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Wiley Enriches TED Studies for Instructional Use
Posted On November 29, 2012
TED is a fascinating organization, powered by the internet, of course, but it is completely human in its goals and creations. It relies basically on good minds, often prestigiously good, to come up with really good ideas for achieving really good advances for humankind. TED is Third Millennium Cool. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. has more than 2 centuries of experience in recording and distributing solid, high-quality scholarship. Wiley is Second Millennium Authoritative. Now they are banding together. TEDTalks consist of 18-minute video presentations of new, intriguing ideas. TED has grouped subsets of its TEDTalks into TED Studies for integration into curricular presentations. Wiley will be adding text material designed to enhance instructional use and written by highly qualified experts. And all this, including Wiley’s contributions, is still available free to anyone on the open web.

The acronym TED means Technology, Entertainment, and Design. The nonprofit group’s mission is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It holds two conferences each year, sponsors the TED Prize (going from $100,000 to $1 million next year), and numerous other intriguing programs and offerings. The TEDTalks are presented at the conferences. Past presenters have included Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Rodney Mullen, Bill Gates, educator Salman Khan, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners Support for TED comes primarily from the Sapling Foundation, a private nonprofit organization. It also draws on corporate support and its conference registration fees.

The new partnership with a very commercial publisher such as Wiley is not new for TED, according to Deron Triff, director of content distribution at TED. He estimated that TED had at least two dozen distributor partners and the “vast majority” were profit-making commercial sources. “We don’t distinguish between profit and non-profit. For example, Netflix is an important partner. Our purpose is for TED to reach out and spread ideas and we don’t need to monetize this development per se.” When it comes to the partnership with Wiley, Triff says, “Wiley has pedigree quality like TED. It has an amazing network of educator experts on topics. It’s a natural fit for us. We are leading on the technology and distribution fronts. Wiley leads in creating academic vigor and expertise for the packaging of our videos.”

TED began releasing its TEDTalks for free in June 2006 under a Creative Commons license. It has more than 1,000 available now and, as of mid-November this year, views had topped 1 billion worldwide. The TED Studies fall into 21 different subject disciplines, each carrying from six to 12 TEDTalks, selected for their value to classroom coursework. Now Wiley has commissioned instructor materials to accompany the TED Studies, though the contributors receive no monetary payment. Each set of Wiley contributions will include contextualizing essays, assignment questions and activities, key debates, experiments, and glossaries relating to the TEDTalks. Links to related content from Wiley and other publishers will be included. According to Vanessa Lafaye, Wiley’s online publisher for social sciences and humanities, the links will lead to both free and pay material, “but once users get to the linked content, there will always be a way to find out how to buy or how to get it if it is free.” Both Triff and Lafaye expect the material to have solid appeal to lifelong learners as well as in more formal learning environments.

The topics scheduled under each of the TED Studies interest areas are as follows (Note the topic first on the list. How TED-ian. ;-)

Psychology: Understanding Happiness

Design+Engineering: Ingenuity in the Developing World

Education: Creative Problem-Solving

Environmental Science: Climate Change

Statistics: Visualizing Data

Physics: The Edge of Knowledge

Medicine: Rethinking Cancer

Government & Politics: Cyber-Influence & Power

Visual Arts: Mastering Tech-Artistry

Urban Planning: Ecofying Cities

Evolution: Excavating Origins

Media & Journalism: Covering World News

Design Thinking: Reimagine the Designer

Religion: Understanding Islam

Applied Mathematics: Exploring the Geometry of Form

Sustainable Consumption: Reworking the Western Diet

Management: Leading Wisely

Neuroscience: Mapping and Manipulating the Brain

Computer Science: Exploring Robotics

Marine Biology: The Deep Ocean

Linguistics: Exploring the Evolution of Language

Two of the packages are already available—Psychology and Statistics—with two more scheduled for December—Religion and Government/Poetics—and then two each month until completed. Triff says, “Then we will keep it growing, adding supplements and refreshing the ones we have—if it works.” [For a look at a video description of the results of the Wiley/TED partnership, go to]

The new relationship also promotes expanded outlets for the TED Studies. Distribution sites include and, as well as iTunesU, an iPad app, the Samsung learning hub for Galaxy, and Netease, a Chinese site. Triff expects the Chinese version, which will be the only foreign language version for the new service, will release in a couple of weeks. 

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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