Dust off your brain with these 7 TEDx Talks for back to school

Photo: Lawrence Wang

Photo: Lawrence Wang

‘Tis the season of back to school. Whether you’re headed back to the classroom or just love to learn, satiate your curious brain with these seven TEDx Talks, covering some of the school-day basics — from science to art to social studies. You can watch all the talks here.

Period 1: Debate — What makes great speeches great?
Lesson number one: How to be a great public speaker. In this charming (and funny) talk at TEDxOhioStateUniversity, professional speechwriter Barbie Tootle explains the keys to creating a talk so good it feels like magic. Watch out for her Ke$ha reference:

Period 2: Language — How is hip-hop like Shakespeare?
Next, it’s time to gauge your language skills. In this talk at TEDxAdleburgh, rapper Akala explores the connections between Shakespeare and hip-hop, looking at the ways rappers and The Bard treat language. Test your Shakespeare / hip-hop knowledge with the pop quiz at the start:

Period 3: Civics — How to make public policy fun
Leading our civics lesson is wonkster Vass Bednar, who asks, “If public policy is essentially for the public, why can it seem so impenetrable?” In this impassioned talk at TEDxToronto, she explains how to put the public back into public policy, by taking a cue from hacker culture and allowing governmental systems to be open source — with apps, games, and lots of sharing:

Period 4: Music — Learning music via the Web
For music, we look to Usman Riaz — a classically trained musician (and TED Fellow) who is a whiz with a whole slew of instruments. In this fascinating talk at TEDxFoggyBottom, he shows how he went from very rigid classical practice to adopting more obscure ways to use instruments through YouTube-powered research. It’s worth a watch for his performances alone:

Period 5: Social studies — How Wikipedia is changing how we write history
Professor Andrew Lih takes on social studies in this talk from TEDxAmericanUniversity. Your teachers may not want you to use Wikipedia for your papers, but that doesn’t mean the story behind the online encyclopedia isn’t fascinating. In this talk, Lih explains how Wikipedia became our “continuous working draft of history”:

Period 6: Science — The basics of the universe
Time for science. In this talk at TEDxCERN, cosmologist Hiranya Peiris provides an abbreviated tour of the history of the universe. No big deal:

Period 7: Art — Why originality matters
And to end the day, art.
When art curator Lisa Freiman visited her first science fair as an adult, she realized that the hall was filled with projects lifted from the first few pages of search results for “science fair project” on Google. Dismayed by the lack of creativity, she delivers a passionate and amusing defense of art and imagination in this talk at TEDxRVA:

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