The TED annual conferences began in 1990 with a focus on technology. But it gradually broadened its scope to become a venue for the presentation of new ideas in virtually every field of creative endeavour. In June 2006, the talks (each always limited to about 20 minutes or less) were made available on the Internet at TED.com. They immediately became extremely popular and the audience has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate. It seems there really is an audience for ideas presented concisely and dramatically! By 2009 these talks had been viewed 50 million times, and by June 2011 it was up to 500 million. There are currently 900 TED talks available online. The TED concept caught on, so they started the TEDx series, which are independently organized, curated, and sponsored TED events that follow the format of the regular TED lectures.
TED-ED LAUNCHES ON YOUTUBE
Many educators use the TED lectures as supplementary AV material in their courses, so now refining (and shortening) the format to create free pedagogical tools is the latest elaboration of the TED concept.
BEHIND THE TED TALK
Having had the nerve-wracking honour of giving a Nipissing University sponsored TEDx talk recently, I can’t begin to imagine the stress of having to present in front of a potential audience of millions. Many TED presenters are more accustomed to wrestling with ideas alone or with colleagues than with playing the role of media ‘personalities’
HOW TED MAKES IDEAS SMALLER
It has to be said that TED is not without critics. It has been accused of dumbing down complex ideas to what can be stuffed into 18 minutes, and of shifting the focus from the ideas to presentation skills. One significant criticism is that the talks are actually too entertaining, and are often judged on that criterion rather than the value of the ideas. Here is one somewhat sceptical and considered opinion.