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TED-Ed: Lessons Worth Sharing

I’ve often debated friends regarding the objective value of the internet when by-and-large, it seems constructed as less a democratic tool of information sharing and more a slick method by which companies can sell us things (in the end it is what you make of it). But every now and then a new website pops up that thankfully runs completely counter to that cynical view.

With the release of “TED-Ed,” the TED organization, already a bastion for thought-provoking dialogue, continues to cement its position as one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and interesting organizations producing online content. In short, TED-Ed is a site which offers compact educational, animated video lessons on any topic you can imagine, all of which are provided by top-ranked educators from around the world. As an added bonus, these lessons are accompanied by quizzes and links to further information.

TED-Ed’s mission is to provide educators and students anywhere with quick-and-easy references that can be incorporated into their lesson plans or supplement learning. Though the project is still in its Beta stages, there are about 60 videos already up and there are plans to continue expanding the offerings as rapidly as the TED team can produce them. One of my favorites so far is a lesson exploring the question, “How many universes are there?” And one of my favorite things about the project is that you can nominate an educator, animator, or lesson plan to help improve the site!

I’ve watched a lot of online educational videos (my favorite site is Academic Earth, which offers a collection of free videos of university course programs), but TED-Ed’s mission seems limitless in its ambition and resonance. In a time when crushing education costs are limiting and hotly debated, free sites providing quality information to anyone are priceless. I have little doubt that this could be of great use to many new teachers, as well as those great ones who are always willing to expand their teaching resources.

UPDATE (5/2): In a completely serendipitous discovery, The New York Times is running an article identifying newly-announced FREE online course offerings from some of the most renowned U.S. universities, including MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and more. Excellent opportunities to expand your knowledge abound!

The New York Times, Tamar Lewin, “Harvard and MIT Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses”

Scientific American, Travis Riddle, “How Creativity Connects with Immorality”

It’s a cliche in movies and comic books: the idea that the evil genius perpetrating insidious violence or instilling fear is simply misunderstood. Well, in this article, Travis Riddle discusses the dark side of creativity, as explored by a recent Harvard research project, and sheds some light on the link between active imaginations and bad behavior. Researchers found that test subjects ‘primed’ for creativity were much more likely to commit immoral behavior and then explain it away with elaborate justifications.

Basically, the active, creative mind is predisposed to bending or breaking accepted rules, which results in certain individuals unconsciously enabling themselves to go beyond “normal” social and cultural boundaries. Because creativity is so highly prized, cultivated, and sought after, Riddle comes to the conclusion that the study’s findings are unfortunately reflected in some of the worst behaviors among top business men and many culture leaders.

So, maybe it really wasn’t Jack’s fault that he was susceptible to the evil of the Overlook Hotel; his creative mind was just too good at deceiving itself into justifying his bad behavior! (sarcasm)

Travis Riddle: “In five studies, the authors show that creative individuals are more likely to be dishonest, and that individuals induced to think creatively were more likely to be dishonest. Importantly, they showed that this effect is not explained by any tendency for creative people to be more intelligent, but rather that creativity leads people to more easily come up with justifications for their unscrupulous actions.”

Travis Riddle: “In the case of the heads of financial firms and their exploitation of mortgage-backed securities, the tendency to hire creative individuals and promote creativity within organizations may be good for business, even as it is remarkably bad for the rest of us.”