January/February 2018 – Vol. 31 No. 2

Technology for the Classroom: An Examination of TED-Ed

Posted: Monday, April 2nd, 2012

by Donna Ross

Technology has become a central component of the science classroom, but it can be overwhelming to consider the vast array of resources. During the next few months I will review a few of my favorite free or low-cost options for teachers. This month I am starting with TED-Ed. In case you haven’t used TED talks, I will start with a brief overview before exploring their new educational initiative.

TED is a nonprofit that began nearly 30 years ago as a conference. The underlying goal was that there are some ideas so important that they are worth sharing. People were invited to come and give a brief talk that would be shared with others. Since then, the conferences have continued, generally two per year with up to 100 presenters sharing talks that last from six to eighteen minutes. Eventually, the goal became even bigger. It seemed that if the ideas were worth sharing, they were worth sharing even more widely. For the past five years, many of the talks have been shared with the world on the TED website http://www.ted.com/talks.

The topics are wide-ranging. Certainly not all are appropriate for the classroom, but many are well-suited for teachers or classes. A teacher might show David Gallo’s talk about amazing sea creatures during a biology lesson on adaptations as an example or as a motivational hook for a marine science unit. In less than six minutes, the oceanographer is able to share his passion for the subject, highlight the wonders still to be discovered, and show incredible ways some marine animals protect and defend themselves.

Do you have students who are great thinkers but have been trained by school to consider science as a collection of dry facts?  If so, they probably have trouble imagining how science can still be creative or innovative.  Some of the longer TED talks might be too in-depth for the whole class, but they may be perfect for a few students who need inspiration for a particular project.  Mycologist Paul Stamets talks about the largest organism, a fungus in the Pacific Northwest, and describes his experiments showing how mycelium fungus can benefit our environment.  In fact, Stamets humbly calls his talk “Six Ways Mushrooms can Save the World.” He has done experiments on fungi that can break down neurotoxins, break down petroleum waste, and kill termites and carpenter ants.  Again, the passion for science comes through in the TED talk.

Another feature of TED is the “Best of the Web.” In this section, they have collected many excellent excerpts of talks and videos beyond those connected to TED talks. In essence, they have already done what many of us keep meaning to do. They have created a library of presentation clips by marvelous speakers and thinkers so we don’t have to search for them. Take a moment to think of a scientist who inspired you. There might be a clip about that person. For example, I have always been in awe of Richard Feynman, as much for his wonder about the world as for his amazing grasp of quantum mechanics. TED.com has Richard Feynman talking about the role of imagination in physics in their “Best of the Web” series. It wouldn’t be an effective choice for my whole classes at the high school, but it is a good choice with my pre-service teachers to show them why Feynman was such a popular figure. The Feynman clips might also help my pre-service students step back from the pressures of the teacher education program, with the obligatory focus on state mandates and assessments, to remember why we initially entered this field. The “Richard Feynman: Physics is fun to imagine” talk can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/richard_feynman.html.

Having contact with an active scientist can be motivating and inspirational. Some students are fortunate enough to know a scientist in their personal lives, but others do not. The TED talks can provide a type of virtual role models for our students. One of the TED initiatives is to select forty young professionals each year who have shown unusual potential in their fields. These TED Fellows have their expenses paid to attend the TED conference. Then they participate in a TED coaching program during the year and have an opportunity to give a talk at the following TED conference. If their talk is selected, it is posted on the TED website. Many of these TED Fellows are younger and of different ethnic backgrounds than the original TED conference participants. In addition, many of the newer talks are translated with subtitles in up to 40 different languages. I use some of these TED talks to help my students connect with the idea that everyone can be a scientist. I can have students watch the videos in small groups, so that students can use subtitles with their own home languages, including Vietnamese, Croatian, and Arabic. Although I do not teach astronomy, I recently used a clip of Lucianne Walkowicz’s talk about her work on NASA’s Kepler mission as part of a technology lesson. In approximately four minutes while Walkowicz talks about planetary systems, she manages also to remind students that physical sciences are fascinating disciplines for smart, articulate, passionate young women. For my urban students, this is an important lesson.

Another initiative of TED.com is TED TV and you may have seen some of the TED talks on your public broadcasting channel or on the Science Channel. The mission of TED is to spread good ideas. To that end, they use a creative commons license. All of the details are available on the website, but essentially it means that if you do not change, edit, alter, or use the talks for commercial gain, you may share the TED talks. Therefore, you may show them in your classes for free. You may post them on your class websites without breaking any laws as long as you follow the guidelines about not editing or removing the TED attributions.

And finally, to TED Ed, one of the most recent TED initiatives. The tag line for TED is “Ideas Worth Sharing.” For TED Ed it is “Lessons Worth Sharing”, this month’s Science Video of the Month.  With so many excellent teachers around the world, there are millions of wonderful lessons being taught every day that could be shared with other teachers. This site is designed to do networking for free. The site should be up and running later this month, although there is currently a prototype on youtube. TED Ed is seeking educators to submit lesson ideas. They are pairing educators with animators to design original lessons that will be shared on the new TED Ed site. You can nominate an educator to teach the lesson, an animator to do the animation for the lesson, or a specific lesson idea. To submit a suggestion, or to nominate yourself, go to http://education.ted.com. To learn more about the TED ED initiative, go to http://youtu.be/FfJ5XG5i2aw.

So, here is your opportunity to share your favorite lesson with other teachers across the world. The internet really can change the way we teach, if we take the opportunities it affords. But, we must continue to use our professional skills and judgment. Teachers are still needed to design effective learning environments. We need to select carefully to choose resources that meet the needs of our students. The internet can help us to differentiate and to communicate our ideas and lessons worth sharing. TED talks and TED Ed have to potential to support teachers in both of these endeavors.

Donna Ross is associate professor of science education at San Diego State University and is CSTA’s 4-year college director.

Written by Donna Ross

Donna Ross is Associate Professor of Science Education at San Diego State University.

One Response

  1. Thank you for making me aware of this website! It is absolutely incredible. I am a fifth grade teacher in the Los Angeles area. I am also the science lead teacher in my school and make presentations in science, history, and gifted education to my school staff and others on the local and district level. I will definitely use Ted.com in my classroom to inspire students into the science field (they have no clue how wide that is). I will also pass on to other educators Ted.com as a fascinating and useful resource. Thank you!

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Accelerating into NGSS – A Statewide Rollout Series Now Accepting Registrations

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

Are you feeling behind on the implementation of NGSS? Then Accelerating into NGSS – the Statewide Rollout event – is right for you!

If you have not experienced Phases 1-4 of the Statewide Rollout, or are feeling behind with the implementation of NGSS, the Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout will provide you with the greatest hits from Phases 1-4!

Accelerating Into NGSS Statewide Rollout is a two-day training geared toward grade K-12 academic coaches, administrators, curriculum leads, and teacher leaders. Check-in for the two-day rollout begins at 7:30 a.m., followed by a continental breakfast. Sessions run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on Day One and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Day Two.

Cost of training is $250 per attendee. Fee includes all materials, continental breakfast, and lunch on both days. It is recommended that districts send teams of four to six, which include at least one administrator. Payment can be made by check or credit card. If paying by check, registration is NOT complete until payment has been received. All payments must be received prior to the Rollout location date you are attending. Paying by credit card secures your seat at time of registration. No purchase orders accepted. No participant cancellation refunds.

For questions or more information, please contact Amy Kennedy at akennedy@sjcoe.net or (209) 468-9027.



MARCH 28-29, 2018
Host: San Mateo County Office of Education
Location: San Mateo County Office of Education, Redwood City

APRIL 10-11, 2018
Host: Orange County Office of Education
Location: Brandman University, Irvine

MAY 1-2, 2018
Host: Tulare County Office of Education
Location: Tulare County Office of Education, Visalia

MAY 3-4, 2018
Host: San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools
Location: West End Educational Service Center, Rancho Cucamonga

MAY 7-8, 2018
Host: Sacramento County Office of Education
Location: Sacramento County Office of Education Conference Center and David P. Meaney Education Center, Mather

JUNE 14-15, 2018
Host: Imperial County Office of Education
Location: Imperial Valley College, Imperial

Presented by the California Department of Education, California County Superintendents Educational Services Association/County Offices of Education, K-12 Alliance @WestEd, California Science Project, and the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

The Teaching and Learning Collaborative, Reflections from an Administrator

Posted: Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Kelly Patchen

My name is Mrs. Kelly Patchen, and I am proud to be an elementary assistant principal working in the Tracy Unified School District (TUSD) at Louis Bohn and McKinley Elementary Schools. Each of the schools I support are Title I K-5 schools with about 450 students, a diverse student population, a high percentage of English Language Learners, and students living in poverty. We’re also lucky to be part of the CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative with the K-12 Alliance. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

2018 CSTA Conference Call for Proposals

Posted: Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

CSTA is pleased to announce that we are now accepting proposals for 90-minute workshops and three- and six-hour short courses for the 2018 California Science Education Conference. Workshops and short courses make up the bulk of the content and professional learning opportunities available at the conference. In recognition of their contribution, members who present a workshop or short course receive 50% off of their registration fees. Click for more information regarding proposals, or submit one today by following the links below.

Short Course Proposal

Workshop Proposal Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

CSTA’s New Administrator Facebook Group Page

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Holly Steele

The California Science Teachers Association’s mission is to promote high-quality science education, and one of the best practice’s we use to fulfill that mission is through the use of our Facebook group pages. CSTA hosts several closed and moderated Facebook group pages for specific grade levels, (Elementary, Middle, and High School), pages for district coaches and science education faculty, and the official CSTA Facebook page. These pages serve as an online resource for teachers and coaches to exchange teaching methods, materials, staying update on science events in California and asking questions. CSTA is happy to announce the creation of a 6th group page called, California Administrators Supporting Science. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Find Your Reason to Engage

Posted: Monday, January 15th, 2018

by Jill Grace

I was recently reflecting on events in the news and remembered that several years ago, National Public Radio had a story about a man named Stéphane Hessel, a World War II French resistance fighter, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and contributor to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The story focused on a book he had published, Time for Outrage (2010).

In it, Hessel makes the argument that the worst attitude is indifference:

“Who is in charge; who are the decision makers? It’s not always easy to discern. We’re not dealing with a small elite anymore, whose actions we can clearly identify. We are dealing with a vast, interdependent world that is interconnected in unprecedented ways. But there are unbearable things all around us. You have to look for them; search carefully. Open your eyes and you will see. This is what I tell young people: If you spend a little time searching, you will find your reasons to engage. The worst attitude is indifference. ‘There’s nothing I can do; I get by’ – adopting this mindset will deprive you of one of the fundamental qualities of being human: outrage.  Our capacity for protest is indispensable, as is our freedom to engage.”

His words make me take pause when I think of the status of science in the United States. A general “mistrust” of science is increasingly pervasive, as outlined in a New Yorker article from the summer of 2016. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.