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Teach with TED

September 15, 2010

Why is TED so powerful? In a talk at TED about TED, the conference’s curator Chris Anderson identifies the global phenomenon at the heart of TED’s success: Crowd Accellerated Innovation – a self-fueling cycle of learning that sparks innovation through the additive potential of a crowd, light – or an open-source mentality – and desire. This generation’s Crowd Accellerated Innovation is progressing at a pace and breadth far greater than ever before. The reason is the rise of online video, a tool more significant than an image or the written word because it directly resonates with innate human psychology. We are wired to communicate face-to-face. Reading and writing are both fairly modern inventions when traced on our historical timeline. Through non-verbal cues, spoken information has a greater potential than text to be emotional, memorable, and inspirational. And with video, people can seamlessly emulate their peers, and thereby equip themselves with the tools to innovate.

So video is the perfect medium to propel Crowd Accellerated Innovation forward. It draws together a group of people online, with platforms like YouTube enables openness, and with the magic of non-verbal cues infuses desire. TED is at the pinnacle of this phenomenon. Just the numbers alone are enough to prove the point: as of July there were 727 talks online – the first were released in 2006. In January 2009 they had been viewed 50 million times; now, more than 290 million people have watched TED online. As a Guardian article put it “TED has gone viral. Ideas have become the new rock’n’roll”.

TED also proves the power of optimism as a motivational drive. All speakers share an infectious enthusiasm in their work and the belief in its potential to change the world. Together with a level of knowledge both accessible and intellectually stimulating, it empowers and spreads optimism. Beyond harnessing video as a tool to spread information, TED’s success is due to these qualities. In gaming developers cite that gamers spend countless hours on games because it gives them a sense of empowerment and optimism in solving problems. Set in the context of a political climate where most news is bleak, this is especially enticing. TED talks inspire with exactly this same dynamic. The fact that Generation Y already shares TED’s values – with a parallel desire for transparency, entrepreneurial curiosity, and thirst for immediate knowledge – shows how platforms like TED and the technology behind it shape new human expectations, and in turn propel forward their own growth.

After all this, what can the rest of the world learn from TED? How can educational establishments, corporations, and governments be more open, create more desire for their message, gather a crowd, and give a greater sense of empowerment and optimism? A plethora of intitiatives already exist, many of them showcased on TED, but there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

To wrap up, here’s just one example in education that embodies the potential of Crowd Accellerated Innovation and hints at a future where all of its factors are embraced:

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