Review by Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2014
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TED

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Easily find, download, and view inspiring talks on a variety of topics

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration

Subjects
  • Social Studies
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (3 Reviews)

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Pros: Provides convenient, easily searchable access to every TED talk; accessible in many languages.

Cons: Downloading talks for offline viewing can use lots of memory. Unclear icons make some functions obscure.

Bottom Line: An efficient way to explore the TED library, but not a great way to share big ideas and insights beyond the device.

Teachers can use the TED app to allow students to explore the TED library in a controlled setting. They could also encourage students to view several TED talks with the same tagging, analyze what those talks have in common, and create similar talks. Teachers might also use the app for their own professional growth, browsing and bookmarking talks on topics that inspire and excite them.

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The TED app is a tool for browsing, downloading, and viewing TED talks, the acclaimed short videos (18 minutes or less) that feature thought leaders expounding on topics that include technology, entertainment, design, and other disciplines. Users can browse featured talks or talks based on a specific topic. The My Talks page lists talks that have been bookmarked and saved for offline listening or viewing. Saving for offline listening (rather than viewing) may be the best option in many cases, as saving just a few talks for viewing can quickly result in a massive chunk of stored data.

The Surprise Me feature offers an especially engaging way to explore the library. When users select Surprise Me at the bottom of the screen, they're presented with two tasks. First, they have to complete the sentence, "You want to see something..." with one provocative adjective from a list that includes "Persuasive," "Jaw-Dropping," and "Ingenious." Next, they're asked, "How much time do you have?" and must select an interval from five to 60 minutes on a clock face. The app then offers a playlist that can be watched immediately or downloaded for later viewing. The up-down icon on the Featured Talks page allows users to sort talks (by "most recent" or "most popular") or to filter talks by a few major topics (Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, and Global issues). In the All Talks section, users can browse all talks sorted by tags (like "Brain", "Happiness", and "Social Change") or by language.

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The TED app has some nice features for discovering new talks and saving them for later viewing. One clearly missed opportunity in the app is its lack of integration with the main TED website. Each talk's in-app homepage description concludes with the invitation, "To comment on this talk, visit TED.com." This link takes the user to the talk's page via an in-app browser, but the user then has to sign in or create an account to comment. It's too bad the commenting feature isn't built into the app, as these other gestures seem to interrupt an otherwise seamless searching and viewing process. While there's great access to TED talks, users are only able to view and receive information, rather than recording or generating their own insights. In the context of so many talks about creation, discovery, and innovation, it would be useful if there were more ways to capture those insights other than through simple social media posts.

The app offers terrific access to the full library of TED talks, but some of its icons and display features can be confusing. The headphone icon at the top right of the page launches the audio of a TED talk automatically, but it's not clear which TED talk will come next or why a certain one comes up. The Languages section on the All Talks page is similarly misleading. Each language is listed with a number following it, which seems to suggest there are that many talks available in each of those languages. Upon further exploration, it turns out that there are not actually 537 TED talks available in Albanian -- instead, there are 537 TED talks that have subtitles and descriptive text in Albanian. Most of the TED talks are still in English. While the subtitles are a terrific feature, this sorting function isn't especially helpful since it's not possible to sort apps by tags or subjects after sorting by language on this page. There’s still a wealth of information to browse, but odd touches like this can be misleading about how extensive the library of talks really is.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The Surprise Me feature engages kids by providing an exciting way to discover new talks and provoke new insights.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Built more for searching and viewing than for critical engagement; teachers might wish for more opportunities for eliciting and recording student feedback and critical analysis.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

App offers subtitle features in more than 50 languages and provides lots of ways to save talks for later viewing, listening.


Common Sense Reviewer
Patricia Monticello Kievlan Foundation/nonprofit member

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Victoria C. , Other
Other
Vista Visions Academy
Vista, CA
Great Videos That Your Students Will Love

I love using Ted talks in my classes! After the first one, students always ask, "When can we watch another?" And it's not because they just want to watch a video and "veg out." They do a lot of work based on the videos we watch. They like them because the topics are interesting and students like to hear what their classmates say about the videos. We get into some lively debates!

There are videos on a variety of topics, but it can take awhile to find one that relates to what you are studying. You can search for videos on a variety of topics and by duration, but Ted could use a better 'tagging' system to make it easier to find videos. As an English teacher, I can always find a talk that I can use. I start with the standards we are working on and the I find a talk that I think is interesting to my students. Teachers in other subjects may find it more time consuming to find a talk that relates to what they are studying.

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