You’d have to look to the cosmos to find a metaphor for the seemingly unending amount of available information these days. Links, essays, videos, etc. stretched out like stars in the infinite space we call the web. In short, it’s overwhelming. With this wealth of knowledge comes uncertainty. It doesn’t take much searching to find the world is constantly jeopardized by problems; problems on a macro, micro, internal, external, you name it scale. So, how do we find motivation? How do we stay optimistic when it’s so easy to be scared?
What it comes down to, in my opinion, is inspiration. Equally infinite as information, inspiration can come from nearly anywhere. Music, movies, paintings, nature, teachers, tutors, even something as simple as a good laugh. The question I want to ask here is, how do we use the internet for inspiration?
1,600+ talks to stir your curiosity
TED works as a platform for the greatest thinkers our world has to offer to describe, both poetically and scientifically, what excites them. A teacher’s dream come true; TED educates, illuminates, and most important of all, motivates. Suddenly, students are even sharing their favorite TED videos on Facebook. Further, the expansive amount of topics the talks cover allows for nearly anyone to find a video that excites their curiosity.
To better understand the inspirational qualities of TED talks, allow me to give an example. It was the fall semester of my junior year in college. To fulfill my obligatory ‘Integrative Studies in Social Sciences’ credits, I enrolled in a ‘People and Environment’ course. The professor was an immensely curious, vehement speaker. His southern charm clashed with what he called our, “reserved Mid-West sensibilities.” What amazed me most about him, was his ability to remain so incredibly optimistic despite his vast knowledge of the world’s problems.
Every class we learned the painful realities our world faces in context to our destruction of the planet. Each new area of the world we explored, came with its seemingly never ending list of problems. To be honest, I was terrified. So how come this educator, who knew, in even greater detail, the perils of the planet, seemed so excited and content? The answer, to put it frankly, was his ability to turn inspiration into motivation.
He ended his classes on a positive note, and nearly always, with a TED video. For instance, one day we learned all about Brazil’s infrastructure problems, and how a country that large could potentially have a carbon footprint the size of Paul Bunyan’s boot if everyone started to drive. The hour long class was enough to fill me with anxieties of Brazil’s, and the world’s, future, but the final eighteen minute TED talk was more than enough to ease the worries. The speaker, a Brazilian city planner, used blueprints, paintings, and words to reveal his home wasn’t doomed to poor planing. In fact, Brazil was in a unique position to learn from other countries’ mistakes, and pioneer an environmentally friendly public transportation network.
Did the speaker explain everything? Of course not. Due to time limitations, he had no choice but to gloss it up a bit. The point still got across, and a classroom of once anxious students turned into curious optimists. When I got back to my apartment, I researched everything I could about city-planning, green-public transportation, and Brazil. These were topics I’d never be curious about on my own. And there lies the beauty of platforms such as TED. On their own, they fall short of fully educating. In fact, recent articles have been slamming the site for its sometimes fluffy content. Isn’t that a positive consequence? The most beautiful thing a student can do as a result of a TED talk is question it. In addition, there are many other websites – for example, Edge.org – that talk about these hypothesis and theories in much more detail. It’s a great jumping-off point for tutors and educators to get a student curious.
That being said, TED talks, and similar educational venues, do not replace educators, but, in fact, complement them – that is, if the educator doesn’t rely on the videos to teach the class for them. So, I leave it to you. What are your opinions on TED and other such website? Do you think they dumb-down highbrow topics, or inspire viewers to explore further on their own? What would you give a TED talk about?
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