Learning with TED is 24/7
By mid-August, many children were already trading in their flip flops and lazy days of summer for backpacks and early wake up calls. What happened to the last hurrah on Labor Day weekend before going back to the classroom? As with most everything, school calendars are changing and teaching methods are too. Learning preferences are shifting for young and old alike creating possibilities for innovative ideas to emerge and prosper. One such concept is TED.com.
According to the company website, TED was born in 1984 out of Richard Saul Wurman’s observation of a powerful convergence among three fields: technology, entertainment and design. The first TED conference included a demo of the compact disc, the e-book and cutting-edge 3D graphics from Lucasfilm, while mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot demonstrated how to map coastlines using his developing theory of fractal geometry. The event lost money and it was six years before he and partner Harry Marks tried it again.
Fast forward to present day and Parade Magazine reports that Wurman, 80, describes TED as “Christmas morning for the mind.” The stats claim that that more than 2000 TED talks have been viewed 2.5 billion times on topics from bionic limbs to body language. What makes TED unique is how it provides a stage for relatively unknown people to present a talk (average length is 15-20 minutes) on a topic about which they are well qualified to present.
TED is an excellent resource to customize and continue one’s own educational pursuits with an online solution rather than attending classes in person. On the home page, there’s a link to the topics list with a plenty of offerings in many different categories. For example, the topic of creativity has a menu of 136 talks. Conceivably one could “attend” a short lecture on this subject once or twice a week and “take a class” for a year or two. Or how about studying global issues? Currently more than four hundred authorities from many disciplines have presented ideas and viewpoints on this topic.
The beauty of TED talks is how they are accessible any time of day or night from any digital device. Want to hear it again? No problem. The pause button makes it easy to stop and take notes for follow up to further expand knowledge and understanding. Research supports providing more self-guided learning opportunities for our youth so why not encourage it more for adults as well? Suppose that explains why I was compelled to write this September column in honor of back-to school even if I’m a month behind.