9 TED Talks that Anyone Working in TEFL Should Watch

Take 15 minutes to understand the work of some great educators and researchers to potentially change the way you think about education and be inspired the next time you walk into the classroom.

1.    Do schools kill creativity? - Ken Robinson

The most watched TED talk ever with 62 million views is delivered by Sir Ken Robinson, one of the UK Government’s leading advisors on education. Ken believes that creativity should be treated with the same status as literacy within education. He argues that education systems have created a fear of being wrong that kills creativity. Ken is a great speaker, and the talk is full of humour. A talk you shouldn’t miss that will change the way you see creativity in the classroom.

Ken's TED Talk

2.    Every Kid Needs a Champion – Rita Piersen

When you are feeling uninspired, reluctant to enter the classroom or dreading having to face that student who has been irritatingly you like crazy, put on Rita Piersen’s TED talk. The talk will bring a smile to your face and determination to lift up every student. A daughter of two teachers and herself a life-long educator; Rita talks with the authority of a teacher who has lived through the challenges and rewards of a life in education. She comes out with a central message:

“Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.” 

Rita champions the human connection within education and how the teacher can bring the best out of the student.

Rita's TED Talk


3.    Teach teachers how to create magic - Christopher Emdin

How can a teacher engage a classroom of students like a preacher in a black Pentecostal church calling on his audience? Christopher Emdin argues that teachers can and should try to learn from the performers kids listen to, including rappers. Teachers can learn from performers movements, talking with their hands, the metaphors and analogies they use. Can you too learn from spending a little less time on that PowerPoint presentation and a bit more time learning some of the tricks of performers?

Christopher's TED Talk


4.    Why great leaders inspire action - Simon Sinek

Why does almost everybody use an iPhone and all the trendy entrepreneurial types in coffee bars use MacBook’s? Simon Sinek has a theory on what makes great leaders - it’s because they know WHY they do it. Why do we teach? By better understanding the answer to this question we can move towards our full potential as a teacher. This TED talk gives insight into what separates greats from others and perhaps can inspire us to look inwards and find inspiration as to why we are going into the classroom.

Simon's TED Talk


5.    The benefits of a bilingual brain - Mia Nacamulli

This short animation looks at some of the benefits of being bilingual which go far beyond the conventional reasons we learn languages - be it work, friendship or the experience. Did you know there are different types of bilingual learners – and which of these are you and you students?
•    Compound bilingual,
•    Coordinate bilingual,
•    Subordinate bilingual?

Why not use the video in class to let your students find out which type of learner they are and enthuse them by learning some of the co-benefits of being bilingual? Sadly, it doesn’t make you smarter, but it does mean you better exercise you brain which brings with it a host of other benefits. 

Mia's TED talk


6.    Lýdia Machová - The secrets of learning a new language

Lýdia speaks over 8 languages and was keen to find out why is it that some people, technically named polyglots, can learn many languages and how they do it. She met other polyglots and here’s what she learned from them: 

Enjoyment – you have to find ways to enjoy learning the language. How about Podcasts, apps for vocab, watching your favourite TV show in another language. 

Methods – what methods can you use to revise and reinforce what you are learning – because without revision these will all be lost from our short-term memory.

System – you need to plan some time for learning every day – get up 15 minutes early, Podcasts whilst walking to work – but you need a plan.

Patience – you can’t learn a language I two months, but you can make a visible improvement in 2 months, and with that you will bring more little victories.

But some people just have the gene for learning languages, right? Lýdia doesn’t agree and give examples of those polyglots she met who weren’t natural languages learners. 

This video is full of ideas that language teachers can take and encourage their own students to implement when trying to learn a language.  

Lydia's TED Talk


7.    The neuroscience of juggling - Efrat Furst & Mickey Choma

Learning to juggle is like learning any new skill – it takes practise. As this talk explores it also requires time for rest, which allow the brain to recover and remember new information. 
“We need to rehearse in order to remember, or train in order to master a skill. But according to the spacing effect, a scientifically established principle, it is also important we establish time for breaks.” - Efrat Furst 
In this TED talk the speakers delve into how students improved at juggling and the importance of practise and breaks. Through analysing their own learning, students started to understand and take control over their own learning process. As such, there is inspiration for teachers on integrating breaks and engaging students with their own learning.

Efrat and Mickey's TED Talk


8.    Teachers need satisfactory feedback - Bill Gates

In addition to his work in tech and philanthropy, Bill Gates is passionate about the importance of education. Bill makes the argument that teachers need more and better feedback. Whilst the TED talk focuses on the US school system the sentiment is true for TEFL teachers too, that observations and feedback should be higher valued.

Bill's TED Talk


9.    Can you solve Einstein’s Riddle?

Do you need a good problem-solving communication activity for your classes? This riddle would suit anyone from confident pre-intermediates upwards and the only materials you need are the video. Can you catch the fish thief?

Einstein's Riddle