Monday, April 11, 2016

TESOL 2016 Presentation: Integrating and Curating TED Talks for EAPs

In this blog post I add some information to accompany a talk I co-presented at TESOL.

My co-presenter and I shared an action research project that involved coming up with criteria for selecting TED Talks for use in an intermediate EAP listening/speaking course. We also shared the activities that we found successful over the course of our project. As we mentioned in our talk, we were looking for further authentic sources of listening input to augment our course textbook listenings and to stimulate speaking activities.

You can find the presentation here:

TESOL 2016 Integrating and Curating TED talks for EAPs from Oregon State University

In our talk we mentioned how we put the transcripts into to determine the vocabulary load of the talk. Word and Phrase has a text analyzer, which we felt seems much more user friendly than Tom Cobb's Complete Lexical Tutor. Word and Phrase uses the The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) to determine word frequency and thereby searches one of the most widely used and current corpuses available. COCA currently has a corpus of 520 million words.

Another website we shared in our talk was
This website acts as a kind of curation portal, allowing you to control for speech rate, vocabulary difficulty and duration among other criteria when selecting TED Talks. Students can sign up on the site and self-test themselves using the diagnostic tests to determine how they should select their talks based on different levels of the CEFR. This does not account for all the talks available, however. A limitation of this website, as was pointed out by one of our session attendees, is that when you start limiting the the duration, word speed and vocabulary level, you end up with very little variety of talks to choose from. So while it may be a good resource for students self-language study, it may be to confining as a curation tool for teachers looking to bring TED Talks into the classroom.

We briefly touched upon the idea of digital curation in our talk. Philip Hubbard's presentation on the topic at the 4th World CALL Conference can be found here. Dr. Hubbard's Advanced Listening and Vocabulary Development course at Stanford also provides a good example of integrating TED Talks into a course.

As a final word on our TESOL presentation, I just want to extend my gratitude to the lively audience for our presentation and they great feedback we received. If you have used TED Talks in your class or have tried curating them for a course, feel free to add your comments to this blog post or send me an email at

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