Using student TED Talks to showcase learning

why digital composition mattersTED Talks are short, personal powerful storytelling. Now: how can students use this medium as motivation to learn, to explore their purpose, extend their perspectives and understandings, and develop strong storytelling and presentation skills?

Let’s find out.

What is a TED Talk?

A TED Talk is, by definition, one person’s short presentation of an idea worth spreading. It’s someone speaking a topic that they have personal experience with or authority one.

Such as Sir Ken Robinson on schools and creativity, or this one from Brene Brown about the Power of Vulnerability.

And we know students are authorities on topics that personally motivate them as well, giving rise to:

What makes TED Talks work?

Model student TED Talks

For students, there’s nothing that teaches like seeing peers engaged in the work and creating. Studying these examples can help students, especially those who have never experienced a TED Talk, build and understanding of what makes a compelling speech.

Students can watch these examples and create an anchor chart of shared characteristics that make these talks successful.

How can you help your students create effective TED Talks?

Sign up for Ted-Ed

The TED organization saw the obvious potential for using TEDtalks as an incredible teaching, learning, and creation tool. They launched TED-Ed to foster learning and created TED-Ed clubs, where students can learn about how to create powerful TED Talks with students and share them in meaningful community events. There are TED-Ed clubs across the globe.

And once you sign up, you receive an incredible teaching guide book full of lessons, links and resources for teaching this.

TED Talks in action

Burke’s Projects for Hope

using TED Talks with students
Students consulting with teachers at Burke Town School.

Morgan Moore, at Burke Town School, used the TED-Ed guide to help her 8th grade students create TED Talks to develop their pitch for a grant, centered around their Projects for Hope. The students are invested in a semester long project based learning experience to help improve their local community.

These TED Talks were an essential part of students developing an understanding of a local issue, and how they planned to help.

You’ll see, these aren’t expertly filmed videos, but the real proposals created by students at Burke about their project’s rationale and plans. So much of the learning in PBL is about the process of creation and reflection.

Integration with project-based learning

Most teachers think of TED Talks as a culminating event for students, and that is an awesome use.

At The Cabot School, in Cabot VT, students did exactly that. They planned an evening community event at which they stood up on stage and delivered summative TED Talks on global environmental issues.

But TED Talks can also be used like Burke did, to frame and summarize an issue and a plan within project-based learning.  A nice extension of this would be for these students to film these again, and demonstrate what they had learned throughout their process of working in the community on a local issue tied to the United Nation’s Global Goals. Hey, a Global Goals TED Talk summit sounds like a 2.0 idea for this project!

Students could also work on a TED Talk all semester, or for a project duration, getting feedback from experts in the field, public speakers, politicians, and then craft, edit and improve their speeches for a culminating event.

How might your students use TED Talks?


Katy Farber

Farber joined TIIE after 17 years as a classroom teacher in central Vermont. She is passionate about promoting student and teacher voice, engaging early adolescent students, sharing the power of service learning, and creating inclusive communities where joy, courageous conversations and kindness are the norm. She lives in central Vermont with her husband and two daughters and loves being outside with family and friends, listening to music, writing about the world, and jumping into Vermont ponds and lakes.

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