TED as an Invention Tool: Students' Perspectives

Curator's Note

This post was co-authored by Ciara Elizabeth Morris and Jeanne Bohannon

New Media scholar Anne Wysocki challenges us as critical producers of digital literacies to use text objects and visual rhetorics as tools of invention, as we invite students to perform multimodal acts of composition across discursive spaces.

Sounds like a plan. However, plans, like theories, need a “doing” part, an outcome-based praxis to be vital components of learning.  This post describes the impetus for a project that “does” digital literacies, using TED and TED-Ed as tools to achieve meaning making in community learning spaces. 

TED, as vetted content, has increasingly become an option for instructors and students seeking visual representations of content or exemplars for achieving understandings of content.  As instructors practice teaching with TED Talks, we applaud ourselves for using multiple modalities.  But Ciara asked during one such class/TED session:  “what do students think about TED Talks as supplements or even as replacements for lecture?”  Her point is certainly one to consider and explore, because students’ voices count as partners in democratic learning with instructors.

As a soon-to-graduate technical communications student at Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU), Ciara suggested asking fellow students for their perspectives on TED Talks and lectures in academic courses.  She and fellow student Glendale Collins, crafted spontaneous “student on the street” dialogues around campus and then recorded opinions, in an effort to help Ciara understand how fellow SPSU students viewed TED Talks and their effective use in classrooms. This post’s accompanying video features snapshots of students’ arguments regarding TED Talks in academic environments. 

As organic processes like the one described here often grow, Ciara and Jeanne envisioned expanding Ciara’s spontaneous venture to a larger endeavor that could provide a service to communities outside University walls. A recurring theme of Ciara’s conversations with fellow students was the lack of TED content in certain disciplines.  After a quick search, Jeanne discovered that the study of rhetoric was one missing piece in the TED universe, and being a New Media Writing scholar, had to address that gap.  After some invention of their own, Jeanne and Ciara developed a project that would present two foundational concepts of rhetoric through the TED-Ed initiative.  They will to produce TED-Ed videos describing Aristotle’s Triad and the Rhetorical Canons, targeted to high school students and teachers.  This project is an opportunity to build digital literacies for new generations of digital natives.  Visit www.rhetoricmatters.org for updates.


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