“Best of” Lists: TED Talks 2011


Yes, we know.  We posted about TED Talks before.   And yet, there’s no end to how many posts we could dedicate to their classroom usefulness.  From December 8th TED and The Huffington Post counted down the most important 18 TED Talks of 2011. It’s an interesting end of year “calendar” of sorts.  Its purpose: to create a “year-end journey of ideas” in order to better “shape the world in 2012.

If you had all the time in the world you could have students watch all 18 videos and talk about trends during 2011.  Instead, choose.  Below we’ve chosen our favorites and included some areas of focus for classroom examination.

Kathryn Schulz: On Regret

How many texts do we teach that deal with the idea of regret?  Let me name a few: The Scarlet Letter, All the King’s Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; those are just the novels I’ve taught so far this year.  Schulz’s speech is good because it is applicable to any text we teach that deals in regret, which is to say it is a supplement for anything we teach.  Think Shakespeare here or The Things They Carried.

1.  Examine the following quote from Lady MacBeth that Schulz uses in her speech:  “Things without all remedy should be without regard; what’s done is done.”  Explain the irony in how Schulz uses the quote and whether or not this type of statement actually holds true for the human condition.

2.  Define and evaluate how Schulz sees regret.  What are the flaws in her assessment?

3.  What value is there, according to Schulz, in “acts of idiocy?”

4.  How do we make peace with regret?  Is it necessary?


Graham Hill: Less Stuff More Happiness

This TED Talk is a perfect supplement for Transcendentalism but in our opinion you could use this as a stand-alone piece.  Have students SOAPSTone and “watch” for argument.

1.  Identify & evaluate Hill’s argument about modern Americans and their stuff.

2.  Define and discuss each of Hill’s categories:

  • Edit Ruthlessly
  • Think Small
  • Live an “edited” Life

3.  Is Hill’s use of the “moving box” effective?


Salman Khan: Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education

Students have opinions, too, when it comes to how they experience their education.  Several years ago, the AP Language and Composition exam even asked them to evaluate English curriculum.  Use Khan’s video as a way to make them take ownership of their own education.

1.  Identify and evaluate Khan’s argument about education.
2.  What argument can you make about YouTube based on Khan’s experience?
3.  What is Khan’s argument about the education and globalization?
4.  If Khan’s approach to education was adopted nationally, what effect do you believe there would be on YOUR education?

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