How “Flip This Lesson” by TED Ed Could Help Teachers More

by Staff Writers

On March 15, 2012, in my post,TED Ed – Sharing the Spark of Curiosity, I examined the fledgling TED Ed site [] and associated videos and reached the conclusion that Ted Ed would not live up to its hype. I stated that, in order to truly be useful to educators, Ted Ed would need to incorporate a community-based model for helping teachers develop full lessons and share them with the world. This article prompted the following response from TED founder Chris Anderson:

Well, as promised in his reply, Anderson and TED Ed announced the beta version of Ted Ed and the "Flip This Lesson" functionality in late April. Here is a look at the beta version of the site to see if the updated concept comes closer to meeting the high standards I set for it as a meaningful platform for teachers to use in the classroom.

What You Get When You "Flip This Lesson"
Playing on the recent "Flipped Classroom" craze popularized by the Khan Academy, Anderson and the TED Ed team have stepped into the fray with a platform that allows educators to remix TED videos to supplement them with additional content. Here is what it looks like:

The new platform allows some nice enhancements of TED videos. In fact, it now seems quite a bit like the Khan Academy – which is not surprising since Salman Khan is listed as one of the contributors to the project. In addition to using the platform with any YouTube video, you can take an interactive quiz associated with the video, "Think" about the video, "Dig Deeper" into the content of the video, "…And Finally," leave your students with something to ponder. Here is a bit more about each new feature:

  • Open Content – The ability to plug any YouTube video into the "Flip This Lesson" platform is a really nice feature that allows teachers to develop flipped lessons around any video they might find on YouTube or to create their own that they can then use the platform to enhance. Though not yet available, this really is a fantastic feature and one that might help with ushering in the future of the flipped classroom.
  • Interactive Quizzes – This is a nice concept, but in my attempt to flip a lesson on my own I was limited to only the pre-determined questions that were set in advance. Perhaps this will change when the platform is finalized. It would have to if teachers are actually going to be allowed to upload their own videos or flip non-TED YouTube videos into lessons. According to the press release, there will also be a function which allows teachers to track student progress. If this proves to be similar to the robust tools in Khan Academy, it will be an excellent feature.
  • "Think" – This feature gives students the capability to share their thoughts about the content and was fully customizable when I tried to flip the lesson. This is a nice feature to allow for reflection on the content or to provide an opportunity for the teacher to prompt deeper thinking.
  • "Dig Deeper" – This is a catch-all category where the instructor can add enrichment links or activities. It is very open right now and might benefit from some more structure and a more robust interface beyond just adding text and links. What about assignments sheets and the possible need to print things out? Minor tweaks, but important.
  • "…And Finally" – This is just a blank space for instructor thoughts or ideas to ponder. This space seems superfluous as it can easily be incorporated into the "Dig Deeper" section. It also only allows for 150 characters, so it might as well contain a social media plug-in that allows for an actual Twitter conversation.

Checking My List of TED Ed Suggestions
In my original article on TED Ed I suggested five features that I would like to see in the final version of the platform. Here's how the beta version of Ted Ed stacks up to my ideal model.

  • Linked resources – TED Ed beta meets this criterion to a limited extent through the "Think" section which allows teachers some flexibility in including additional resources for student enrichment. But there is no area in which resources can be shared to help other teachers implement these flipped lessons with their own students.
  • Social collaboration for lesson development – This is a feature that is not present, but one which would be extremely useful for teachers. There is no reason that a single teacher needs to be solely responsible for flipping a lesson when they could be supported in collaborating with their colleagues to make the entire process less of a burden.
  • Associated discussions of lessons – Currently there is no dedicated space for teachers or students to discuss the lessons or post questions that they might have.
  • Curation /sharing of lessons – This is where the model seems like it is going to work, but falls short. It appears that every lesson that gets flipped could be shared publically by clicking on "Flips," but this is not the case. Right now only the pre-made content is shared publically and teachers can flip that content, but they cannot view the efforts of their colleagues. This limitation isolates teachers when the platform could be used to bring them together.
  • Full lessons available – Each of the flipped lessons that I looked at was a stand-alone mini lesson and none contained support to help teachers integrate the TED Ed content into a larger lesson or unit. While these are very interesting videos, it would help teachers much more to have guidance on how they can be used in the broader classroom context and how they tie in to state and national education standards.

Overall, what the platform lacks is a "behind the scenes" area where teachers can collaborate on their flipped lessons. The beta version of TED Ed seems to be aiming to create publicly viewable, finished products rather than serving as a platform for teacher collaboration and innovation. In a recent poll of teachers by Scholastic and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Primary Sources: 2012), teachers stated that one of the things they most wanted in education was more time for collaboration. TED Ed is a perfect vehicle for meeting that need virtually, which would allow for teachers to collaborate with other educators around the world.

So Chris, I'm sorry to say that so far, TED Ed is not living up to my hopes for it, but I'm sure you'll get there – TED is, after all, all about innovation.