TED Talks in the Classroom: Students Become the Teachers

Peaceful artWhy adults should play children’s gamesPositivity and perseverance can get you to your goalsBe yourself and follow your passionThe value of the Venus Fly TrapHow to solve the PyraminxLiving with epilepsy does not have to dampen dreams….
These are not articles by the latest education expert or motivational speaker, these are messages created and delivered by 4th graders via TED Talks through TED-Ed Club.  Another way to develop authentic learning opportunities that break outside of the four walls of a traditional classroom.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen a TED Talk or two. We frequently use them at opening day in-service for educators. If you haven’t checked out the Rita F. Pierson, “Every Kid Needs a Champion” TED Talk, check it out right after you finish reading this.  TED Talks provide a venue that empowers ordinary citizens to share their extraordinary perspectives, passions, and ideas with others via a visual forum.  There is no limit to the topic nor the style of presentation – the presenter is only limited by his imagination. School-aged children have no lack of imagination or viewpoints on the injustices of the world. TED Talks are a perfect way to channel that passion and enthusiasm. So, how does an educator make that accessible and manageable for elementary students?  
TED Talks are a perfect way to channel that passion and enthusiasm. Click To Tweet
The TED-Ed Club
Some classrooms may use a recorded TED Talk to open a discussion or provide a viewpoint on a topic but there’s so much more. This past year, my students and I endeavored to create our own TED talks. It doesn’t get more authentic than the potential of millions of people watching your final product in an effort to learn something new!  Through the TED-Ed Club initiative, my students (and I) went on a journey of self-discovery.  The culmination of which was a legitimate TED Talk for all to see. TED-Ed Club provided a template to follow, curriculum resources, even extension and enrichment ideas for further learning. The students began by reflecting on what they are passionate about then reviewed, refined, and revised their ideas over several months.  They examined angles of a topic, types of openings to hook an audience, weaving a message through the beginning, middle and end, developing a call to action for the viewer, bodily gestures to amplify a point,  as well as creating visual images to hone in on key ideas.  While it began as a passion project, it grew into so much more. The children discovered that they had to research certain elements of their idea or topic for which they then had to determine how best to research, what sources were most reliable, and how to cite those within an oral presentation.  Not to mention, the technical components of how to integrate the visuals into the oral presentation seamlessly, how to engage with a live audience, and speak slowly and articulately because unlike a written research paper, the audience has only one opportunity to hear your words.  
The Results
In the end, the children were proud of their work. It certainly wasn’t always unicorns and pixie dust.  My reluctant writers questioned why they needed more research, my introverts queried why they needed to present in front of an audience, my procrastinators didn’t have their slides ready until the last possible moment, and the perfectionists always wanted to change just one more thing.  Ultimately, the authentic learning that resulted was worth it all.
This project allowed me to collaborate with colleagues from outside of my usual circle, colleagues that I now can not wait to work with again because we brainstormed ways to improve as we worked through this year. The number of standards met by this project are too numerous to list but trust me when I say, we checked off quite a few.  But in the end, it’s more than checking off a box to say we’ve covered the standard. That could have been done with an ordinary research paper.  This journey was about facilitating a journey of value, power, and pride. Each child who stood up there and recorded a TED Talk; who was applauded and celebrated by his/her classmates; who tackled a tough personal topic to educate others; they all learned through guided discovery, what real education is… and I can’t wait to do it again.

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