Just when you expected another prom puff piece, we turn on a dime and present a serious look at a force for good in our world: TED. No, it’s not another of my charming library crushes. It’s a nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging the widespread distribution of great ideas.
TED, short for Technology, Entertainment and Design, is owned by The Sapling Foundation, a nonprofit created in 1996 by Chris Anderson, media entrepreneur whose Future Publishing and Imagine Media publishes magazines and produces the popular games website, IGN.
TED has its origins in a conference organized by Richard Saul Wurman,
architect, graphic designer and coiner of the phrase “information architecture.” Held in 1984 in Monterey, California, the conference brought together such notable thinkers as Nicholas Negroponte (co-founder of the MIT Media Lab and of the One Laptop One Child foundation), mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot (of fractal fame) and Stewart Brand (writer and editor of the Whole Earth Catalog). It featured a demonstration of the new Sony Compact Disc and 3D graphics from Lucasfilm. And lots of heady discussions about big ideas.
Bono at TED conference
Over the years, the TED conferences have brought together scientists, musicians, public intellectuals, philosophers, philanthropists and religious leaders. The ranks of speakers include such diverse movers and shakers as Al Gore, Annie Lennox, Bono, Frank Gehry and Bill Gates. In 2001, The Sapling Foundation acquired the TED conference and in the past decade has expanded its reach considerably.
Robinson at TED
TED now sponsors a second conference, TEDGlobal, which is held in a different country every other year. It also awards the TED Prize, which grants its winners one wish to change the world, and it has curated a podcast series, TEDTalks, in which the best TED content is available free online. You can find speakers such as Ken Robinson expounding on how schools kill creativity, Sherry Turkle making a persuasive argument of how connected we are, and yet how alone, and Bobby McFerrin making his unique music.
TED has recently expanded its mission to “spread ideas” with the addition of TED-ed (“lessons worth sharing”), its new initiative which will serve as a clearinghouse of educational videos. Many of the current videos are collaborations between teachers and animators nominated through the TED-Ed platform. This platform also allows users to take any useful educational video, not just TED's, and create a customized lesson around the video, an important feature for use in a “flipped” classroom, in which students view video lessons outside of class and then spend their classroom time with the teacher on discussion, critical thinking opportunities and more personalized instruction.
These videos are organized by subject or series. And some of the series include such fascinating topics as “Inventions That Shape History,” “Math in Real Life” (for those students who always ask “when am I ever going to use this?”), “How Things Work,” “Awesome Nature,” “Playing with Language” (one of my favorites), and “Questions No One (Yet) Knows the Answer To.”
Check it out: TED
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