I’m kind of beaming with pride as a write this post. Part of it is definitely that end-of-the-year reminiscing – it’s been a pretty awesome year in my classroom. The AP Calculus Exam happened and I lost all of my seniors (they finish 3 weeks before the rest), and I thought it would be difficult to get my students psyched for some final “project”. We’ve been pushing hard all year and I know they’re ready for summer break.
So I decided to do a series of “mini-projects”, which really just involved playing with ideas! With the stress of the AP Exam out of the way , I wanted to finally have a chance to talk and bounce ideas around, informally. Since the launch of the TED-Ed, I’ve been dying to hear what my students thought about the site. But to begin, I asked my students for help. I told them that I wanted to watch a video and let the conversation flow from there. So one of my students suggested we watch “Imagining the Tenth Dimension“. We watched it, we paused it, we replayed… And then I followed up with Brian Greene’s TED Talk on String Theory. I was worried that it would be a bit over their head and they might lose interest. Well, 8 minutes and 35 seconds into the talk, class ended. I turned the video off and the look on my students faces was awesome! They were totally into it and actually upset that class was over! Next day, they walk into class and the 1st thing 2 of them said was: “we were at 8 minutes and 35 seconds”. How awesome is that?!? (I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating.. I’m a lucky teacher!) So we watch the end of the video, we had time to discuss — ahhh, it was SO MUCH FUN! Amazing how insightful they are.
I figured the next day would be the perfect opportunity to introduce them to TED-Ed. I gave my students the entire period to just play around on the site. Overall, their reaction was positive, but they thought many of the animated videos weren’t challenging enough for them and were too simplistic. My students are all very familiar with TED Talks and I think they were expecting to be similarly inspired, which they didn’t feel. But that’s really to be expected — the animated TED-Ed videos are created to reach the majority of high school students. And as more are published, a larger audience will be reached. My students found the website very easy to navigate and were impressed by the design when we talked about it. When they got to actually doing the “lesson part”, they were quite engaged – especially in the “think” section. Students thought the animation was incredibly cool! One of them said that they’d really like to see a TED-Ed video explaining the animation process, which I thought was a great idea!
An important thing that my students told me was that they were concerned that not enough teachers would know about the TED-Ed site. Though they really enjoyed playing with it during class time, they admitted that they probably wouldn’t play with it much at home on their own. They thought it would be a great enhancement to a lesson if their teachers knew about it. So spreading the word about TED-Ed is crucial!
Next we were ready for students to flip their own lessons… To get them started, I decided to watch 60 second adventures in thought together as a class. It was about a 50-50 split between “wow, cool” and “woah, confused” reactions.
From here I stayed silent. I told them to reflect on the past couple days and to use the TED-Ed site to flip a video of their choosing. (I showed them how TED-Ed gives you the ability to take any video from youtube and “flip it”.) I told them it could be one of the videos we had watched together or something else that they found. And here are some examples of their work:
- Alexander The Great And The Situation … The Great? Crash Course World History
- (yes, we’re talking about The Situation from Jersey Shore)
- Student’s lesson description: “This video analyzes what makes a person “great”. We learn from this video that greatness, among other factors, is largely based upon admiration. In this lesson, we will question what makes one “admire” another, and how people have achieved greatness throughout time.”
- “Achilles And The Tortoise – 60-Second Adventures In Thought”
- “Imagining The Tenth Dimension – Rob Bryanton”
- Student’s lesson description: “Using examples and stacking dimensions on top of each other, physicist Rob Braynton imagines what the 10 dimensions of super-string theory are and how humans can picture them in scale.”
- “The Grandfather Paradox – 60-Second Adventures In Thought“
I think the videos speak for themselves. By having students come up with the questions, not only are they sparking some fantastic conversation starters, but they’re also forced to think in a different way. In assessing our students, we are constantly asking them questions to gain a sense of their understanding. This activity, however, allowed me to gauge their comprehension in a unique way — and allowed me to see how they were thinking in the process. The other thing I realized was that I was so happy that this wasn’t just a multiple choice type thing. The “think” and “dig deeper” options in customizing lessons was EXACTLY what made this activity so powerful. Well done, TED-Ed; no surprises there.
Okay, I know I’ve already bragged enough… but the next day, one of my students came in with a full script idea for a TED-Ed video!!! And it’s absolutely fabulous. Geez, I feel like a proud mom here. Happy teacher, very happy teacher :)