TED.com for Academic Listening and other Academic Uses

I discovered TED.com from a student who walked into my classroom one day and asked me whether we could watch a 20 minute video in English related to the unit we were studying on technology at the end of the lesson.  I am so pleased I said yes as the wealth of content on TED.com and the amount of further videos I have used in my lessons since that moment have been priceless.  Infact, as an aside I started watching the TEDtalks for my own interest and joined the TEDcommunity.  But back to Academic listening and TEDtalks.


TEDtalks are a maximum of 18 minute lecture style listenings which make them perfect for the EAP setting.  Despite TED originally standing for Technology, Entertainment and Design, they now cover almost every topic imaginable by an impressive array of speakers.  They come with English subtitles or no subtitles options as well as other language subtitle options.  They have an interactive tape transcript that learners can refer to while listening or post listening, or that you can refer to create class study content.


Examples of use in the learning environment:

Video 1: Technology: Guided Notetaking:

Video 2: Post Reading Extension for discussion on uses of the Internet:  A choir as big as the Internet

Video 3: Lecture Note-Takeing: Svante Paabo: DNA Clues to our inner neanderthal

Video 4: Identification of argument by the presenter:

Video 5:  Vocab recognition for brain unit:Jill Bolte Taylor\’s Powerful Stroke of Insight


Post watching ideas:


1-there are comments posted under each video which learners can read and these can act as a springboard for classroom discussion/debate.

2-Also the videos can be used as a great resource for presentation skills and delivery.

3-Response writing and discussion.  These videos usually create a response.


The ideas mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg.  You can use them for lead-ins, follow ups, reviews, fillers, fluency listenings.  They are a very versitile and engaging resource.


A Bonus: TEDconversations


Another great feature of the site is TEDconversations which is free for anyone to join.  You can find me there.  Members can post academic style questions and the exciting part is that people actually respond and discuss.  For learners this can encourage them to engage actively in an authentic way in English.  If they are not ready to post their own question, they could post a response to someone elses.  This, however, needs preparation in the classroom and they often ask for help to edit their work before they post, which actually brings some authenticity into the drafting, writing, editing and publishing cycle that is often missing when writing only remains bewteen the learner and the teacher.



  1. seburnt says:

    I do love TED as a resource for listening material because they are authentic and spoken at a generally natural pace. I discovered it about this time last year and integrated many of them into our EAP classes. We used a bunch for listening quizzes as well, but I have to admit that searching for the right one in terms of content and organisation was quite the task.

    • seburnt says:

      Fortunately for students, unfortunately for us, our students soon became aware of this resource too and ended up preempting our use of them in quizzes.

      • seburnt says:

        Btw, AWESOME link to TED conversations! I hadn’t seen that part before. So useful consider the type of person who is bound to discuss matters there (vs those that would feel more comfortable at Perez Hilton).

        And ooops, I should have kept this as one comment. ;)

        • Sharon says:

          Hey Tyson searching content can be tricky but Ted actally have a weekly bulletin so you can see what is coming out new each week so you can keep on top of any new resource. They are also looking into its use in Education through a project called the brain trust as more and more educators are using it. TED conversations is quite new, you can post a question, an idea or join a debate. Definately a different type of discussion to Perez Hilton.)) There is also one more thing which is way beyond the classroom but gives your learners a whole authentic experience of organizing and interacting in English and that is TEDx. This is organizing a TED style event. I am currently in the middle of co-organizing one with one of my Freshman students. You can find info on TEDx here: http://www.ted.com/pages/about_tedx

  2. Alex says:

    TED is the best resource of such kind I’ve ever seen. I’ve incredibly evolved my listening skills with it’s matherials. Now I can understand up to 70-80% of almost any talk or discussion of native americans. I can listen to american radio, for example, without any problems in understanding. I’m a native russian, by the way.

    • Sharon says:

      Thank you Alex for stopping by.) It is encouraging to hear your story. I am just curious to gain understanding from the point of view of someone who used it to evolve listening as I am working on this area with learners for self-study:

      1-What kind of things did you do or watch when you were on TED?

      2-How long did it take the evolution to take place for you?

      3-Just because I love TED.) What’s your favourite TED video?

      Thanks again Alex.)


  3. […] you may know from previous posts I have written about TED.com for listening and TED conversations.  Today I want to tell you about another initiative that can give your learners some real world […]

  4. […] Video 5: Vocab recognition for brain unit: Jill Bolte Taylor’s Powerful Stroke of Insight Post watching ideas: Video 4: Identification of argument by the presenter: » TED.com for Academic Listening and other Academic Uses sharonzspace […]

  5. I also love the TED Talks stuff. However, I fond a lot of it is unsuitable for use in class because they are often too long. I have tried to use segemnts, but a good talk usually has a narrative to it, so this seems like a waste.

    I have asked students to use them at home, and pointed out how to use the interactive subtitles. Those who are most motivated have responded well.

    I have prepared one TED class on ‘Secrets of Success’ which is available here; http://bit.ly/GDhUx7 Sorry for a bit of seld-publicising but it is on topic.

    I like your ideas for post-watching activities.

    • Sharon says:

      Dear Stephen,

      I am so sorry. I missed your comment!!!!! It can be difficult sometimes in class depending on the level. I often use TEDTalks as fluency practice as well. You would be amazed how many of them cover the academic vocabulary that learners need. I ask them to listen in class without subtitles and try to find the main skeleton of the talk/main points of the talk and then reconstruct it in groups. I also ask them to write/record through video software a response or a reflection on the talk. Often I have found that they don’t listen without subtitles at home, so I have found 20 minutes of fluency to be beneficial. Also TED is starting a new idea called TEDED where the concepts will be animated. This looks an exciting prospect.))

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