Video watching and how to put your students to sleep

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.



Filed under E-learning tips, Learning strategies, Teaching and learning tips

2 responses to “Video watching and how to put your students to sleep

  1. You suggest that video instruction is inefficient, at least for you. You say that rather than sit through 10 minutes of how-to video and having to remember it afterward, you’d rather do something. I agree that a 10-minute instructional video, followed by rote memory, is far too passive.

    Instructional videos should be less than 5 minutes, and 2-3 is better. For maximum efficiency the viewer should be at a computer, where she can pause and click to a new window and complete a task. This is what interactive video should be, and it’s one of the most powerful tools we have in the digital world.

    By the way, I’ve always been a little suspicious of people who claim they don’t watch TV. I think it makes them sound more haughty than insightful, and I doubt that was your intention.

    • Thanks for your kind feedback Mark. I notice you create videos yourself in your line of work so I understand your concern. My suggestion came from research on the study of brainwaves of people watching TV. Your opinion that video is one of the most powerful tools in the world is an interesting one. I use videos also so I am not claiming them to be of no purpose but I believe that students need to ‘bring up mental effort’ in order to learn. I believe that passively watching the right information does not equate to higher learning.

      I’m sorry that you feel suspicious. I am, in fact, an avid movie watcher but usually once per week or less. This is not out of haughtiness or judgement of others but simply that I am bored (usually) by TV and love my artwork, reading and living life to it’s fullest far more. I’m certainly prone to the odd night of chilling in front of the idiot box when I’m really tired.

      Thanks again for your comments;)

      Thanks again for your comments;)

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