed, an online content library associated with TED conferences, went live in April with the goal of enhancing classroom lessons and inspiring lifelong learning. It is similar to Khan Academy, but the videos are made by teachers from around the world rather than just one expert. They have received much praise in their first few months.

“The beauty of TED-Ed and the Khan Academy is that they are online libraries available to anyone with an Internet connection anytime and anywhere,” says Logan Smalley, director of TED-Ed.

To ensure high-quality lessons, TED-Ed videos go through a monthlong process before they are added to the site. Educators around the world nominate outstanding teachers to create a captivating lesson for TED-Ed, an editorial board reviews the nominations, teachers work with TED-Ed to write a script and translate lessons into a video, and teachers collaborate with an animator to bring their lessons to life. Teachers also create supplementary materials, such as multiple-choice quizzes, open-answer questions and critical-thinking questions. Videos are tagged to traditional subjects to make them easy to search.  

Jon Bergmann, advisory board member for TED-Ed, is also one of the pioneers of the flipped class method, in which teachers assign short video lectures as homework and have students do assignments in class, with their teachers present to answer questions.

“TED-Ed is not just about the videos. The site provides a framework so teachers can flip a lesson if they choose, but flipping isn’t right for every scenario. Ultimately, teachers determine how they use the lessons in their classroom,” Bergmann says.

Aaron Reedy, science teacher at Kelly High School in the Chicago Public Schools, taught the same lesson on gender determination for seven years and reached about 1,000 students. After just four months on TED-Ed, he has reached more than 800,000 students.

“TED-Ed did a couple of things that make the videos a perfect fit for teachers. They are short to support smart use of video, and the supplementary materials that go along with the videos are customizable, which is great because one- size-fits-all resources are seldom ideal for classroom use,” says Reedy.  

Educators can flip any video on TED-Ed or YouTube to add supplementary materials and make it their own. To do this, click on the YouTube tab of the TED-Ed Web site and search for a video.

Courtney Williams is products editor.