Friday, June 12, 2015

Can We Watch a Video?

A physics teacher named Frank Noschese wrote and hosted a series of essays on the concept of pseudoteaching. Pseudoteaching is activity that looks like teaching, feels like teaching, but no learning is taking place. One of the guest bloggers was Derek Muller, a physics teacher and researcher who now creates science videos. Muller contributed a video blog to the discussion. His video was a story about how, in his research with instructional videos, he discovered the root cause of why learning often fails to happen when students watch a video. I present the video below. It's a bit long, so I've embedded the video so it would skip the introduction about Khan Academy and go straight to the research story.

It's a lovely story, very surprising and sobering if you are a teacher. Research is a kind of story. There is a goal, and a desire to discover something, and a plan of action, with hidden pitfalls and unexpected outcomes. In this case the research is about videos that present a second level of story, the explanation or the discussion or the demonstration. In physics, any good explanation/discussion/demonstration is also a good story.

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: the story itself, the understanding of content, and the voice.

The story: Muller was a good storyteller. His story was structured perfectly and proceeded with a certain inevitability to its conclusion. He knew how to say exactly what he wanted to say.

The understanding of content: Because the story was based on his personal research, Muller's understanding of this story was obviously thorough.

The voice: Quite literally, Muller has a lovely voice and he used it effectively. But Muller's "voice," meaning his narrative sense, was consistent and clear. This was also true in the video snippets which were clearly scripted by him. His use of Khan-Academy-like animation was an effective way to tell the story visually.

An evaluation trait that I could easily add would be the economy of presentation. Because of his understanding, Muller knew how to make his points without straying into detours or "over-explaining." He of course knew exactly how the story went, but his telling of the story was concise and engaging.

As an aside, I too have written about pseudoteaching.


  1. I enjoyed this video. It was, as you mentioned, clean, concise and well-developed. I liked his balanced use of animation and video. The visuals really enhanced his narrative. I thought the last clip was especially powerful.

  2. Great video and a very interesting topic! I was unfamiliar with the concept of pseudo-teaching but it is definitely eye-opening, especially after watching this video. I also agree that Muller exhibited excellent economy throughout the presentation. One additional factor, I might add, was his sense of audience and finding a way to relate the content to the viewers in a way that hit home. It certainly worked on me.