TED-ED could be the perfect platform to bridge the digital divide

By Alex More

Read time: 10 mins

Recent explorations with the online platform TED-ED seems to be making an impact and engaging students, or at least that’s what the research is suggesting …

I have been asked recently how I source engaging videos for students to view for flipped learning or research tasks. In my endless quest to help the students I teach become architects of their own learning, I have stumbled upon a fantastic place to create learning; TED-ED. Could this be very thing to combat the enemy of happiness: boredom?

So what is TED-ED?

Put simply, it’s an online platform for using videos to engage learners. After seeing an engaging 7-minute presentation from Joe B at a recent Teach Meet I was keen to explore TED-ED’s potential and have not been disappointed. Born from the mighty TED talks, TED-ED is an education initiative aimed at our youth, our digital natives. TEDEd’s mission is to spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world by offering short, award-winning animated videos about ideas that spark the curiosity of learners …

Sounds pretty cool … and it is!

I had been searching for a new way to share videos or podcasts to help implement the Flipped 101 model (Check out previous blog on Flipped Learning here). TED-ED seemed like the perfect fit. It’s so simple to use and students really like it.

I am half-way through a series of interviews to collect qualitative insights into what students like and dislike about flipped learning as part of my dissertation. One consistent that is emerging is how much students enjoy the TED-ED videos that I post for them to view. This is what they have said;

  • We like being able to pause and rewind our teacher. In the classroom, if we are absent or miss content we can’t pause time or the teacher but we can with the videos.
  • Access is 24/7, we can view the videos when we like. AUTONOMY 
  • Accessing the content ahead of time makes us more confident to answer questions in class because we already have a little insight.
  • The questions set relate to the content and the knowledge we need to pass the course. RELATEDNESS and COMPETENCE.

Those familiar with academic literature associated with MOTIVATION, specifically linked with learning will have seen Autonomy, Relatedness and Competence before. It seems that TED-ED is a catalyst for motivating our digital natives.

I wanted to create a quick how-to guide that teachers could try out in the hope that we get more people creating TED-EDs. It’s so quick, easy-to-use and effective. Give it a go!

Step 1 – Create a teacher account 

Just an email and password needs to be entered to get set up to gain access to the world of TED-ED. It’s free and TED-ED don’t bombard your email account with spam mail.

Step 2 – Check out the tutorial. 

This is a great place to start  familiarizing yourself with TED-ED and its most useful features. This tutorial How to use Ted-Ed to create a Flipped Classroom is great Check it here

Step 3 – Have a go at making your first TED-ED task. 

Just click the ‘Create a Lesson’ tab

Which will navigate you to this page where you can type in any topic, video to set for your TED-ED. For this example, I typed in MACBETH

Videos are presented in order of most views / hits

Select a video that you feel might engage your students. Remember, most students prefer to watch videos that are short and animated, so 3-5 mins the is ideal time.

Once you have selected your video watch it through (fast forward if you like) and make a note of what questions you might ask based on that video. If you are happy with the video, keep it, if not then select another.

Step 4 – Customise your lesson 

This is where I feel TED-ED really comes into its own when compared to other online education platforms.

In this window, you can change the video, crop the video and format the questions you want to ask. I have played around with a few variations and found the structure below to be the most useful in extracting knowledge, particularly in the Flipped 101 format;

Let’s Begin – provide a brief overview of why you want them to watch the video, what’s the aim and how does it relate to the topic / their learning. Relatedness – linked to topic and future learning 

Think – I tend to use this tab to create some ‘hook’ questions, simple quick responses to verify they have watched the video, such as; how long was the video? Who was the star character etc? This low access, high challenge approach

Dig Deeper – This is my favorite tab. It’s a great place to really explore the depth of knowledge and set a few exploratory questions. In the true essence of Flipped Learning, you could direct students to another source here (another video, a journal and website) to deepen understanding and challenge the most able. Competence – a chance to test knowledge. An example from Macbeth might be, an exam question relating to the specification (see below)

Discuss – This is where I encourage students to make their mind up about the video and the topic. A chance to balance views and form a conclusion ready to share in class. If they have made notes in class books ask them to show you or share key findings with the class.

And Finally … I tend to use this tab to create a message thanking them to viewing the video. I also offer a code here they can write down. Once they collect ten x codes/ coupons they get a prize. Students love this!

So, that’s it – simple. I thought it might be useful to quickly share a few other features TED-ED has.


When you create a lesson and publish it, it becomes live and accessible to all. The platform TED-ED uses to search videos is YouTube so worth checking that your schools filter allows YouTube. Remember, most students (97% in my experience) access TED-ED videos at home, mostly between 6 and 9 pm in the evening.

To access the lessons you have created, click the Lessons tab in the side bar

You will then be navigated through to a page showing all the Lessons / Videos you have created, which looks like this …

Other useful features 

The Discussions and Notifications tabs are useful in monitoring how students are interacting with your TED-EDs.

Discussions simply display what answers students might have entered and saved manually in TED-ED. I encourage students to make notes in their books so tend not to use this tab.

Notifications show you which students have either watched the videos or interacted with the videos. This is useful in identifying any students who have not done the task.

Sharing videos

Once you have finished editing your question/task boxes you can publish the video and send it to your students.

One last thought 

I tend to email the link to the videos 5 days in advance and set a specific lesson by which students have to have viewed the TED-ED. I then put the TED-ED up on the screen at the start of that lesson and use the questions as prompts to direct the learning. This is the Flipped 101 model. This can take between 10 and 20 minutes depending on the topic, class and quality of the resulting discussions.

Giving students Autonomy in terms of when, how and how many times they view the TED-EDs really seems to be impacting on learning in my GCSE lessons. Give it a spin and let us know what you think! 

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