Perhaps I’m the last person on the planet to learn about TED.com–but in case the buzz hasn’t reached you yet, let me explain what this website is and why it might prove useful to you as a bcomm educator.
TED.com is sponsored by the organization TED–whose name is an acronym for technology, entertainment, and design. As the site explains, TED is a nonprofit organization “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” It began as the name of a conference organized by Richard Saul Wurman (the inventor of the term “information design”) and associates, which first took place in the Silicon Valley in 1984. Since then, the US conference has become an annual event, and there is a yearly global conference as well. The scope of topics now spans science, business, the arts, global issues–any area where “inspired thinkers” can be found. And lucky for us, the talks delivered at the conferences can be freely accessed at TED.com and reused in any way we wish.
The talks are organized by “themes”–such as “The Rise of Collaboration,” “Not Business as Usual,” “What’s Next in Tech,” and “Bold Predictions, Stern Warnings.” You can also search the site by topic.
Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find:
- In “Presentation Innovation,” Dr. Hans Rosling makes public-health statistics come alive in animated visuals.
- In “Why Work Doesn’t Happen at Work,” Jason Fried, software entrepreneur, explores the counterproductive qualities of office buildings.
- In “Evan Williams on Listening to Twitter Users,” the co-founder of Twitter talks about the unexpected uses of Twitter that have fueled its astronomical growth.
- In “Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders,” Sheryl Sandberg, C.O.O. of Facebook, analyzes the striking shortage of women in high places and offers advice for women seeking such roles.
TED videos can make interesting contributions to the bcomm class. In addition to providing food for thought on a variety of important issues, they can be used as resources for research, as launching points for assignments, as examples of skillful speechmaking, as ways to broaden students’ understanding of other cultures, as sources of insight into communication techologies, and more.
A warning, though: these performances by brilliant–or at least bold–thinkers are addictive. As a writer for The New York Times Magazine commented, “Once you start watching TED talks, ordinary life fades away.” * Yes–they’re that interesting.