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Meet TED

Don’t tell my husband!

For quite some time now I’ve been getting away from the pressures of home and school and ordinary, inside-the-box thinking.  I’ve been visiting with TED

Having TED in my kitchen, after the dinner dishes are cleared, allows me to imagine I am channeling Gertrude Stein.  Like Gertrude, I can host great minds.  (Who cares that my kitchen salon in the Philly burbs is not exactly Paris?)

So who (really what) is TED?

TED began in 1984 as a conference to bring together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment, and design. The current annual TED conference gathers "the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)."

The website gathers TED’s greatest hits and includes nearly 150 video talks from the archive.  Every week TED adds new inspired talks by the "world’s greatest thinkers and doers."  TED pushes me outside my box and prods me to consider what is possible.  That 18-minute time limit is a perfect fit. And very often the speakers speak directly to the world of  information. 

What will you find of interest?  Just a couple of examples:

  • Erin McKean redefines the dictionary.  Lexicographers should not be traffic cops.  Lexicography is not rocket science. See why McKean describes our current paper dictionary as a "ham butt problem." If the ham is too big, we shouldn’t cut off the butt.  We should simply get a bigger pan. Why should all words not make it to the dictionary?  McKean says: "Paper is the enemy of words .  . . the book is not the best shape for the dictionary. . .  Artificial constraints lead to arbitrary distinctions and a skewed world view."  And how will we know that a word is real?  Referring to the Velveteen Rabbit, McKean suggests that if you love a word, that is good enough to make it real.
  • Blaise Aguera y Arcas, an architect at Microsoft Live Labs and creator of Seadragon technology presents and demonstates the Photosynth software  he co-created.  This demonstration is stunning!  Watch as Auera y Arcas assembles a patchwork of images of Notre Dame Cathedral, collected from  Flickr into "a synergy of zoomable, navigatable spaces," viewable "via multiple angles and magnifications, allowing us to look around corners or fly in for a (much) closer look." The software offers amazing new potential for the dissemination of text and busts wide open the limits of screen real estate.  These developments will change the way we experience (and study) online images, as well as how we might distribute newspapers and books.

What can we do with TED? TED videos are released under a Creative Commons license, and are meant to be freely shared and reposted.  They may be downloaded, tagged, emailed, embedded. 

As teachers, we can easily bring TED’s speakers into our classrooms for discussions related to curriculum.  High school librarians should share these with content area teachers  Public librarians can program their own salon with thinkers and discussions gathered around select  themes.   For further ideas, the website lists its own ten very cool things to do with TED.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. TED looks like the perfect date for an evening (or class period) of information and entertainment!

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