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With A New Educational Platform, TED Gives Teachers The Keys To A Flipped Classroom

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You may know TED, not as the guy from marketing, but as the nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading” — or as the set of global conferences, Talks, and videos that touch on the many heady, relevant issues surrounding Technology, Entertainment, and Design. As an increasingly powerful medium through which the world’s experts share their hard-won knowledge, TED is also an educator. In March, the organization launched the first phase of its “TED-Ed” initiative, in practice a series of a dozen short animated YouTube videos “created for high school students and lifelong learners,” in the big picture an invitation to teachers to collaborate with TED to create more effective video lessons that can be used in classrooms.

Tonight, TED is announcing the second phase of its education initiative — a website that lives on TED.com, which is designed to enable teachers to create unique lesson plans around its video content. As TED’s curator Chris Anderson wrote in March, the platform is not meant to build an exhaustive online university, with entire curricula on video. Khan Academy and others are already well down that path. Instead, TED-Ed aims to harness the talent of the best teachers around the globe by giving them tools that spark and facilitate learning.

Since launch, TED-Ed’s YouTube channel and its corresponding call to educators and animators to submit lesson ideas and animations has attracted 2.4 million views, 42K subscribers, and 3K comments, and more importantly, the interest of both educators and brands. The new TED-Ed site was built thanks to a $1.25 million commitment from Kohl’s Department Stores(!), and optimizes TED content for use in classrooms, boardrooms, and educational settings.

The new site, which launches in beta, will initially only contain a few dozen videos, as it’s really intended for illustrative purposes, says TED-Ed “Catalyst” Logan Smalley. Since each video on the site is mapped via tagging to subjects taught in schools and is accompanied by materials that assist teachers and students understand the video lesson, this is more about what teachers can do with those lessons.

Those supplementary materials include multiple-choice and open-answer questions, and links to relevant web resources on the video’s topic. But Smalley says that the real draw is that the site allows teachers to flip the content — meaning that they can edit or add to those materials as they see fit. Doing so automatically renders a new, private web page, which the teacher can then distribute and use to track students’ progress on the assignment.

TED’s new website also lets educators create lessons from scratch using any TED-Ed video that allows third-party embedding (most of them) and distribute them to a wider audience, with the best of those new videos being featured on TED-Ed. The goal of this is to make “flip teaching” — in which teachers assign homework on video, something that’s difficult for most teachers to do — much easier.

As the site is still in beta, TED will continue to add new features and content in the coming months (the site currently has about 65 videos), and expects to launch the site in full in time for the start of the school year in September.

In regards to the goal of TED-Ed’s new site, Smalley described it like this:

The goal of TED-Ed is for each great lesson to reach and motivate as many learners as possible. The new TED-Ed website goes a step further, allowing any teacher to tailor video content, create unique lesson plans, and monitor students’ progress. By putting this new technology to use, we hope to maximize time in class and give teachers an exciting tool for customizing – and encouraging – learning.

For more, check out TED-Ed’s new site here, or find TED at home here.