In actual fact, if you put your students to sleep they could be learning more than they are watching your videos!
Television and video viewing involves no active mental processes and no physical activity (e.g., you passively watch someone else actively processing). It’s similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours. It has a hypnotic effect caused by the screen flicker which lowers brainwaves into an alpha state. Your brain activity is more active when you are sleeping because you don’t have to do any thinking. “Even a nap with its restorative powers is better for your brain than a TV show.” (Guiffre, Kenneth, MD, with Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. The Care and Feeding of Your Brain, p/ 239. NJ: Career Press, 1999.)
In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman discovered that in less than one minute of television and video viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves. Watching television tended to shift people into a passive and receptive state. (Lynch, Zack, PhD., with Byron Laursen. The Neuro Revolution, p. 52053. NY:St. Martin’s Press, 2009.)
When you watch a movie, video or TV your brain activity switches from the left side of your brain to the right. This means that you are responding with an emotion rather than logical or critical thinking, giving an unrealistic or inaccurate viewing of the data.
Watch this and you will see how in a hypnotic state, your mind is altered without you even realising it.
Using video data for learning
But… but… but… I hear you all cry. I know.
I watch little or no TV and I (personally) find instructional videos annoying. If I want to know ‘how to do something’ I want to DO it and find out quickly. Watching a 10 minute video and then having to remember it afterwards doesn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s because my brain has switched to the ‘right side’. However, I do love a good movie AND I love creating them for students, especially the digital stories which tug at the heart strings. I’m by no means saying ‘don’t use videos for learning’ with students. ‘Whew’ I hear you say.
If we are going to continue using video as a part of our learning strategy, remember to include the following elements when you are designing a learning sequence. At the very least, include the ‘call to action’. This is particularly important with online learning.
Get hold of your students attention in whatever creative way you can think of.
Surprise your students by defying their expectations.
Call to action
Follow up with a request for change or a thinking task which expects reflections or application from the learning
You could slot the video at the start (if you think it’s a good hook) or as a surprise (if it is surprising) or in between somewhere to support. Providing you always have an action. Read my blog post about applying thinking skills to learning for more information.