TED talks are changing the future of online education


Ask any student who has spent a lot of time in online learning during the pandemic about their experience and you’ll almost certainly hear groans. The limitations of Zoom classrooms have led to a general decline in student engagement, a decrease school success and the deterioration of mental health among students. Fortunately for educators and students, the 2021-22 academic year has seen most students return to in-person learning. Now that virtual learning may not be needed for the foreseeable future, many have closed the book on online education as a failed add-on needed to accommodate extremely unusual circumstances. This unpopular form of education, however, is only a small part of what online learning can be, and there is one facet of virtual education that does not deserve to be swept away by the tide of scorn. .

YouTube is home to a wide variety of channels and personalities that produce educational content for free. Many people such as author John Green and multifaceted educator Michael Stevens have spent years creating abbreviated educational marks on the website. World-class universities have also made certain course materials available on YouTube, such as MIT and its “OpenCourseWareseries. Individuals and institutions have done their fair share in the noble goal of educating the masses online, but one entity has gone beyond teaching and completely transformed the way people view learning by The TED Talks organization has hosted some of the most transformative intellectual colloquia in recent history. in a channel With over 21 million subscribers, TED Talks, as one-on-one talks are commonly known, have captivated online audiences with their incredible ability to feature speakers who have compelling stories that offer insight into the diverse facets of human condition.

TED is the brainchild of 20th century architect Richard Wurman, who wanted to explore the interdisciplinary nature of technological and ideological innovation. After struggling to find an audience in the 1980s, the forum found its footing over the next decade as it established itself as a renowned marketplace for ideas. The brand name is an acronym for technology, entertainment and design, although the scope of content covered by the TED Talk library is much broader than these three areas. The talks, which are typically between 10 and 15 minutes long, give professionals from a wide variety of fields the opportunity to speak about life lessons or transformative discoveries that their unique experiences and circumstances have revealed.

TED Talks aren’t tough moral lessons; they teach through storytelling and the incredible power of empathy. One of the most striking examples of this unique approach to learning comes from the lecture delivered by Daryl Davis, an African-American R&B pianist. In 1983, Davis had a strange entanglement with Roger Kelly, the Ku Klux Klan’s imperial magician. In an effort to understand how an individual can devote their entire existence to bigotry and hatred, Davis met Kelly despite the threat to his safety and spoke with him about Klan ideology. A naturally strained but friendly friendship blossomed from the unlikely encounter, with Davis eventually being invited to Klan events and meeting and befriending several other members. He was able to enter these spaces and converse with Klan members not because he agreed with their dehumanizing beliefs, but because of mutual curiosity between the parties about how the other saw the world. The bridge built between Davis and Kelly came from a willingness to hear each other’s life stories and consider what had led the other to their position.

The story is remarkable for the degree of tolerance it shows from a hate-based institution, but Davis is quick to point out that his story shouldn’t be appreciated for its novelty alone. The pianist offers a simple yet powerful summary of the underlying dynamics of his relationship near the end of his talk, saying, “Ignorance breeds fear; we fear those things that we do not understand. If we do not control this fear, this fear in turn will breed hatred. The discussion is not a complete success, as the Klan and its members have not been reformed in the decades following Davis’ interactions with the imperial wizard. Nor does it suggest that such change is easy, simply that bigotry can be challenged with meaningful discourse that highlights the common humanity among people. Davis’ talk is also a metacommentary on the entire TED format, a talk that challenges audiences to reconsider their preconceptions through the presentation of other people’s stories.

TED talks are a testament to the versatility of storytelling as a medium, because no two talks are the same. One of the most infamous TED talks was delivered by Kyle MacDonald, which details an incredible saga in which he embarked on a behavioral economics experiment by trading a red paperclip for a series of increasingly valuable items, resulting in a home in Saskatchewan, Canada. His extended saga took him across the Americas as he encountered eccentric individuals and made bizarre trades for such items as a pickup truck, a Kiss-themed snow globe, and a Budweiser sign. The incredible story is made all the more spectacular by the way MacDonald tells it. Dressed in a generic button down and slightly baggy pants, MacDonald comes across as the archetypal average Joe. He does not claim to be a legitimate social scientist, nor does he speak with an academic vocabulary; on the contrary, he constantly cracks jokes and endears himself to audiences with a generous dose of dry humor. MacDonald speaks with a simple sincerity and the eagerness of someone who wants his experiences to inspire others to pursue their passions, however pedantic or ambitious. The somewhat humorous speech demonstrates the power of visual presentation and attitude in storytelling, as well as the essential nature of curiosity in a learning space.

Many TED talks deal with relatively simple stories and ideas, but one of the great benefits of the talk format is its ability to delve into complex topics that don’t lend themselves to a clear moral or lesson. Brené Brown’s speech on uncertainty is an excellent example of this force. A social scientist at the University of Houston, Brown talks about his academic journey and his clinical approach to understanding human psychology. In an intellectual quest to understand the underlying characteristics of emotional vulnerability, she spent years examining interviews and writings of study participants who expressed feelings of vulnerability in their current circumstances. Looking for commonalities in the language used by these excerpts, Brown found that most individuals displayed emotions such as compassion and courage, feelings not typically associated with vulnerability. Brown’s data led to a conclusion the study was not designed to produce, but this disjunction ultimately informed a conclusion more meaningful than the specific ramifications of a singular emotional state.

The rigidity of Brown’s approach to studying emotions initially blinded her to crucial achievement that a scientific approach, which seeks to minimize all the uncertainties of a study, is inadequate. In his speech, Brown states, “My mission to control and predict revealed the answer that the way to live is with vulnerability, and to stop controlling and predicting.” Instead of perceiving vulnerability as an inherently negative state of being, Brown’s discovery of the positive feelings embedded in vulnerability suggested that it may be a state of mind that is adopted into everyday life. Willingness to be vulnerable requires personal strength and a high degree of self-awareness, positive attributes that can be achieved by leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability. Brown’s speech is not only relevant to his fellow social scientists, as his message is ultimately about deconstructing the instinct to code emotions, people, and ideas as entirely positive or negative. His wisdom can be adapted to the conditions of each person in the audience, and his speech demonstrates a level of intellectual versatility that is rare in most classroom environments.

The wealth of knowledge held in the TED Talks library is incredibly extensive, but overall it is an untapped well for many young students. The sad reality of American high school and college classrooms is that they focus on teach the test. A student could watch the entire TED Talks catalog on YouTube and still be ill-prepared to take the SAT because traditional academic exams prioritize memorization and logical reasoning over attaining wisdom. The narrow educational landscape does not devalue the intellectually rich nature of lectures as tools for teaching people about the forces that shape everyday life. TED Talks embrace radical empathy as an unprecedented strategy to compel a viewer to consider values ​​or ideas beyond the confines of their own lived experiences, and there is no textbook that can replicate that.


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