ToolZeit – 5 TEDTalk Playlists for Educator’s Summer Professional Development


Summer vacation has already begun for many educators in the United States. For some of us we have a few more weeks of school left. Summer is a time when many educators relax and recharge and allow themselves to learn something new. As life-long learners we sometimes look at increasing our knowledge and experience specifically in what we teach or it can be taking on the challenge of learning something new outside of normal, everyday comfort zone. In any event, learning is what we do.

One of the tools teachers might consider to spur their teaching and learning is TEDTalks. TEDTalks are presentations given around the world at TED events by leaders, artists, scientists, and more including educators. The talks can teach, inspire and spread ideas. They can make you laugh, cry, and totally change the way you think about the world we live in.

What makes these great for teacher learning is the talks last from a few minutes to 20 minutes. They are available in so many different ways that it is hard to find an excuse that you wouldn’t be able to watch them. You can watch them on the web at and Youtube. You can get the TED app on practically every mobile device and also subscribe using any podcast app too. TEDTalks are also available on your TV using a web-enabled TV, GoogleTV, AppleTV, and Roku box using Netflix, Youtube app or even the TEDTalk channel that some of those devices provide.

Common Features

Each of the playlists we have selected contain TEDTalks that range from a few minutes to 20 minutes.

TEDTalks are translated into many languages.

The playlists may not necessarily be education focused, but may be inspiring and amazing so that you can bring that amazement back to your students.

We did not include any playlist that has Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about schools killing creativity primarily because you have probably already seen it since it is one of the most viewed and shared TEDTalks out there.

We attempted to select playlists that were unique in the talks they included. We failed. There may be some overlap.


Words, words, words (10 talks)

Ken Robinson: 10 talks on education

Where do ideas come from? (5 talks)

For kids (10 talks)

Ben Affleck: 8 talks that amazed me


“As Wittgenstein famously wrote, “The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” Watch talks by linguists, data analysts and word nerds who explore the all-encompassing power of language.”

If you think kids aren’t learning proper writing your skills because of texting, you’re thinking about it incorrectly. Pay attention to “John McWhorter: Txtng is killing language. JK!!!” in this playlist about language and words.

This list was handpicked by Sir Ken Robinson. It includes other people talking about the big ideas on how to change education. Highlights include:

Arvind Gupta: Turning trash into toys for learning

Kakenya Ntaiya: A girl who demanded school

Mae Jemison on teaching arts and sciences together

“How does the metaphorical light bulb go off? Is it a flash of genius? The power of crowds? These heady talks explore the nature of ideas themselves: Where they come from, how they evolve, and how each of us can nurture them.”

Highlights include:

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your elusive creative genius

Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex

“Fun, informative talks for curious kids.”

Highlights include:

Arthur Benjamin does “Mathemagic”

The LXD: In the Internet age, dance evolves …

Beau Lotto + Amy O’Toole: Science is for everyone, kids included

This curated list is by Ben Affleck. What amazed him will probably amaze you and get you thinking differently.

Highlights include:

Benjamin Zander: The transformative power of classical music

Hans Rosling: Let my dataset change your mindset (especially if your school using data to inform decisions)

Rives: The 4 a.m. mystery


Words, words, words  (10 talks)

Ken Robinson: 10 talks on education

Where do ideas come from? (5 talks)

For kids (10 talks)

Ben Affleck: 8 talks that amazed me

And because it was just too hard to limit it to 5, here are some more to check out.

Did you know? (7 talks)

Our brains: predictably irrational (11 talks)

How does my brain work? (8 talks)

Do you have a favorite TEDTalk that isn’t Ken Robinson’s Schools Kill Creativity? Let us know in the comments.

We’re Renee and Fred for ToolZeit on the EdReach Network. We bring you a new educator tool every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tools and apps may be for teacher use, student use or even tools you can use in your personal life. Checkout more great shows and blogs at

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ToolZeit – Update – 5 Dice: Order of Operations Game

We reviewed 5 Dice: Order of Operations Game a few months ago .

The developer contacted us to let us know that this edu app for the math classroom has received a pretty sweet update. Students can now play collaboratively or head to head using bluetooth. Some schools will find the use of bluetooth a great choice since their school district may block devices connecting to each other through the wireless network due to security concerns. Using bluetooth allows the connectivity to happen just with devices within a short range.

Here is the developer’s announcement:

UPDATE New Feature!!!. This hands-on game will now offer Bluetooth capabilities which will allow two players to compete against each other in the same room on separate devices. The new feature will help parents, teachers, and students play competitive or cooperatively with each other using the iPhone, iPad or iTouch.

Besides that big update they also changed the following recently:

★ Removed optional parent/teacher email signup on startup.
★ Added correct answer page if student is unable to figure it out.
★ and a few more small improvements based on user comments.

It’s still FREE so if you haven’t already tried this middle school math app then see our previous post about it to find the download link. If you have downloaded it then make sure you get the update.

ToolZeit – Bitsboard Updated

We reviewed Bitsboard in the past . They released a major update recently and this app just keeps getting better and better.

Features to look for in the update to version 5.0 include:

  • Tracking user progress
  • New Pop Quiz mode

Image of Bitsboard progress tracking

If you haven’t downloaded Bitsboard yet for your classroom, download it today.

If you have downloaded it, make sure you update your apps to see the improvements.


We’d love to see the ability to add different users without an email address. What would you like to see next in Bitsboard?

If a war is fought at the back of a textbook- did it ever really happen?

Korean War Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.

If a war is fought at the back of a textbook and a class never makes it to that chapter, was it ever really fought? Now that is a deep philosophical idea to ponder as we look at the far too common use of textbooks.

I think back to my high school history classes in the late 1980’s and how we followed textbooks chapter by chapter in Arizona History, World History, and U.S. History. It seemed like we started with the ancient crossing of the ice bridge from Siberia and plodded along from there and by June we were just getting to the 1940’s and touched just briefly on World War II. Forget about learning anything about Korea or Vietnam. Those were way too deep into the book. I also think now about how events that unfolded during World War II had such a relative impact on life in the late 1980’s. Had we known more about the big split between the West and the Soviets, we would have understood the Cold War better and then the fall of Communism that unfolded nightly on the news just before we graduated.

Hopefully, the way we approach History instruction has changed significantly in the last twenty years. If teachers are still plodding through textbooks and determining how far in History they make it according to how many chapters they cover, then some serious disruption needs to occur.

Disruption? It sounds messy, doesn’t it? It usually is. It sounds like it can get ugly. It can, but it doesn’t have to and it really shouldn’t.

When I was asked to join the new “Disruptors” channel, I had to do a little pondering if I wanted to get involved with something so “disruptive.” As a student I was absolutely the “anti-disruptor.”  My parents were both teachers. At times my dad was my teacher. They knew all of my other teachers. I heard about disruptive students every night…if you know what I mean. Even if both parents were architects or doctors, it just would not have been in my nature to “disrupt.” I also attribute a lot of my academic success to not disrupting. I got along well with my teachers. They liked me. It was easy to know what I needed to do to get solid grades. I wish now I had been more into just learning than getting good grades.

Things have really changed for me now eighteen years later as an educator. I am definitely a disruptor now, but I still crave a cohesive, collaborative environment that my non-disruptive student side of me needed back in the day. I still don’t like a lof conflict and luckily I have discovered I can disrupt quietly. I disrupt a little at a time and the disruptions are really solutions to problems that for whatever reason have woven themselves into the fabric of education. I work to disrupt by making life better for people not by blowing up stuff.

Teaching solely from a textbook is one of those problems and the problem goes deeper than not making it to the end of the book. Textbooks are just one tool to meet the individual needs of a wide range of students. For strong readers who like everything laid out in a linear structure, it is great. For the struggling reader it is a nightmare. Some schools and teachers still insist though on using this one method.

Here are a number of free online resources that I have utilized as my tools of disrupting the textbook-only approach. Sometimes a student needs to see information presented a little differently for it to stick. There are lots of ways to make it stick. The key though is in the blend of options and no matter how great any of these resources may be they are simply parts of a puzzle. It would be just as wrong to teach solely from something like Khan Academy or Flexbooks as it is just a textbook.


Digital Text – Tutorials

Lesson Plan Sites

Real Courses to Use

When you can disrupt by giving colleagues lots of tools or by giving students lots of tools to meet different needs we can break free of instruction dictated by a textbook. We can cover more content. We might even make it the wars fought at the back of the book.

To quote Josh Stumpenhorst from his “Let’s Disrupt Education” post that kicked off this new EdReach channel, “What rocks the education process? What shakes up the education system? Let’s do more than discuss- let’s #DisruptEdu.” I am looking forward to hearing your responses.