Khan Academy is one example of a terrific online learning resource, a huge collection of short, specific video lessons on all kinds of math, science and history topics. I’m also a fan of the free Kaplan videos for SAT and ACT lessons.
But I find that kids need to be taught how to use these videos.
When Khan Academy first came out, I eagerly recommended Khan videos to students, only to have many report back that “I didn’t get it,” or “It was confusing.”
I wound up sitting next to students and watching them watch!…and I discovered that the kids who didn’t get much out of the videos didn’t know how to use them in an active way.
I needed to teach them the following pointers:
- Watch more than once. Don’t give up if you don’t “get” the material on your first viewing. (Many students do not realize this; they figure that if they “didn’t get it” the first time, then the video is “pointless,” or “too confusing”…but challenging material needs to be revisited again and again until it becomes clear.
- Stop and start. Rewind and watch confusing parts over again.
- Watch the solution to a math problem, then work the problem yourself. After watching the instructor solve a problem, you will typically have that “Ah! I get it now!” feeling…but that feeling DOES NOT mean that you, yourself, actually know the material (all it means is you were able to follow what the instructor was doing). In order to truly learn and remember material, you must actively practice the problems, in writing (not just in your head, not on your calculator).
- Go back to hard problems after a day or a few days and work them again. Your brain learns best through Spaced Repetition. This is the way to master and remember challenging material!
- Test Yourself. Flip to some questions in your textbook; can you answer them? Or, with the video off, write down all the important points you can remember…then watch again, turn off the video again and write some more….
- And, sometimes just staring at the screen and listening is OK! Instructional videos can be great for previewing complicated, challenging material. A tired student can click on a video and watch it over dinner or right before bed (a great way to take advantage of sleep learning), to get a jump on tomorrow’s lesson. In this case there’s no need to watch more than once or worry about “what you didn’t get,” since the video is only meant to be a preview.
In summary, I find that kids need to be taught to use instructional videos appropriately,so as to accomplish the kind of learning they need in each situation.
[photo of the entrance to 30 Rockefeller Center, NY, NY]