authentic learning, learning, Personalized Learning

Great TED Talks to Use With Middle Schoolers and Other Ages Too

I wanted to immerse my students in thought provoking TED Talks and videos as one of the new options in our final round of “Choose Your Own Learning.” Watching these videos will allow us to continue the work we have done all year on expanding our world view and discussing “Whose Voices are Missing?” as well as allow students for a chance to work on their analysis skills. Students will watch one video a day and then either write or record a response to the video. While I wanted to draw in specific non-fiction skills, I also just wanted students to have a chance to connect and respond. To see my very much work in progress assignment, go here.

While I had several videos I knew I wanted to use with students, I also knew that there were many I had not yet discovered. Enter my incredible Twitter network. I sent out the following Tweet

87 replies later, still growing, and I could not believe once again the treasure trove of incredible videos that were suggested. My gratitude runs deep and so does my penchant for sharing, so without further ado, here are many of the replies given to me with thanks to those who shared them. I am so grateful for all of you. Some are not here that were suggested more than once. I have also ones that we have used throughout the year that have started great discussion in our classroom.

Jamila Lyiscott – Three Ways to Speak English

Jamila Lyiscott is a “tri-tongued orator;” in her powerful spoken-word essay “Broken English,” she celebrates — and challenges — the three distinct flavors of English she speaks with her friends, in the classroom and with her parents. As she explores the complicated history and present-day identity that each language represents, she unpacks what it means to be “articulate.”

NY Times – Growing Up Black in America

In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.

Matthew Carter – Your Story is Your Superpower

When two teenage boys robbed Matthew at gunpoint almost 11 years ago in front of his own home, he spent many years being fearful of teenagers and feeling haunted by the memory of a cold gun barrel pressed against his head. He realized that living in a state of constant fear prevented him from living his best life, so he worked tirelessly to change his mindset and learn the difference between things he could control and things he couldn’t. Decisions based in fear often result in not being in alignment with our true selves. At its core, the majority of problems seen in most media outlets are stemmed in the emotion of fear. A child is not born afraid. These emotions are imposed on them from another’s fears or caused by life experiences which results in us building both emotional and physical walls to keep out what we’re so fearful of. Being in the “flow” of life allows our natural state of being – love – to be the driving force in our decision making. Matthew works at The Ohio State University and is working to follow his life’s purpose. He has survived two instances of gun violence. He visits schools throughout Ohio and across the country to share his story – a message of hope and perseverance.

Prince EA – What is School For?

Kandice Sumner – How America’s Public Schools Keep Kids in Poverty

Why should a good education be exclusive to rich kids? Schools in low-income neighborhoods across the US, specifically in communities of color, lack resources that are standard at wealthier schools — things like musical instruments, new books, healthy school lunches and soccer fields — and this has a real impact on the potential of students. Kandice Sumner sees the disparity every day in her classroom in Boston. In this inspiring talk, she asks us to face facts — and change them.

Noah Tavlin – How False News Can Spread

Dive into the phenomenon known as circular reporting and how it contributes to the spread of false news and misinformation.

Stephanie Buari – How Fake News Does Real Harm

On April 14, 2014, the terrorist organization Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok, Nigeria. Around the world, the crime became epitomized by the slogan #BringBackOurGirls — but in Nigeria, government officials called the crime a hoax, confusing and delaying efforts to rescue the girls. In this powerful talk, journalist Stephanie Busari points to the Chibok tragedy to explain the deadly danger of fake news and what we can do to stop it.

Asha de Vos – Why You Should Care About Whale Poo

Whales have a surprising and important job, says marine biologist Asha de Vos: these massive creatures are ecosystem engineers, keeping the oceans healthy and stable by … well, by pooping, for a start. Learn from de Vos, a TED Fellow, about the undervalued work that whales do to help maintain the stability and health of our seas — and our planet.

Jarrett J – Krosoczka – Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes

Children’s book author Jarrett Krosoczka shares the origins of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, in which undercover school heroes serve lunch…and justice! His new project, School Lunch Hero Day, reveals how cafeteria lunch staff provide more than food, and illustrates how powerful a thank you can be.

Gene Luen Yang – Comics Belong in the Classroom

Comic books and graphic novels belong in every teacher’s toolkit, says cartoonist and educator Gene Luen Yang. Set against the backdrop of his own witty, colorful drawings, Yang explores the history of comics in American education — and reveals some unexpected insights about their potential for helping kids learn.

McKenna Pope – Want to Be an Activist? Start with Your Toys.

McKenna Pope’s younger brother loved to cook, but he worried about using an Easy-Bake Oven — because it was a toy for girls. So at age 13, Pope started an online petition for the American toy company Hasbro to change the pink-and-purple color scheme on the classic toy and incorporate boys into its TV marketing. In a heartening talk, Pope makes the case for gender-neutral toys and gives a rousing call to action to all kids who feel powerless.

Zak Ebrahim – I am the Son of a Terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace.

If you’re raised on dogma and hate, can you choose a different path? Zak Ebrahim was just seven years old when his father helped plan the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. His story is shocking, powerful and, ultimately, inspiring.

Kakenya Ntaiya – A Girl Who Demanded School

Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo a traditional Maasai rite of passage, female circumcision, if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community, changing the destiny of 125 young women.

Shabana Basij-Raiskh – Dare to Educate Afghan Girls

Imagine a country where girls must sneak out to go to school, with deadly consequences if they get caught learning. This was Afghanistan under the Taliban, and traces of that danger remain today. 22-year-old Shabana Basij-Rasikh runs a school for girls in Afghanistan. She celebrates the power of a family’s decision to believe in their daughters — and tells the story of one brave father who stood up to local threats.

Monique W. Morris – Why Black Girls Are Targeted for Punishment in Schools – And How to Change That

Around the world, black girls are being pushed out of schools because of policies that target them for punishment, says author and social justice scholar Monique W. Morris. The result: countless girls are forced into unsafe futures with restricted opportunities. How can we put an end to this crisis? In an impassioned talk, Morris uncovers the causes of “pushout” and shows how we can work to turn all schools into spaces where black girls can heal and thrive.

India Hawkins – Facing the Real Me: Looking in the Mirror with Natural Hair

Growing up, 18-year-old India Hawkins was taught how to maintain her hair, but not how to love her hair. A tangled history of political oppression, irresponsible advertising and unattainable beauty standards meant she spent her childhood using chemicals, heat, and protective styling to “manage” the hair that grew naturally from her head. Until one day India decided to “go natural.” But she was in for a shock; India never knew how much she was hiding behind her hair, until the day she cut it all off. In her Talk, India describes the emotional sometimes difficult journey that led her to love her hair.

Haaziq Kazi – Cleaning Our Oceans

When 11-year-old Haaziq Kazi first prototyped his invention to clean plastic from the surface of the ocean, it lasted for about 7 seconds before coming apart in his bathtub. But that didn’t stop him! In fact, his invention just got better and more elaborate. In this Talk, Haaziq’s enthusiasm and creativity remind us that, when it comes to solving some of earth’s biggest problems, our imagination may be one of our greatest assets.

Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Drew Dudley – Everyday Leadership

We have all changed someone’s life — usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other’s lives.

Matt Cutts – Try Something New for 30 Days

Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.

Shane Koyczan – To This Day

By turn hilarious and haunting, poet Shane Koyczan puts his finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young and … different. “To This Day,” his spoken-word poem about bullying, captivated millions as a viral video (created, crowd-source style, by 80 animators). Here, he gives a glorious, live reprise with backstory and violin accompaniment by Hannah Epperson.

Ash Beckham – We’re All Hiding Something

In this touching talk, Ash Beckham offers a fresh approach to empathy and openness. It starts with understanding that everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced hardship. The only way out, says Beckham, is to open the door and step out of your closet.

Proud to Be (Mascots)

Watch the #BigGame commercial the NFL would never air.

Indigenous in New York

Where does history begin? New York’s infamous Columbus Circle memorializes the founding of a new world and perpetuates the myth of American exceptionalism, while denying the violence against Indigenous people—a will to ignorance. With a crew of Natives, we asked over 100 New Yorkers to identify the “origin” of our Native models to understand where contemporary Native lives exist in popular consciousness. The indigenous story is more accurate and a story that we all deserve to hear. Let us begin to write and speak a healing narrative that honors Native people, let us get to know each other, let us hug each other—you can and should #HugANative today.

Ron Finlay: A Guerrilla Gardener in South Central LA

Ron Finley plants vegetable gardens in South Central LA — in abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs. Why? For fun, for defiance, for beauty and to offer some alternative to fast food in a community where “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”

Sugatra Mitra – Kids Can Teach Themselves

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Danger of a Single Story

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Ismael Nazario – What I Learned as a Kid in Jail

As a teenager, Ismael Nazario was sent to New York’s Rikers Island jail, where he spent 300 days in solitary confinement — all before he was ever convicted of a crime. Now as a prison reform advocate he works to change the culture of American jails and prisons, where young people are frequently subjected to violence beyond imagination. Nazario tells his chilling story and suggests ways to help, rather than harm, teens in jail.

Joy Buolamwini – How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms

MIT grad student Joy Buolamwini was working with facial analysis software when she noticed a problem: the software didn’t detect her face — because the people who coded the algorithm hadn’t taught it to identify a broad range of skin tones and facial structures. Now she’s on a mission to fight bias in machine learning, a phenomenon she calls the “coded gaze.” It’s an eye-opening talk about the need for accountability in coding … as algorithms take over more and more aspects of our lives.

Stacy Smith – The Data Behind Hollywood’s Sexism

Where are all the women and girls in film? Social scientist Stacy Smith analyzes how the media underrepresents and portrays women — and the potentially destructive effects those portrayals have on viewers. She shares hard data behind gender bias in Hollywood, where on-screen males outnumber females three to one (and behind-the-camera workers fare even worse.)

George Takei – Why I Love a Country that Once Betrayed Me

When he was a child, George Takei and his family were forced into an internment camp for Japanese-Americans, as a “security” measure during World War II. 70 years later, Takei looks back at how the camp shaped his surprising, personal definition of patriotism and democracy.

Judge Helen Whitener – Claiming Your Identity

Michaela Horn – Teen Stress From a Teen Perspective

A simple experiment to discover what stresses high school students leads to disturbing results that soon become a story on their own. Michaela Horn shares her journey, results, and the alarming turn of events that unfolded.

Mac Barnett – Why a Good Book is a Secret Door

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn’t children’s books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Kids on Race “Because I’m Latino, I Can’t Have Money?”

Hear some straight talk from middle-schoolers about race and what it’s like to grow up in such racially charged times.

Michael Jr – Know Your Why

Comedian Michael Jr. goes Off the Cuff at live comedy show and uses this completely improv moment as a great illustration for knowing your why and purpose in life. See what happens after he asks if he can sing…

Charlie Todd – The Shared Experience of Absurdity

Charlie Todd causes bizarre, hilarious, and unexpected public scenes: Seventy synchronized dancers in storefront windows, “ghostbusters” running through the New York Public Library, and the annual no-pants subway ride. His group, Improv Everywhere, uses these scenes to bring people together.

Phil Hansen – Embrace the Shake

In art school, Phil Hansen developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.

Ed Thomas – What Will Be Your Legacy?

A short documentary for the 2010 ESPN Espy awards. This year the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was presented to Ed Thomas and family of Parkersburg, Iowa.

Derek Sivers – How to Start a Movement

With help from some surprising footage, Derek Sivers explains how movements really get started. (Hint: it takes two.)

Maya Penn – Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist

Maya Penn started her first company when she was 8 years old, and thinks deeply about how to be responsible both to her customers and to the planet. She shares her story — and some animations, and some designs, and some infectious energy — in this charming talk.

Adora Svitak – What Adults Can Learn From Kids

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.

Rita Pierson – Every Kid Needs a Champion

Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.

Richard Turere – My Invention that Made Peace With Lions

In the Maasai community where Richard Turere lives with his family, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

Fernando Pérez – The Importance of Bearing Witness

The importance of listening, and validating the stories of others, is demonstrated through an intimate look at Pérez’s great-grandmother who emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. and moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s

Paul Nicklen – Animal Tales from Icy Wonderlands

Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend. Share his hilarious, passionate stories of the polar wonderlands, illustrated by glorious images of the animals who live on and under the ice.

Simon Sinek – Start With Why

Cole Plante – Getting Started as a DJ

DJ and producer Cole Plante is only 17 years old, but he’s already worked alongside industry superstars Skrillex, Avicii and Major Lazer (to name just a few). In this combination talk and DJ set, Plante shows off his mixing magic and gives tips to aspiring DJs.

CM Hall – Social Justice…In a Cookie

The social justice issue no one is talking about…

I, Pencil: The Movie

Beau Lotto & Amy O’Toole – Science is for Everyone

What do science and play have in common? Neuroscientist Beau Lotto thinks all people (kids included) should participate in science and, through the process of discovery, change perceptions. He’s seconded by 12-year-old Amy O’Toole, who, along with 25 of her classmates, published the first peer-reviewed article by schoolchildren, about the Blackawton bees project. It starts: “Once upon a time … “

Joseph Lekuton – A Parable for Kenya

Joseph Lekuton, a member of parliament in Kenya, starts with the story of his remarkable education, then offers a parable of how Africa can grow. His message of hope has never been more relevant.

Vivian Connell – The Monti Video Series

After learning of her terminal illness, Vivian Connell sets out to take her ESL class to the Holocaust Museum.

Suki Kim – This is What It’s Like to Go Undercover in North Korea

For six months, Suki Kim worked as an English teacher at an elite school for North Korea’s future leaders — while writing a book on one of the world’s most repressive regimes. As she helped her students grapple with concepts like “truth” and “critical thinking,” she came to wonder: Was teaching these students to seek the truth putting them in peril? 

Kelvin Doe – Building a Radio

THNKR is proud to present the next chapter in the riveting story of 15-Year-Old engineering prodigy Kelvin Doe. THNKR has exclusive access to Kelvin as he returns to the United States to deliver a riveting talk at TedxTeen and grapples with the impact of newfound YouTube superstardom.

Kevin Alloca – Why Videos Go Viral

Kevin Allocca is YouTube’s Head of Culture & Trends, and he has deep thoughts about silly web video. In this talk from TEDYouth, he shares the 4 reasons a video goes viral.

Pamela Meyer – How to Spot a Liar

On any given day we’re lied to from 10 to 200 times, and the clues to detect those lies can be subtle and counter-intuitive. Pamela Meyer, author of Liespotting, shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception — and she argues honesty is a value worth preserving.

Ann Makosinski – Why I Don’t Use a Smartphone

Imagine all the things you can do…off of your phone. Parents be warned.

Cameron Russell – Looks Aren’t Everything. Believe Me, I’m a Model

Cameron Russell admits she won “a genetic lottery”: she’s tall, pretty and an underwear model. But don’t judge her by her looks. In this fearless talk, she takes a wry look at the industry that had her looking highly seductive at barely 16 years old.

Grace Lin – The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf

What your child reads sets the path for their own self-worth as well as how they see others. Grace Lin is a children’s book author/illustrator whose book, “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon,” received the Newbery Book Honor. She shows how the books that are not on your child’s bookshelf are just as important as those that are.

Clint Smith – The Danger of Silence

“We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Lindsay Malloy – Why Teens Confess to Crimes They Didn’t Commit

Why do juveniles falsely confess to crimes? What makes them more vulnerable than adults to this shocking, counterintuitive phenomenon? Through the lens of Brendan Dassey’s interrogation and confession (as featured in Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” documentary), developmental psychology professor and researcher Lindsay Malloy breaks down the science underlying false confessions and calls for change in the way kids are treated by a legal system designed for adults.

Laura Rovner – what Happens to People in Solitary Confinement

Imagine living with no significant human contact for years, even decades, in a cell the size of a small bathroom. This is the reality for those in long-term solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment regularly imposed in US prisons. In this eye-opening talk, civil rights lawyer Laura Rovner takes us to ADX, the US federal government’s only supermax prison, and describes the dehumanizing effects of long-term solitude on the mind, personality and sense of self. What emerges is an urgent case for abolishing solitary confinement — and evidence for how our tax dollars, public safety and values are implicated in it. “Prisons are administered in our name and on our behalf,” she says. “We have an obligation to bear witness.”

Aaron Huey – America’s Native Prisoner of War Camps

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson.

Bryan Stevenson – We Need to Talk about an Injustice

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

David R. Williams – How Racism Makes Us Sick

Why does race matter so profoundly for health? David R. Williams developed a scale to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system — and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination.

I know there are many more incredible videos out there to use, I know I discover new ones every year and have missed many here. So leave your favorite in the comments, and again, thank you to all who contributed to this list.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page. I offer up workshops and presentations both live and virtually that are based on the work I do with my own students as we pursue engaging, personalized, and independent learning opportunities. I also write more about the design of my classroom and how to give control of their learning back to students in my first book, Passionate Learners.

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