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Learning ≠ Turning On a Video

By Dave Stuart Jr.

My students will sometimes tell me, “I studied so much last night. I watched half of John Green's Crash Course world history videos. We're talking about hours of studying, Mr. Stuart.”

This is problematic.

The way that our kids conceptualize learning is critical, and I'm not just saying that in the folksy-wisdom sense. This is the stuff of SCIENCE, coming straight from an old John Hattie study in the Australian Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology. (Read my overview here — and please, share it with someone, because it's one of those posts that not enough people have read.) The gist is that kids achieve more when they conceive of learning in multiple ways — as a duty, as personal change, as gaining or applying information, and so on. Read that post I just linked to — Hattie and Purdie struck some gold there.

But to go back to my video-watching students, learning is unfortunately not equal to simply watching a video because there is a broad spectrum of behaviors that fall within “watching a video.”

On the one end, I can “watch a video” in the corner of my computer screen while I check email, scroll Addictbook, and keep my streaks alive on Crackchat. That kind of “watching a video” isn't learning. (In fact, it's probably brain-damaging — but that's just the folksy-wisdom talking, not John Hattie.)

On the other end of the “watching a video” spectrum, there is sitting with a cup of coffee and a notebook while watching John Green discuss imperialism. As he does this, you're taking careful notes, tracking his arguments and separating his main points from the details he uses to illustrate them and pausing as needed because the dude never stops for a breath. That kind of “watching a video” is learning, especially when you help it stick by quizzing yourself on your notes.

If we want to help our students cultivate the five key beliefs, we've got to teach them what learning is, again and again and again. Just because we've explained it once, doesn't mean it's been taught.

Note from Dave: Speaking of videos, I’ve made an all-online, schedule-friendly PD course on the key beliefs. A central component of the course is daily, 2-5 minute videos of actionable, classroom-oriented research on student motivation. So, you'll want to do more than just watch the video 🙂 If you’d like to register, do that here.

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