TED Talks To Inspire Educators and Parents


I’ll warn you ahead of time that the title of this blog post should really be: “TED Talks On Which I Hope High School Teachers Can Base Lesson Plans and For Parents To Use To Inspire Kids To Be Better People.”

High school is a funny time.  It’s filled with awkward experiences, navigating social graces and discovering what’s “normal”, which can vary greatly depending on where you are and your socioeconomic status.

At graduation, students are supposed to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but will change paths multiple times before hitting age 30, and then some more after that.

So all one can really ask of them is to pick a field, like science or the arts, or a trade that will take them places other than a dead end.  Ask them to be the best people they can be, who will hopefully contribute something good to the world, even if it’s in the form of time given to someone else who needs help.

TED is a long-running conference dedicated to Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) with a mission of spreading ideas.  The nonprofit organization recently launched TED-Ed as a teaching resource, pinpointing certain TED Talks and beefing them up with quizzes, discussion questions and additional resources.

It’s incredibly admirable, but it’s going to need the creativity of motivational teachers. I know that in high school, I had many classmates who didn’t have the patience or attention span to sit through an extended period of a stranger talking.  But if someone had introduced me to the idea of a 3D printer for printing human kidneys, I might have wanted to investigate medical science a little more before deciding that I wasn’t going to ever need science or math classes past grade 12.

I’ve pinpointed some specific TED Talks (not yet all Ted-Ed topics as of this writing) in hopes that there are high school teachers, youth group leaders, parents, family members and mentors out there who can take the time to successfully adapt these as more palatable nuggets of wisdom for teenagers.*  By posting this blog many weeks before school, perhaps the inclination will turn from a mere fleeting thought into a real lesson plan.

Anthony Atala: Printing a Human Kidney

As the website description details, Anthony Atala is a surgeon working on experimental technology and the director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  In very recent news, his team made breakthroughs in using pig kidneys as support structures (“scaffolds”) to build new human organs.

This might be useful in science/biology classes, independent study units, general science and ethics classes.  Research Dr. Atala and his team, other uses of animal materials in transplant surgery, 3D printers for biomedical purposes and other breakthroughs.

Nancy Lublin: Texting that saves lives

When teens are looking to make change in the world, this video might inspire them to use methods and causes closest to home, to feel empowered, and to get involved in an organization that could have the resources and knowledge to train and mobilize for social good.  Nancy Lublin is CEO and “Chief Old Person” at DoSomething.org.  The video is under five minutes long, so it’s easy to digest as food for thought.

Susan Cain:  The power of introverts

For kids who feel shy, are defined as loners and never quite “fit in,” definition and advocacy of introversion by an articulate writer (who is a former corporate lawyer and negotiations consultant) might actually be freeing.  I really like her one call to action at the end: Stop the madness for constant group work.

There’s also a Ted-Ed lesson plan available with quiz questions, additional resources and questions to ponder.  There are multiple “Flips” (user-created lesson plans) so it may be possible to use someone else’s plan!

If you’ll bear with me, I have another TED-related blog post coming, but parsing more from the author’s book.  It may just be a lesson plan in itself … for life.