Product Review of TED
The TED app is a tool for browsing, downloading, and viewing TED talks, the acclaimed short videos (18 minutes or less) that feature thought leaders expounding on topics that include technology, entertainment, design, and other disciplines. Users can browse featured talks or talks based on a specific topic. The My Talks page lists talks that have been bookmarked and saved for offline listening or viewing. Saving for offline listening (rather than viewing) may be the best option in many cases, as saving just a few talks for viewing can quickly result in a massive chunk of stored data.
The Surprise Me feature offers an especially engaging way to explore the library. When users select Surprise Me at the bottom of the screen, they’re presented with two tasks. First, they have to complete the sentence, “You want to see something…” with one provocative adjective from a list that includes “Persuasive,” “Jaw-Dropping,” and “Ingenious.” Next, they’re asked, “How much time do you have?” and must select an interval from five to 60 minutes on a clock face. The app then offers a playlist that can be watched immediately or downloaded for later viewing. The up-down icon on the Featured Talks page allows users to sort talks (by “most recent” or “most popular”) or to filter talks by a few major topics (Technology, Entertainment, Design, Business, Science, and Global issues). In the All Talks section, users can browse all talks sorted by tags (like “Brain”, “Happiness”, and “Social Change”) or by language.
Teachers can use the TED app to allow learners to explore the TED library in a controlled setting. They could also encourage learners to view several TED talks with the same tagging, analyze what those talks have in common, and create similar talks. Teachers might also use the app for their own professional growth, browsing and bookmarking talks on topics that inspire and excite them.
The TED app has some nice features for discovering new talks and saving them for later viewing. One clearly missed opportunity in the app is its lack of integration with the main TED website. Each talk’s in-app homepage description concludes with the invitation, “To comment on this talk, visit TED.com.” This link takes the user to the talk’s page via an in-app browser, but the user then has to sign in or create an account to comment. It’s too bad the commenting feature isn’t built into the app, as these other gestures seem to interrupt an otherwise seamless searching and viewing process. While there’s great access to TED talks, users are only able to view and receive information, rather than recording or generating their own insights. In the context of so many talks about creation, discovery, and innovation, it would be useful if there were more ways to capture those insights other than through simple social media posts.
The app offers terrific access to the full library of TED talks, but some of its icons and display features can be confusing. The headphone icon at the top right of the page launches the audio of a TED talk automatically, but it’s not clear which TED talk will come next or why a certain one comes up. The Languages section on the All Talks page is similarly misleading. Each language is listed with a number following it, which seems to suggest there are that many talks available in each of those languages. Upon further exploration, it turns out that there are not actually 537 TED talks available in Albanian — instead, there are 537 TED talks that have subtitles and descriptive text in Albanian. Most of the TED talks are still in English. While the subtitles are a terrific feature, this sorting function isn’t especially helpful since it’s not possible to sort apps by tags or subjects after sorting by language on this page. There’s still a wealth of information to browse, but odd touches like this can be misleading about how extensive the library of talks really is.
Overall User Consensus About the App
The Surprise Me feature engages kids by providing an exciting way to discover new talks and provoke new insights.
Curriculum and Instruction
Built more for searching and viewing than for critical engagement; educators might wish for more opportunities for eliciting and recording student feedback and critical analysis.
App offers subtitle features in more than 50 languages and provides lots of ways to save talks for later viewing, listening.