Project Based Learning: Projects With TED

Teaching TED Talks with Technology

By Dr. Jennifer Pieratt

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TED Talks have now become a staple resource for progressive educators. TED’s “ideas worth spreading” can empower and inspire students, especially when combined with project based learning projects and the use of technology. Keep in mind that integrating tech in education has been shown to improve students’ knowledge retention, encourage both autonomous and collaborative learning, and teach students useful life skills. In fact, a particularly important 21st century skill is investigating and presenting complex issues to others– something TED specializes in. This guide shares five advanced tips demonstrating how to implement project based learning projects with TED.

Five Advanced Tips for Integrating PBL + Tech with TED

  • Define excellence

Define excellence in your classroom by modeling excellence, and start by showing three-four models of powerful TED Talks to the class. Students can take notes with Padlet and review each talk’s main points using blog features. Encourage students to analyze the videos by asking one fundamental question: “What makes for an effective TED talk?” As they go through this process, you can help them structure their learning by teaching core thinking routines, which are particularly useful for project based learning projects. Then, chart student responses and narrow them down to a short list of traits of excellence. 

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  • Host a “writer’s workshop”

By hosting a writer’s workshop, you can talk to students about the three core elements of a TED talk– structure, brevity, and purpose. Have students write a draft for their talk on Google Docs, where they can collaborate and give each other feedback. Use a project based learning project rubric to evaluate their work, focusing on specifics aspects of written communication. In keeping your comments in mind, students can then review and improve their potential script.

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  • Empower every voice

Revisit the class chart on TED traits of excellence and your project based learning project rubric. Empower every voice by asking students to create a personal checklist of things they should pay attention to, following those group guidelines. You can introduce your class to Flipgrid, which allows students to create and share short videos. This way, students can practice their TED talk and listen to their recordings later on to reflect on the things they could improve in their oral communication. Once that’s done, they can adapt their personal checklist accordingly. 

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  • Focus on what you see

Have students rediscover the exemplar TED talks, this time focusing on the visuals speakers used. Interesting findings can be added to the class chart. Building upon this, explain the purpose of a storyboard to your class. Each student can then create their own, interconnecting their chosen visuals with key points of their script. Introduce students to Unsplash, a reservoir of freely usable images, and Canva, a design and editing tool. Remember that using technology effectively is often what makes project based learning projects better. Once you’ve given them feedback on their storyboard, your class can start creating presentation slideshows on Google Slides.

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  • Make peer feedback matter

Consider using Peardeck to further engage students as they give each other feedback that matters. You can demonstrate how Peardeck works by using this project based learning project tool with students to evaluate a sample TED talk. Later on, you can put together small groups of students and ask them to share feedback on each other’s TED talks. By the time the bell rings, students should have used the peer feedback they received to set three personal goals to improve their TED talk.

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Other tips to scaffold student learning

The slogan “ideas worth spreading” immediately calls to mind innovation, power, and sharing – because that is exactly what TED Conferences LLC intended it to do. When developing your project based learning project with TED talks, remember that you are not alone. Groups like TED are experts in their field and offer free resources to help teachers out, like a TED Talk on the “secret of great talks”. You can also take a look at these interesting apps, or make some time to read the Talk Like TED book. If TED talks have just become your favourite project based learning project, make sure you partner up with a local TED event or host your own. With the right resources, integrating PBL with TED can be easy, effective, and above all, engaging for your students. 

If you’re looking to update your PBL Curriculum, you can Click here to download this lesson plan.——>  TED Talks

You can also check out more creative PBL Project Ideas.