Videos in Learning

Nancy dropped me a note. She's been doing some prep work around issues of Literacy and Poverty, as well as some financial literacy stuff, and it led her to a video of a David Harvey lecture.

The 31 minute presentation, The Crises of Capitalism, is accompanied by another video called RSA Animate - David Harvey Crises of Capitalism. This is an animated video that uses an abridged (11 minute) version of the audio from the original lecture.

Nancy asked, "pay attention to how you take in the lecture - which style works better for you - the straight lecture when you can see David Harvey and watch is body language - or the visuals over the audio overlay?"

She added, "I think this could provide an interesting approach to teaching new tutors about different learning style preferences - engage them in something like this to experience differences and which approach is best for their retention."

So... I took a look. I watched the animated video first thinking it would be easier to digest and more fun.

I was wrong.

Right away I saw that it was too busy, too fast. I could concentrate on his words, or on the animation, but not on both - not easily.

Then, when I watched the full, ordinary video, I realized that he was telling a central story with a number of asides, some quite minor. I'm guessing body language helped my with identifying those asides (and thus identifying those times I could let a point slide past unexamined as I waited the next key argument), but I seemed to do as well when I stepped away from the screen and just listened.

However (in my perception) the animated bit gave everything he said equal weight, making for a much denser speech (much more content per 15 sec. portion). Also, I found the compressed or abridged version of the lecture less easy to understand.

Maybe, the audio portion of animation always needs to be sparser? Maybe there's no room for asides (which are, after all, only the speaker's way of further illustrating or framing a point)?

In any case, it makes me think that animation doesn't always allow the abridging of verbal explanations - it still takes as long (maybe longer) to explain something. And, maybe animation and audio need to be co-created. Maybe one can't be tacked on to the other.

NASA has a video called Mars Rovers EDL (Entry, Decent, Landing). This is, in my perception, amazingly effective. Why? Well, it rotates four voices or presenters. The speakers are looking / speaking to one side of the camera. Short clips of them speaking are filmed in a plain setting (apparently, a concrete stairwell). Equally short animation clips overlay other portions of the same speakers. It uses background music effectively.

Hmmm... I'm not sure I'm explaining myself well here. Go watch it maybe. (It's only 5 minutes or so.)

One last word: almost everything David Harvey said - almost every sentence - would have been inaccessible to my pre-GED learners. They just don't know the jargon.

Now, that probably wouldn't surprise anyone - economics is second only to meteorology in its mysterious theories and predictive failures. But, I also think that many - maybe most - of the visual cues and graphic symbols would be equally inaccessible to my learners. What that says to me is that any attempt to explain things using graphic illustrations or animation needs to be very careful in its choice of symbols and visual metaphors.

There's no profit in replacing words people don't "get" with images people don't "get" - in trading modalities that are both at a high level of "reading" difficulty.

Still, the NASA video is inspiring - for me, at least.

Makes me think there must be some way to get this newfangled machinery to work for us.

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