Tech Talk: Who is TED and What's He Talking About?


tech talk redesignDid you resolve to learn something new this year? Sharpen skills that you fear have been beaten into mush by answering a succession of “why” questions and explaining why the dog does not enjoy being ridden like a horse? Are you already so exhausted that you wonder what made you think you’d ever have the energy to research that resolution, let alone complete it?

Or, are you on the other end of the mom spectrum — enjoying grown children and grandchildren, and wondering how to challenge yourself with new ideas and new topics, but not quite sure what those would be, let alone how to do it?

Fear not. A simple solution is as close as your Internet connection. And, no, you don’t need a lot of technological expertise to take advantage of it. This resource offers presentations from scientists, writers, researchers, actors, public figures and more. You can enjoy these talks from the comfort of your own home — in your pajamas, if you wish — at any time of day or night, on a topic of your choosing.

I’m talking about TED Talks.

If you haven’t listened to a TED Talk, you truly don’t know what you’re missing. I first heard about TED Talks through a (very smart) high school friend I’d reconnected with on Facebook, and when I started teaching undergraduates, I got hooked. I assign at least four of these a semester (across two or three classes) — sometimes more — and have been known to spend hours watching them, even while on vacation. Some of the talks I assign are TED Talks, while others are TED Ed Lessons, designed for learners from elementary school on up.

TED Talks cover an enormous number of topics, and range in length. Some are as short as five minutes long, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that’s more than 35 minutes long. (TEDx Talks must come in under eighteen minutes).

Unlike live presentations, TED Talks allow you to sample. Talk sounded interesting, but didn’t end up being what you expected? No problem. Switch to another one. Not only will the presenter not be offended, he (or she) won’t even know.

How can you find out about these talks? Clicking on any of the links above will take you to the “About” page for this particular kind of talk. From there, you can access talks by topic or by playlist, or subscribe to get weekly updates in your inbox. NPR’s TED Radio Hour does this, too, sampling several talks over the space of an hour, and interspersing interviews with the speakers as well. Don’t have time to listen to the radio for one uninterrupted hour? Go to the TED Radio Hour site for a recap and links to the talks that were featured.

Already a TED Talk fan? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2016 Lisa Hess


About Author

Lisa Lawmaster Hess has contributed articles to local, national and online publications, and blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles, The Susquehanna Writers and here at She is the author of two non-fiction books (Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce) and two novels, Casting the First Stone and Chasing a Second Chance. A retired elementary school counselor, Lisa is a lecturer in psychology at York College and enjoys singing with the contemporary choir at her church.

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