The Learning Power of Educational Video (as taught to me by my son)

Here’s part of the prompt for this month’s Blog A Month Challenge found here:

Our optional topic for March centers on the learning power of educational video.

Great movies challenge our thinking, speak to our emotions, and take us to distant worlds both historical and fantastic.  Integrating the power of videos into your classroom, professional development, and/or school culture offers even greater potential impact as there is the opportunity to reflect, discuss, and critique the quality and message of the video.

Suggest one to two of your favorite videos (Ted Talks, YouTube Clips, Vimeos, Movie Clips…etc) that you have used in your school setting, and share how you used it. Explain how incorporating this visual into your presentation or lesson has helped you to achieve your goals.

Now I’d better admit right at the start; I’m not a ‘video’ person. It’s not my first choice of media to learn from. I rarely click on links and watch videos. I will, however, gladly read an article/blog post/etc., and I almost always click on links to photographs or images. I’m not even really a movie person anymore, much to my husband’s dismay. I think it has something to do my notion that a video or movie will take too much time. I would need to think on it a bit more to figure out the resistance and general disinterest.

You may be wondering how the direction of this post is going to turn around to the learning power of education video, the topic for the month shown above. I’m getting there through the lens of motherhood and leaving the obvious direction that the topic above seems intended to take. Hope that’s okay. It’s the way my mind went…

Like many of our youth, my teenage son is a video fanatic. While he would barely read a book to save his life, and he hates reading in general, he devours youtube videos like no one else that I know. He’s one of ‘those boys’. He’s really, really active, he’s really, really quick & bright, and he’s really, really horrible when he’s bored. He doesn’t like school and he’s a bit of a nightmare to engage in a classroom (understatement of the year), but when he wants (key word here – ‘wants’) to learn or do something, absolutely nothing, and I mean nothing, can stop him. He’s more than a little intense and has this indefinable quality that I love and can only describe as his ‘edge’. I love him to pieces.

So what does this have to do with the learning power of educational video? Well, for him, and for many of those lumped in with him into that demographic that we want to keep in school and engage and help succeed, for him and those like him, the fact that the content can be engaged through video as the media IS the learning power. I’ll expand on that, and hopefully it will make sense.

Lately my son has been watching TED and TEDx talks. All on his own. No prompting from me about educational value. He watches them on his phone, anywhere, anytime and at home on his computer. He watches them first on his own and then, if he feels that it’s worth it, he’ll invite me to watch with him. He also shares links with friends. I’ve noticed him quoting the speakers from the videos in general conversation. The topics of the videos usually make sense to me. I understood immediately why he wanted to watch Rodney Mullen: Pop an ollie and innovate with me and why he’d want to watch Forget what you know: Jacob Barnett but he branches off and engages with other, seemingly random, topics too. Vine, Instagram videos and his own youtube channel round out the multimedia aspect of his lifestyle.

He’s paying attention. He’s learning independently and making meaningful connections to his life and his interactions with his peers and his family. I’ve been analyzing it a bit because it’s obviously deep learning and it’s interesting to me because he is a really tough kid to ‘teach’. It’s tough for teachers to get him to learn. It’s also interesting to me because video is such a foreign way for me to learn. Yet it’s so natural and easy for him, not to mentions a complete and total contrast to trying to get him to learn from a book or virtually anything written on a piece of paper.

I should mention at this point that my two sons are being raised with a high critical awareness of the content they consume and participate with online and elsewhere. Anyone who knows me will understand the passion for (digital) citizenship that I carry around deep seated within me, and that has been an important contributing factor to my childrens’ behaviour online and in general. We talk about gaming, social media, online interactions, etc., all the time. And don’t get me wrong, he still watches his share of ridiculous content too (he is fourteen and stupid humor is at an all time high with him) but the fact that he’s choosing to watch high quality educational content is noteworthy. And it makes me proud, and hopeful. Maybe this is how he will get through the next few years and find success after high school. Maybe video is the key.

I didn’t exactly take the prompt and answer the questions above. But I did make a powerful connection between video as being key for some children to engage with content and learn in a meaningful way. For some students, like my son, the learning power of educational video is the fact that because it is multimedia, it is more likely to engage. For whatever reason, multimedia content will make some students pay attention. Is it their ‘language’? Their learning style? Their literacy? I’m not sure, but if your goals are to engage and help your students to learn, then the type of content is something to attend to. A small shift, but potentially huge gains for our students.

I have many, many more questions on this but I think that’s enough for today. I’ll keep paying attention to learn more and I’m looking forward to the Blog a Month Challenge topic for April! Thanks for reading!

Afterthought – if you’d like to check out some great videos with educational content, check out the Rodney Mullen and Jacob Barnett links above – lots of interesting bits that relate to learning and the field of education! 

Listening to technology close the distance

I’m sitting here listening to something amazing. Something that has changed my life and absolutely transformed connections within my family. Something entirely made possible by technology.

I’m sitting here listening to my son and my nephew play a video game together. Little Big Planet 2, to be exact, a fantastic game for kids and grown-ups alike. It’s full of creativity, based on the premise of helping others, and it’s visually stunning to boot. Coolest game ever. If you have kids, work with kids, are a big kid, and you haven’t heard of it or ever seen it, I highly recommend you check it out right away.

So far, there is nothing really remarkable about what I’m saying here. But, the thing is, my son lives with me in British Columbia and his cousin, my nephew, lives halfway across the continent in Manitoba with my brother. The gaming technology allows my son and my brother’s son, who see each other face to face maybe once a year, to play together whenever they want.

I’m listening to my son and my nephew play a video game together online. They are talking strategy and helping each other out as they play. They are, essentially, ‘hanging out’, playing a video game, and building their relationship with each other, all because of online gaming and the amazing technologies that they are fortunate enough to have at hand.

And, to me, especially after my Masters research last year, it’s the effect of the technology on the relationship that is what’s really amazing about what I’m listening to. Technology is enabling my son and my nephew to develop a relationship in a much deeper, relevant and meaningful way than they could ever possibly have otherwise as they are so far apart geographically. Sure, they could talk on the phone, email, video chat, look at the photos emailed back and forth, and they do, but it wasn’t until they started playing that particular video game online together that they really seemed to connect.

They are great friends when they are face to face. The one week or so a year that they see each other is wonderful. They are either the best of friends or they fight like old men who have known each other all their lives. It’s really cute and, for my brother and I, so precious to watch. But it’s also sad that they don’t live closer to each other. It was awful to see the tears and sadness when they have said goodbye in the past.

But I think, the next time they say good-bye, that the tears and sadness will be a little different. First of all, they will have a different, closer bond, next time they meet. I’m interested to see how their relationship is changed due to the shared gaming experience. And, when we go our separate ways, I’m guessing there will be some comment like ‘can you play next Tuesday? I’ll call you when I go online’ to set up the next time they can play. I predict there will be less sadness, more hope, and a stronger connection.

I guess what I’m listening to, then, is technology close the distance and build a bridge of closer connection. That is a worthwhile, transformative use of technology and a valuable way in which online gaming is enriching children’s lives and the bonds within a family. Amazing…