Try something new for 30 days

Try something new for 30 days, is the topic of Matt Cutts’ TED talk.

We have all heard it before, we must step out of our comfort zone to grow…right? Cutt’s takes this to the next level with his self-imposed 30 day challenge. What I like about Cutt’s talk, is it gives a more tangible objective to this idea of trying new things.

Warm up

  • What new thing would you like to try but haven’t yet?
  • What does it mean to “step out of your comfort zone”?
  • What are the benefits of doing new things? Any disadvantages?
  • What are the benefits of sticking with what you know? Any disadvantages?

The Video: Try something new for 30 days

Why does Matt think this is a good idea?
What did it change in his life?
What areas of our lives could we apply this to? Make a Mind Map
Do you have any spontaneous ideas that you might like to try for 30 days?

How do you make hard choices?

So much of me has changed since I entered adulthood. My career, my interests, my abilities. And some of these changes have put me before some of the hardest decisions of my life. Like choosing to put my career on hold to raise my daughters. Or shifting my practice to literacy and dyslexia remediation when I became brave enough to admit my own struggle with dyslexia.

But before making those hard choices, I felt caught between what I ought to do and what I want to do. And sometimes this tension became so great that I had to make concrete changes to find peace.

Changing careers, changing partners, changing schools, changing where we live…those are all hard choices. So what governs our decisions? In Ruth Chang’s TED talk “How to make hard choices”, Chang fleshes out how we weigh the pros and cons and how culture influences this. Chang argues that hard choices are precious opportunities that show us that we have the power to become the individuals we desire to be.

See also Let’s make some Let’s make some comparisons.

Pre discussion

  • What major life changes can you share?
  • What were the options? Between what and what were you choosing?
  • How have the changes influenced your life?

The video: Ruth Chang: How to make hard choices

  • Do a Tell Back of Chang’s main points
  • What is the difference between scientific thinking and value-based decision making?
  • Why do you think Chang studies the phenomenon of hard choices?
  • How does this shed light on your own hard choices?

How do we test new medicines?

Clinical testing of new medicines and therapies is quite a layered and rigorous process. And still, when a drug reaches the general public, there can be unexpected outcomes. This TED talk features Nina Tandon introducing a new biotechnology process that may prevent some of these outcomes.

For your science students…and perhaps your science aficionados, watch Tandon’s presentation and see if your participants can pull out the main points and features this new technology offers.

Pre discussion 

  • What do you know about the process of drug testing?
  • Do you think the process is solid enough to protect against unpredictable outcomes?
  • What could be improved?

The Video: TED-Could tissue engineering mean personalized medicine?

  • Cut the video into as many parts as you need depending on the level of your participants.
  • Do a Tell Back and Mind Map of the main points
  • What are the features of this technology that improve on what was done in the past?
  • How would it change the current practices in drug testing?

8 secrets to success…can you name them?

Ah success! I feel as though this topic has been done to death. Yet I cannot resist this TED talk by Richard St. John. So short, so simple, so predictable, yet so thought provoking.

St. John interviewed over 400 people, some famous, to succinctly summarize the ‘ingredients’  to success. Although the results are not necessarily surprising, I think they are worth reminding.

Of course we all have our  cultural capital which is to say, depending on upbringing and background, some of us start the journey with a head start.  However, in St. John’s TED talk, he looks at the more unbiased predispositions that contribute success. It is a short presentation (3 min.) and may lead to some interesting personal anecdotes.

Pre discussion

  • Tell us about some of your successes. What do you think contributed to them?
  • Do a Mind Map the elements that contribute to success.

The Video: TED 8 Secrets of Success by Richard St. John

  • List each point
  • Do you agree with St. John?
  • Do you think he forgot anything?
  • Can you share a personal anecdote on one or of the elements?


Do you believe there is fake news?

Fake news is the term “du jour.” It is no longer a novelty really but it is still, and perhaps more and more, important to know about. How sharp do you think you are at spotting fake news?

What if you were a journalist? If your livelihood depended on your ability to detect fact from fiction? In Markham Nolan’s TED talk “How to separate fact from fiction online” we see how the digital dimension affects this decision.

Pre discussion

  • How good are you at detecting fake news?
  • What is your criteria? How can you tell?
  • Do a Mind Map of the elements/criteria that can help separate fact from fiction.

The video: TED Markham Nolan: How to separate fact from fiction

  • Watch the video and gather some of Nolan’s debunking tools.
  • Compare your list with the mind map you did previously.
  • What elements in the digital information era make fact checking easier? What makes them harder?
  • Which anecdotes in Nolan’s talk stick with you? Why?