Friday, June 19, 2015

Sauce for Thought

One of my students turned me on to Vsauce, a collection of YouTube science (and other) videos created by Michael Stevens. I've since been referred to Vsauce by quite a few people. The videos have become quite popular. Here is one ostensibly on what happens if everyone jumps at once.

You may notice that I said "ostensibly." Once I, for one, finished seeing the video, I was not entirely sure what it was about. I had been very entertained by the thread that wound around from a straightforward explanation into distant worlds and then back again. Apparently all of Stevens' videos are like this - very engaging, very well done, and a journey with its own logic that leaves you roller-coaster dizzy. As much as my students like these videos, they are almost useless from a pedagogical viewpoint. It's educational fun, in the manner of "pseudoteaching."

I referred to Jason Ohler's list of possible digital story evaluation traits to examine this story. I used three traits: economy, performance, and sense of audience.

Economy: Even though Stevens seemed to meander, he actually followed a tight, if circuitous, path, and dropped us gently back down where we started. Part of the fun was exactly this journey. The apparent dizziness of the journey was a result of his economy of storytelling.

Performance: This is the trait at which Stevens excelled. His presentation was gripping, the performance masterful. This was true both of his presentation as actor and as producer.

Sense of audience: I could infer from the way the video was produced that Stevens understood completely the audience he addressed. This would be a young audience, raised on YouTube and thus video-literate, having a short attention span and a leaning toward the dramatic and personal. Not for nothing are his videos popular.

An evaluation trait that I could easily add would be flow and pacing. The pacing was consistent, the flow continuous, with no bumps or disorientation (except possibly from the speed). The plug at the end was a distraction.

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