Q&A TED Conversations

Using TED Conversations in the classroom

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All semester, TED Fellow Nina Tandon has been using TED Conversations as part of her class in bioelectricity at Cooper Union. Yesterday in the TED offices, she hosted a Live TED Conversation to answer questions about using  TED Conversations in her class. Here are some highlights:

Sarah Meyer:  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?

Nina Tandon: 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 in total, the conversations are 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.

Emily McManus: What did you worry about most when starting this experiment, and how did you control for it?

Nina Tandon: 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 — so 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!

Melinda Dvisa: 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.

Nina Tandon: Wow Melinda, these are all great ideas! Thanks for sharing :)

Join the latest conversation from Nina’s class: “How does virtuality translate into reality?

Check out all the student-run Nina’s Class Conversations: www.ted.com/conversations/topics/Bioelectricity

If you have further questions, or are thinking about using TEDConversations in your classroom, please email us at conversations@ted.com and we’ll be happy to work with you!