4 TED Talks for Educators Interested in STEAM

February 06, 2014
Amy Wilson
Common Sense Media
San Francisco, CA
CATEGORIES Technology Integration

“Research is a formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” -Zora Neale Hurston

This month we're featuring apps, games, and websites that support science, technology, engineering, art, and math learning. Be on the lookout for related Top-Picks lists, reviews, blog posts, and New & Noteworthy collections that highlight STEAM education. This collection of TED Talks serves as inspiration and information for teachers interested in the marriage between science and the arts or simply in promoting innovative science and math education.

In this first talk, filmed in 2002(!), Mae Jemison makes the case for teaching science and the arts together. An astronaut, doctor, art collector, and dancer, Jemison is a crusader for science education. She's worked in the areas of computer programming, printed wiring board materials, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, computer magnetic disc production, and reproductive biology.

She laments when career counselors say that artists aren't analytical, or that scientists aren't creative, and asks that educators encourage the very creativity that is required for accomplishing feats like launching the Space Shuttle. She believes that the arts and sciences spring from the same source. Science is a manifestation of our attempt to explain our understanding of the universe, while the arts provide a universal understanding of our personal experience.


Mitch Resnick directs the Lifelong Kindergarten group at MIT Media Lab and is dedicated to helping kids of all ages tinker and experiment with design. Resnick and the MIT Media Lab developed Scratch so that people can make their own interactive stories, games, and animations. In this TEDx Talk filmed in November 2012, Resnick describes how kids use Scratch and explains how it and other tools like it enable young people to become fluent with new technologies.

He's skeptical of the term digital native, pointing out that while young people are comfortable using technology, they aren’t necessarily fluent with technology. He argues that it’s important for them to learn to create with new technologies. It’s like the difference between being able to read and write.


Adam Savage is the host of MythBusters on the Discovery Channel. In this talk, he shows several inspiring examples of how the simplest of questions can carry you out to the edge of human knowledge. If you are a science teacher, these are stories you could share with students tomorrow. Teach Eratosthenes' calculation of the Earth's circumference from 200 B.C. and Hippolyte Fizeau's measurement of the speed of light in 1849.

Jon Bergmann co-wrote the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day with Aaron Sams; both authors are considered pioneers of the flipped classroom movement. A former middle and high school science teacher, Bergmann now writes and speaks about the flipped classroom concept. He also serves on the advisory board for TED-Education.

In this animated video, produced by Cognitive Media, Jon explains just how teeny-tiny an atom is, debunking misconceptions reinforced by textbooks that provide illustrations not properly to scale. This video is part of a series on, which features lesson plans for teachers across a range of subjects.