Barclay Barrios

TED Talk Teaching: Part I

Blog Post created by Barclay Barrios Expert on May 6, 2015

TED Talks are great teaching tools.  Each is visual, engaging, focused, and contemporary.  I think they make excellent supplements to the readings in Emerging, particularly because many of the text’s authors have been TED speakers.  And the interactive transcript is a bonus feature, letting students work with the text of each talk.


In this series of posts I want to highlight some particularly useful TED Talks and suggest some of the ways to use them in the classroom.


The Talk: Michael Pollan: A Plant’s Eye View




Why It’s Great: If you like teaching Pollan (and it’s one of the essays in the book that students respond to most) then this is a fantastic talk to use. Pollan discusses Polyface Farm near the end of the talk, but part of what makes it so great is that when he does, he ends up he situating his argument in “The Animals: Practicing Complexity” within his larger intellectual arcs.  Students can see how writers’ ideas evolve by listening to the way in which Pollan’s arguments across his books are interconnected.  In doing so, he also reframes his argument in “The Animals” by casting it in light of his prior book, The Botany of Desire.


Using It: In the talk, Pollan uses Polyface as an example a non-Cartesian system of growing food, which is “based on this idea that we bend other species to our will and that we are in charge, and that we create these factories and we have these technological inputs and we get the food out of it or the fuel or whatever we want.”  How does what he writes in “The Animals” complicate this notion of Polyface?  Does he suggest that there are Cartesian elements?  Is Joel Salatin in charge?