Nina Tandon

Research Scientist, cooper union


This conversation is closed.

Live conversation with Nina Tandon: How can we use TED Conversations in the classroom?

As we've launched the TEDinClass project, many in the TED community have asked: how can we use platforms like TED Conversations in the classroom?

Closing Statement from Nina Tandon

Thanks so much to everyone for all of your thoughtful, encouraging comments, interesting suggestions, and insightful questions! Please stay tuned to hear as this project develops.


  • Apr 5 2012: Nina, I work for a global organisation and am part of a team bringing the first TEDx to our people. My question is: what value have you seen in TEDinClass that you think would translate well in to the Learning and Development departments in the corporate world- particularly in global organisations? I'd really welcome your thoughts on this, since having read the blog link above I think what you're doing has great potential in the business world too!
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      Apr 5 2012: wow Matt, this is a great idea -- using TED in the corporate learning context -- did you see Agatha Luy's comment above? She shared a story about using TED talks at the office and it seemed a really positive experience!

      One thought I think might translate for both international and corporate contexts is that TED Conversations can be a great way for people to share thoughts that are relevant to their respective contexts, but in a manner that is just enough outside the "normal" context to lower the barriers to sharing ideas that might not otherwise be shared...almost analogous to an intellectual "field trip" ...
      • Apr 5 2012: Thanks Nina. I'll share the blog entry and this conversation with our L&D team. It's certainly something I think we need to start thinking about!
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    Apr 5 2012: Recently, different members from various departments of our company received training in working with one to many. We practiced our presentation skills and talked about how we use power in presenting including credibility, knowledge, and emotion. We viewed three different Ted Talks and discussed them. I found this FASCINATING to hear opinions and discuss these amazing topics presented by amazing individuals.

    Although this was for my work, if I were an educator in a classroom I imagine this could be a great way to facilitate discussion and debate among students.
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      Apr 5 2012: hi Agatha, thanks for sharing this with us! In my class, we've also experimented with both showing TED videos in the classroom, as well as assigning them as homework.

      One thing that I've noticed is that we've gotten much faster to that cohesive classroom attitude that (if you're lucky) happens at some point (usually late in the semester). Students seem to be sparking more and more fascinating discussions and debates much faster this year than in past years by using TED in the classroom.

      I've also noticed that in addition to students getting to know each other faster by utilizing TED conversations in the classroom, that I've also gotten to know them faster than in past years as well -- there's something about seeing their photos, profiles, and postings that helped me see that WOW I have a ukelele player in my class? and a basketball player? etc...

      Would love to hear more about how using TED talks at your office might also facilitate this type of cohesiveness!
    • Apr 5 2012: Agatha, could I ask which 3 talks you used? We're thinking about how to encourage the use of TEDx talks in my organisation, so I'd be interested to hear more about your story.
  • Apr 5 2012: I've been using TED Conversations as journal prompts in my class for the past year. My students can use their journals to come up with topics for writing or as pre-writing. It's proven effective. I'm now teaching developmental reading, and I often select ted Conversations to feature authors. Again, this has proven popular.
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    Apr 5 2012: I have noticed a disconnect between classroom and real world innovations and revolutionary ideas. A project like this can help mitigate this problem...
  • Apr 5 2012: If you are talking about college classroom, it's relatively easy. It depends on the subject and participants in large. I would imagine like outsiders of science communities, once on one of TEDTalks showed, who have passion on the subject and are qualified to enrich and inspire the classroom, and help students get better understanding the subject by their own research and experience, that would be wonderful surprise. Find the qualified participants such as scholars, experts of the field who want to volunteer their time and discoveries, research and innovative thoughts and visions is the first step, I think. However, it seems high school's and elementary's are the ones that need the TEDConversations the most in terms of public resource, I would say.
  • Apr 5 2012: So your students asked questions of the TED community as they studied? Did any of their conversations get particularly good responses? Did you or your students learn anything from any of the comments?
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      Apr 5 2012: Sarah this is a great question -- and we've been just blown away from the response -- our TEDinClass Conversations, for example, have been trending in the top five for 9 weeks straight, and each conversation is being viewed in up to 60 countries. And each conversation is reaching about half a million Facebook users via shares. The students are also learning a ton content-wise through responding to comments and then there's the more-difficult-to-measure but equally important lessons in poise and maturity that comes from leading. It’s been amazing.
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    Aja B.

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    Apr 5 2012: Hi Nina! Your class consistently posted some of the most fascinating topics here over the last semester. Do you have any tips or advice to offer to the rest of us for coming up with great questions and ideas to post on TED? Are there some approaches that work better than others? Thanks!
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      Apr 5 2012: Wow, Aja thanks so much!

      I’m not sure what the "magic formula" has been for us, but I think that the students have been doing a great job with hooking people into the conversations with thoughtful, pithy questions. And because we are basing their questions on classroom material, each week, the students really get into the extrapolations of class ideas into this “broader realm” as we brainstorm possible questions.

      Once the conversations are launched, they each jump in and help each other respond to comments, in turn encouraging more responses, and so on — it’s a bit of a virtuous cycle, fueled by the students’ collective enthusiasm and commitment, and of course supported by the amazing members of the TED community at-large :)
  • Apr 5 2012: Do you have any suggestions for faculty who might run a program like this with TED in the future?
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      Apr 5 2012: hi Sam,

      This is a great question -- I've been asked this question by others as well as they are trying this experiment in their classrooms.

      One piece of advice is to invest in the time it takes to come up with a pithy question relevant to the broader community, and also relevant to the classroom. For us, this is quite collaborative, and as the semester's progressed, the students are running away with it!

      Sam, are you faculty yourself considering a "TEDinClass" type of project? If so, I'd love to hear more about it!
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    Apr 5 2012: Hi,
    Do you conduct some kind of student evaluation for this project?
    Thank you,
  • Apr 5 2012: Hello Nina,
    Are Ted Conversations using synchronous video webchat? For Example, Google Plus Hangouts? I am ready to beta test when you are:)
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    Apr 5 2012: Hi,
    I work in a school for children who have been bullied at their main stream schools and need time away to recover their confidence. They are vulnerable to criticism and have low self esteem. However, the TED platform could be very positive for them to gain global perspectives. to their questions - most TEDsters are great!

    How can TED be used to help these kids ask questions relevant to them in safety? I'm concerned about aggressive or offensive responses. Could TED's flag button hide the response before its moderated? Could a TED EDUCATION platform be created specifically for young people, that can be moderated by users?

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      Apr 5 2012: hi Heather, this is a great point, and we'd actually all committed (on our side and on the TED side) at the beginning to being quite vigilant about looking for agressive or offensive responses.

      What I WILL say, however, is that in the countless comments we've had this semester, we've had maybe one offensive comment in total. Maybe. I've just been blown away from the commitment of the TED community to keeping the bar high intellectually, while at the same time providing an open forum for sharing ideas.
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        Apr 5 2012: Well that's very encouraging.

        Where is the TED site moderated from? USA or at various locations across different time zones globally?
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          Apr 5 2012: Heather, we have two Admins working 13 hours apart, and a team of volunteer moderators spanning the globe. We're well covered! :)

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    Apr 5 2012: Dear Nina,
    Will referring to TED talk's be allowed/helpfull or is this a TED conversation only project.
    With best regards.
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      Apr 5 2012: hi Marcel,

      That's a great question -- the TEDinClass project we're referring to here is mostly about using the TED Conversations platform, but we've also used TED Talks all semester as well as homework and in-class media to spark discussions. And of course, the TED Conversations themselves always link back to "related talks."

      So in a way, it's kind of an interconnected package!
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    Apr 5 2012: And another comment - I'm from Israel - Have you conducted this project outside the U.S?
    Thank you,
    Tamar Tarablus
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    Apr 5 2012: How did hosting the conversations change the classroom dynamic? Were the in-class discussions very different from previous classes?
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      Apr 5 2012: hi Ben,

      This is a great question, addressing an observation we actually didn't expect to see going in: the students indeed seem to be even more familiar with each other, and much sooner, than in past years, despite the fact that we've got a larger group this year! The conversations that continue on after class, between sessions, seem to keep the students engaged with one another, and also give them more material that create the "inside jokes" and other shared experiences that forge relationships. With online communities, we generally don't have the feedback that comes from real, live, *physical* presence -- but with this project -- we have both the online and rel-life interactions.

      I'd be interested in hearing experiences from others that might solely be online, in say, an online course?
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    Apr 5 2012: Dear Nina Tandon, I'm a high school teacher. Please tell me what kind of technology is necessary to participate in the project and what kind of lessons are taught with this platform?
    Thank you very much,
    Tamar Tarablus
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      Apr 5 2012: hi Tamar that's a great question!

      For our class we need all students to have accounts, but not every student necessarily has his/her own computer.

      We've learned so much in this project, but one of my favorite lessons has come from my own teaching and now from watching the students as the semester's progressed:

      As the Latin proverb goes: "By learning you will teach; by teaching you will understand."
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    Apr 5 2012: My big question: What did you worry about most when starting this experiment, and how did you control for it?
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      Apr 5 2012: Emily that's a great question -- when we first started I was worried most about coming up with topics with the right balance between being general enough to relate to the TED community and yet specific enough to relate to class material. I decided to just be upfront about this with my students and to ask them each week to check in and let us know their thoughts...I've noticed that as weeks go by that the students are having more and more fun with coming up with these types of questions.

      One common way we traverse between the "super specific" and the "general" is via analogy -- one student last week, for example, hosted a conversation loosely based on an analogy to muscle fibers -- he'd noted that we have different types of muscle fibers with different "specialties": fast twitch and slow twitch -- he drew an analogy to collaboration between specialists and asked: "Does society need more interdisciplinary work? Or more well-rounded individuals working together?" I could never have predicted conversations like this to come out of my class, but am so heartened to see it happen!