• 05.01.2015
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    Today the TES reported that an MIT professor said “…Teachers should stop relying on traditional teaching methods and opt for 10-minute video lessons to capture the “wandering minds” of their students”.

    BrainPOP UK - Digital Etiquette

    As you know, we make short learning movies so obviously this caught our eye.

    “Lessons that lasted up to an hour and relied on pupils paying attention to a teacher at the front of the class were out of date and failed to address how young people learned in the internet age, said Sanjay Sarma, director of digital learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Professor Sarma believes that schools and universities have been slow to come to terms with the reality that most of today’s young people are doing their learning online, particularly through websites such as YouTube.”

    The “wandering minds” of children is hardly a new insight, but this generation has access to free video media on an unprecedented scale. The ability to move quickly between resources can lead to great opportunities for research, understanding, and engagement.

    But is YouTube the best source to positively enable that behaviour in school?

    Pros of using YouTube as a study tool:

    • Breadth and depth of videos is unparalleled.
    • Terrific and fast search function.
    • A dedicated YouTube education channel auto-selects popular (and therefore more likely to be of decent quality) education focussed videos.
    • It’s free (if you don’t mind being advertised to).
    • Students aged 13 or over can create, upload, and share their own videos.
    • Everyone knows how to use YouTube.

    Cons of using YouTube as a study tool:

    • The quality is all over the place, both technically and educationally. Can you trust the video creator?
    • It’s blocked in some schools, leading to inequality of access.
    • Licence restrictions mean some content is available to view only in certain territories.
    • The sheer range of videos could lead to mindless browsing or overchoice paralysis.
    • School internet bandwidth cannot always cope with streaming video.
    • There’s large amounts of extremely unsuitable media for kids on YouTube.
    • Advertising. Lots and lots of advertising, over which teachers have little control.
    • YouTube comments are notorious for bad language, trolling/flaming, and abuse (though you can install browser plugins to hide comments).

    So in balance, we support Professor Sarma as it links with the core ideas behind BrainPOP. But we don’t think turning to YouTube is the solution to this ambition, though clearly it has its place. What’s key is the idea that using short bursts of video media engages students, and can lead to great gains in understanding and questioning.

    “The human mind wanders and what we do is make the student feel unhappy about it. In fact, you’re better off doing 10-minute lectures and then asking the students questions about what they just learned, because that transfers stuff from our short-term memory to our long-term memory.”

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