If you’ve ever been to the TED Talks website, you know there’s a video for everything and everyone. There are stories that move, inspire, entertain, and enlighten us. In the end, though, the true purpose behind all TED Talks is for us to learn. That’s what we hope will happen for you in this list of some of the best educational TED Talks we could find.
We did some digging and found 14 educational TED talks (plus a surprise bonus talk!) that teachers and parents alike will enjoy learning from. Enjoy the videos!
1. Sam Kass: Want kids to learn well? Feed them well
Description: What can we expect our kids to learn if they’re hungry or eating diets full of sugar and empty of nutrients? Former White House Chef and food policymaker Sam Kass discusses the role schools can play in nourishing students’ bodies in addition to their minds.
2. Fawn Qiu: Easy DIY projects for kid engineers
Description: TED Resident Fawn Qiu designs fun, low-cost projects that use familiar materials like paper and fabric to introduce engineering to kids. In this quick, clever talk, she shares how nontraditional workshops like hers can change the perception of technology and inspire students to participate in creating it.
3. Julie Lythcott-Haims: How to raise successful kids — without over-parenting
Description: By loading kids with high expectations and micromanaging their lives at every turn, parents aren’t actually helping. At least, that’s how Julie Lythcott-Haims sees it. With passion and wry humor, the former Dean of Freshmen at Stanford makes the case for parents to stop defining their children’s success via grades and test scores. Instead, she says, they should focus on providing the oldest idea of all: unconditional love.
4. Sal Khan: Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores
Description: Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why, then, do we rush students through education when they haven’t always grasped the basics? Yes, it’s complicated, but educator Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.
5. Reshma Saujani: Teach girls bravery, not perfection
Description: We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave, says Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. Saujani has taken up the charge to socialize young girls to take risks and learn to program — two skills they need to move society forward. To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population, she says. “I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection.”
6. Melati and Isabel Wijsen: Our campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali
Description: Plastic bags are essentially indestructible, yet they’re used and thrown away with reckless abandon. Most end up in the ocean, where they pollute the water and harm marine life; the rest are burned in garbage piles, where they release harmful dioxins into the atmosphere. Melati and Isabel Wijsen are on a mission to stop plastic bags from suffocating their beautiful island home of Bali. Their efforts — including petitions, beach cleanups, even a hunger strike — paid off when they convinced their governor to commit to a plastic bag-free Bali by 2018. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re too young or you won’t understand,” Isabel says to other aspiring activists. “We’re not telling you it’s going to be easy. We’re telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
7. Linda Liukas: A delightful way to teach kids about computers
Description: Computer code is the next universal language, and its syntax will be limited only by the imaginations of the next generation of programmers. Linda Liukas is helping to educate problem-solving kids, encouraging them to see computers not as mechanical, boring and complicated but as colorful, expressive machines meant to be tinkered with. In this talk, she invites us to imagine a world where the Ada Lovelaces of tomorrow grow up to be optimistic and brave about technology and use it to create a new world that is wonderful, whimsical and a tiny bit weird.
8. Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science
Description: At the Harbour School in Hong Kong, TED Senior Fellow Cesar Harada teaches citizen science and invention to the next generation of environmentalists. He’s moved his classroom into an industrial mega-space where imaginative kids work with wood, metal, chemistry, biology, optics and, occasionally, power tools to create solutions to the threats facing the world’s oceans. There, he instills a universal lesson that his own parents taught him at a young age: “You can make a mess, but you have to clean up after yourself.”
9. Linda Cliatt-Wayman: How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard
Description: On Linda Cliatt-Wayman’s first day as principal at a failing high school in North Philadelphia, she was determined to lay down the law. But she soon realized the job was more complex than she thought. With palpable passion, she shares the three principles that helped her turn around three schools labeled “low-performing and persistently dangerous.” Her fearless determination to lead — and to love the students, no matter what — is a model for leaders in all fields.
10. Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion
Description: 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.
11. Daphne Bavelier: Your brain on video games
Description: How do fast-paced video games affect the brain? Step into the lab with cognitive researcher Daphne Bavelier to hear surprising news about how video games, even action-packed shooter games, can help us learn, focus and, fascinatingly, multitask.
12. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The mysterious workings of the adolescent brain
Description: Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups? Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing brain.
13. Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food
Description: Sharing powerful stories from his anti-obesity project in Huntington, West Virginia — and a shocking image of the sugar we eat — TED Prize winner Jamie Oliver makes the case for an all-out assault on our ignorance of food.
14. Ramsey Musallam: 3 rules to spark learning
Description: It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.
Bonus: Lee Watanabe Crockett: Lessons from the Shakuhachi
I thought you might also like this one! I was honored to be able to perform this presentation for TED X Vancouver, on a subject very close to my heart. What is the sound we leave in the world? This talk provides insights into life and learning through a lesson on the Japanese bamboo flute we call the shakuhachi. There are many lessons to be gained from learning to play this ancient instrument.
What are some of your favorite educational TED Talks as a teacher and/or parent?