Ted-Ed and Origins of Religion

Have you used Ted-Ed yet? It’s a site that takes awesome Tedtalk videos, or just other wonderful Youtube videos, and allows you to build lessons around them. You can search other educator’s lessons as well, share them with your students online, and encourage them to post in discussion boards. For me, it’s a step towards occasional “flipping” of the classroom, but without the hassle of recording my own lectures and sometimes you can get lucky with what other teachers post.

I have some issues with the “flipping the classroom” model, enough that the topic probably deserves its own post. For the uninitiated, (and those unencumbered by edu-jargon) flipping the classroom is a movement to deliver lectures and content outside of classtime (for homework) and then use class time with the teacher as facilitator for project-based learning, skill development, and research. Part of my concern is that I think history teachers do much of this already–we assign reading that reviews the content, and then aim to work with the material in class. Most “flippers” rely heavily on video lectures as a way to relay content, however, which I question. It limits reading and I think can be just as challenging to focus on (how many times have you had several tabs open on your browser? You probably do right now!).  I also worry that not all of my students have reliable and frequent access to the internet. All that being said, I realize the value of novelty (students get excited by sometimes watching a video) and the help that video can provide when clarifying a challenging topic.

Origins of Religion lesson by Kate Harris

The question of why human societies developed religion is one such difficult topic. Every year, I debate how much I want to teach about this. It’s interesting stuff–why do we see religious beliefs developing in every society, across time and space? What need does it fill? But the answers can be heavily philosophical and often critical. This video does a nice job of outlining what life was like for early humans, and how they perceived the world. It gives the students some content to work with about reasons why religion might develop, and then in class I have the opportunity to guide them through some critiques.

Ted-Ed isn’t perfect–it’s heavily weighted towards science, but there is some social studies and language arts sprinkled through. But it’s quick and easy from a teacher’s perspective and engaging for the students. I will keep posting other useful videos that I find on there–let me know what you find as well!


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