A recipe for innovative TEDx events — from TED-Ed Innovative Educators


A look at the 2015 TED-Ed Innovative Educators (Photo: TED-Ed)

The TED-Ed Innovative Educator program is designed to identify, encourage and support outstanding educators from around the globe — those intrepid trailblazers dedicated to empowering students through big ideas. Earlier this year, 28 outstanding educators from 11 countries were selected for the first class of Innovative Educators.

Many TED-Ed Innovative Educators are TEDx organizers as well — and after months of training with TED-Ed, these TEDx’ers have great insights on how to engage young people with powerful ideas at TEDxYouth events. At TEDYouth in New York, we asked for their tips. For inspiration while planning your next TEDx event, read their advice below.

TED-Ed Innovative Educators at TEDYouth 2015 (Photo: @WillGourley)

TED-Ed Innovative Educators at TEDYouth 2015 (Photo: @WillGourley)


What have you learned as a TED-Ed Innovative Educator that you can apply to organizing a TEDx event?

  • Jimmy Juliano, TEDxLakeForestHighSchool, Lake Forest, IL, United States: It’s mainly about mindset. Mick Ebeling said something in his TEDYouth 2015 talk that really hit home: “Commit. Then figure it out.” It’s really quite true. It’s all right to make mistakes and dive into a project without knowing exactly what will happen — that really is the spirit of innovation, and it’s what happens the first time you plan a TEDx event. Also, I’m always searching for new ideas. For example, I’m in love with [TED-Ed Director] Logan Smalley’s “Call Me Ishmael” phone. How cool is that thing? It’s inspired me to continue working with the students and my team to come up with new, novel or wacky ways to involve attendees and spread ideas that matter.
  • Dylan Ferniany, TEDxBirmingham, Birmingham, AL, United States: Attending TEDYouth inspired me to be very creative to make the experience magical for kids. Our workshop with TED-Ed’s animators, and then seeing the large-scale animation at the TEDYouth event, inspired me to incorporate animation into TEDxYouth events in our area, and to equip our TED-Ed Clubs with tools for students to animate their talks. If it was that much fun for adults, I know the kids would love it.
  • David Miyashiro, TEDxKids@ElCajon, El Cajon, CA, United States: The collaboration time and dialogue with the other TIEs (TED-Ed Innovative Educators) was helpful. Learning about how the other organizers set up their clubs and organize their local TEDxs gave me lots of ideas I could apply to my own. Being connected to TEDx organizers that produce kid-focused events provides a very specific network of folks to collaborate with and draw ideas from.
  • Karen Goepen-Wee, TEDxRundleAcademy, Calgary, Canada: I think the most important thing I have learned is two-fold: 1. You have to dream big. Even if your event, just like your project, is small in scope, the impact that it has should be designed as if you had 1000′s of people in attendance. 2. Your ideas are better after you throw them out to your team and get feedback. This act of asking for help is vital.
  • Nola-rae Cronan, TEDxCranbrookSchoolsWomen, Bloomfield Hills, MI, United States: Participating in the TIE program has encouraged me to create more relationships and take risks. As a TEDx organizer, you have to do the same.
  • Josefino Rivera, TEDxAsociaciónEscuelasLincoln, Buenos Aires, Argentina: As a TED-Ed Innovative Educator, we go through an exciting 2 month professional development training consisting of individual Explorations and virtual Discussions using the TED-Ed Platform. One of the lesson themes is “Amplify and Share” where we discuss strategies to amplify the lessons we create through supporting each other. This same concept of building a support network is key in organizing a TEDx event. At Asociación Escuelas Lincoln, an American International School in Buenos Aires, I sent a message to my colleagues for support, and was able to unite staff from all over the school with our TEDx event.


What advice would you give to budding TEDx organizers who want to start a TEDxYouth event?

  • Juliano: Find a dedicated team of students and teachers, and really just dive in. You might not know what the final product will look like at the end, but just go for it. Coach up the student speakers, get the community involved, and give it a go. Oh, and make sure to find a TED red circular rug. Seriously, it’s the centerpiece of stage design! If you have awesome student speakers on a red rug, your event is a smashing success.
  • Ferniany: I would suggest that they check out TED-Ed Clubs if they haven’t already because it is a great way to get started with students and preparing them to give talks. If that goes well, apply for the license and start a TEDxYouth event. I would also recommend that you find some buddies to do it with you!
  • Miyashiro: Get to know other TEDx organizers and take a team to experience a TEDx event as an attendee. Also, don’t let perfect be the enemy of your TEDx event. There will be mistakes and not everything will be perfect the first time. But trust the mission and involve passionate people and the outcome will be worth it. Then iterate and get better each time!
  • Goepen-Wee: Make sure that you include students’ voices in your planning. As adults, help students bring their ideas to light, by mentoring and teaching them the skills they need in order to plan such an event. Also, a youth event needs to include movement, hand-on activities, demos and lots of opportunities for kids to use their social media savvy. Also, believe it or not, the food needs to be kid-centric. As well, shorter talks given by a mixture of adults and kids is really great. I feel that a solid core of adult organizers working hand in hand with kids results in a very need synergy. The adults regain some youthfulness, and the students learn so many relevant life skills.
  • Cronan: Trust the students! Trust your students to take a major role in your event. The event can act, not only to educate the audience, but to offer your students measurable skills during the planning and organizing. Give them guidance, but give them opportunities.
  • Rivera: Never attempt to do it alone! I worked with a previous TEDx organizer that did almost all aspects of the organizing alone. It was a successful event, but the organization wasn’t invested. Reach out to your community and all the stakeholders. As a HS English teacher, I was able to connect with MS and ES teachers and even local hires and parents. The unity this TEDx event brought to the school was phenomenal. Not only that, it brought the best of our skills together, making it a much richer event than I could have ever done alone.


What’s one way you think TEDxYouth events could be more innovative?

  • Juliano: Interactivity and community is the key. At TEDYouth 2015, students experienced VR with Google Expeditions, animated themselves using stop motion technology, shared stories in a soundproof booth with Adobe, and beatboxed with some really rad beatboxing professionals. Students weren’t just consuming inspiring talks, they were contributing and interacting with the speakers during the breaks. This speaker interaction is so important! The sense of community and “hands-on” nature of TEDYouth was super valuable and something I’m looking forward to recreating with TEDxLFHS.
  • Ferniany: TEDxYouth events could be more innovative with opportunities for students to engage with one another. At the adult TEDx events one of the greatest things is all of the networking that goes on. TEDxYouth organizers should find interesting ways for the students to interact with one another and with the adults so they can make connections at the event. I’d love to hear what others are doing to make these connections happen for kids.
  • Cronan: TEDxYouth events can be more innovative by including labs or innovation alley space. These booths allow for student interaction with create and innovative technologies or ideas. Taking it a step further, perhaps events could take a step further by creating workshops with speakers the day before or after. These workshops could offer opportunities for small groups of students to take a hands on approach to the speaker’s skill or passion. Seeing 3D printed prosthetics is cool, having students take a shot at making their own is way cooler.
  • Rivera: I would love to see more multi-generational involvement — include alumni in university, or in the field, as speakers and guests at TEDxYouth events.


Name one cool thing that happened at your TEDxYouth event.

  • Ferniany: On Saturday I was at TEDYouth while the livestream was happening in my hometown. I loved following along as my friend Max Rykov (Host) had the students interacting with the livestream viewing. So if the hosts of TEDYouth asked the students to raise their hand, get up and dance, or answer a riddle—the students did! Another awesome thing that I was sad I missed was a showcase of exhibits from community organizations that work with youth including local writer & journalist couple Javacia and Edward Bowser teaching kids how to cover a TEDx event, local parks and wildlife organizations, and some of our own Educator Fellows, Al Elliot & Gail Harper Yeilding did activities with the students.
  • Miyashiro: Tears … watching staff and parents cry proud tears of joy as they saw their students on stage has to be one of the best feelings in the world. Also, watching the kids develop their skills and kill it on stage is fun. Behind the scenes, our TEDxKids@ElCajon provided an opportunity for our entire district, the community, city leadership, and business partners to convene in a joint effort to support our students. It was like team building for the community.
  • Goepen-Wee: We have a youth event in a grade 4-12 school. We insisted that every grade be represented either as speakers or in some form of volunteer, ambassador, or leadership role. By doing this, we brought together our entire community. The older kids acted as mentors and leaders, and the younger students looked around and realized that they could potentially have a bigger role in the years to come. By really focusing on this notion of “family” we were able to build an event in which our 9-year-olds had as good a time as our 18-year-olds.
  • Rivera: Being in Argentina, the tango is rooted in the culture. We opened our TEDx event last year with a talk about Tango and Its Beautiful Embrace, followed by two dances. It was electrifying.



1 Comment

  1. I do have an idea about evolving the early school stage into an innovative schooling solution. How can you help

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