Using TED Conversations in the classroom

All semester, <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED Fellow <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Nina Tandon has been using <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations as part of her class in bioelectricity at Cooper Union. Yesterday in the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED offices, she hosted a Live <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED Conversation to answer questions about using  <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations in her class. Here are some highlights:

Sarah Meyer:  So your <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students asked questions of the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED community as they studied? Did any of their conversations get particularly good responses? Did you or your <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students learn anything from any of the comments?

Nina Tandon: We’ve been just blown away from the response — our TEDinClass <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations, for example, have been trending in the top five for 9 weeks straight, and each conversation is being viewed in up to 60 countries. And in total, the conversations are reaching about half a million Facebook users via shares. The <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students are also learning a ton content-wise through responding to comments. And then there’s the more-difficult-to-measure but equally important lessons in poise and maturity that comes from leading. It’s been amazing.

Emily McManus: What did you worry about most when starting this experiment, and how did you control for it?

Nina Tandon: When we first started, I was worried most about coming up with topics with the right balance between being general enough to relate to the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED community and yet specific enough to relate to class material. I decided to just be upfront about this with my <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students and to ask them each week to check in and let us know their thoughts. I’ve noticed that as weeks go by that the <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students are having more and more fun with coming up with these types of questions. One common way we traverse between the “super specific” and the “general” is via analogy. One student last week, for example, hosted a conversation loosely based on an analogy to muscle fibers. He’d noted that we have different types of muscle fibers with different “specialties”: fast twitch and slow twitch — so he drew an analogy to collaboration between specialists and asked: “Does society need more interdisciplinary work? Or more well-rounded individuals working together?” I could never have predicted conversations like this to come out of my class, but am so heartened to see it happen!

Melinda Dvisa: I’ve been using <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations as journal prompts in my class for the past year. My <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>students can use their journals to come up with topics for writing or as pre-writing. It’s proven effective. I’m now teaching developmental reading, and I often select <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations to feature authors. Again, this has proven popular.

Nina Tandon: Wow <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Melinda, these are all great ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

Join the latest conversation from <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Nina’s class: “How does virtuality translate into reality?“

Check out all the student-run <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Nina’s Class <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>Conversations:

If you have further questions, or are thinking about using TEDConversations in your <strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>classroom, please email us at and we’ll be happy to work with you!

<strong class='StrictlyAutoTagBold'>TED Blog

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