Videos are often promoted as the best way to educate a population marked by decreasing literacy. I often hear “teenagers watch tons of videos on YouTube,” as a reason to depend on videos in the classroom. A more sophisticated explanation might be that videos increase learning through multi-sensory instruction – The synergy of sensory input of from sound and visuals can teach more than the spoken word alone.
Of course technology does not always improve the appeal of multi-sensory instruction. Think about it – which would be more interesting, watching a full-sized live performance or a recorded version on a five-inch screen? Of course, technology makes it more convenient (much easier to share a video on an iPhone than to transport a band). So now there are massive numbers of videos that we can beckon with the touch of our fingertips.
Simply video-taping myself teaching will make me less interesting to students (even if it will make me available at any time). So why are students constantly watching videos of each other on YouTube? Content – People in embarrassing situations, humorous spoofs and acts that defy reality are entertaining, but entertaining doesn’t always equate to educating. Everyone likes to see movies starring themselves. I suppose if I could arrange for students to enact a lesson on triangle theorems and proofs, they would watch it raptly, absorbing every detail. However, no one else would pay attention to it.
Actually, we cheat students out of something that they need if we rarely require them to read content. They do not have the option of recording or videotaping their homework; they must write it. Normally tests are written – not videos. As e-learning becomes popular, videos are increasingly used to break the monotony of participating in isolation. However, as it becomes a prevalent medium of communication it loses its appeal due to overuse. I recently saw e-learning video on psychology, on which a viewer had posted the comment – “Why does everything have to be a video. I can read, why don’t you let me read?”