TED Talks For Kids

The ever-expanding lecture series TED enters the classroom with a new initiative, TED Ed.

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James Duncan Davidson / TED

Logan Smalley at TED2011, in Long Beach, California.

Over the years, Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, Dave Eggers and other big names have given TED talks on the subject of education. Now, in addition to spreading big ideas about how to improve education and learning, TED is going to be doing a little teaching of its own.

On March 12, the latest iteration of the popular and seemingly ever-expanding conference series will launch TED Ed, a series on online, educational videos. Perhaps taking their cue from the offerings from Khan Academy, TED Ed videos will also be free. “TED content is often used in classrooms and loved by students and teachers, but the main feedback we’ve gotten over the years is that the talks can be a little long (for students),” said Logan Smalley, who helped start TED Ed.

(MORE: Salman Khan: The New Andrew Carnegie?)

To that end, TED Ed will provide hand-picked lessons on a variety of topics—in 10 minutes or less. The videos will be animated and geared for younger ears, as opposed to the traditional TED style, where speakers don headset microphones and stand on stage, usually wearing all black.

At its launch, the YouTube channel will feature a set of videos TED Ed has already produced in this style, but the real hope behind the initiative, Smalley said, is to get teachers to submit lesson plans, which the TED Ed team will then sort through for the best ideas and turn them into videos. The teacher will then be sent a kit to capture high-quality audio.

The audio will be used by either an in-house animator at TED or another animator somewhere in the world who will illustrate the video in a way that is not purely superficial, but designed to add clarity and deepen understanding to the subject matter. The idea is to eventually build out the lessons into series, such as “playing with language,” “math in real life,” “what they don’t teach you in school” and “how things work.”

But that’s not to say TED Ed will be teaching kids how to do math. Rather than the how, TED Ed talks will focus on the why, Smalley said. “We’re not so much trying to communicate to students how to solve the pythagorean theorem, but rather why it’s important in the first place,” he said.