Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Are TED Talks Helping Anyone?

If you've been a student or attended any sort of professional conference or training (or even spent any time on Facebook) in the past decade or so, you have watched a TED Talk. TED Talks are the brainchild of a man named Richard Wurman, but they really came into prominence as a cultural media phenomenon through the hard work and vision of online curator and media entrepreneur Chris Anderson. Anderson turned TED into a huge foundation of idea promotion, and now the ubiquitous nature of TED Talks are an accepted part of media and learning. I can't tell you the number of times I've experienced or heard about someone else experience a "fantastic presentation" that clarifies an issue or poses an interesting question or solution. Inevitably, speakers and teachers will introduce an idea for pondering and then deftly shift to someone else's work by saying "Watch this TED talk, and then let's talk about what you think."

If you are an ideas-oriented person, then you love TED Talks. In fact, you probably have dreams of giving one yourself someday. And maybe you should. You probably share them regularly on social media, and you can easily get lost on the website for hours - or even days - clicking on one presentation after another. It's easy to get wrapped up in the neatly synthesized wisdom of a TED Talk. The answers just seem so obvious and clear and easy. The world would be a much better place if everyone just listened to TED. But I'm wondering if that is true. Is the TED phenomenon actually helping us, or is the distilled wisdom of a 20-minute presentation just pacifying us and distracting us from the real work to be done. Are the soundbites and slogans of TED Talks actually oversimplifying the issues. And, here's a question:  Why do so many teachers and presenters rely on TED Talks as a key component of their content and instruction?  Shouldn't the class or conference itself be a TED Talk? Or, is the TED Talk just another form of content like a book or poem or piece of data that teachers and speakers have always used.

There is even a cottage publishing industry of books on how to be more like TED. The prime example of this is a book that promises to help you Talk Like TED.

What do you think? Do you like TED Talks? Is TED helping anyone?

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