On Lectures and Learning

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Khan Academy is a pretty popular free education site. My wife and I have enjoyed "taking classes" on iTunes U. YouTube EDU is another education hub. And now places like Stanford and Harvard are offering certain classes online for free.

Hat Tip
Henry Cate

On one level, this is fantastic. I'm really excited that we have free learning opportunities powered by free video and audio services featuring some of the best teachers in the world. I'm really excited to see how this is going to transform education, education theory, and the look and feel of classrooms in the coming years. The potential shake-up and learning revolution is thrilling!

On a different level--the one closer to my heart--this changes almost nothing for us homeschoolers. Certainly, we now have even more excellent places to go for further study and exploration. We can reach even farther outside our homes than ever in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. But the core of how we learn will not change.


Because we've long been attuned to learning rather than lectures. In fact, I was so excited by the Stanford Game Theory class, I immediately watched the introduction. Then I mostly lost interest. Not only was the video production poor, but the presentation was dull and lacking. Just a couple brilliant guys talking at me.

My eyes glazed over as my mind wandered. When they mentioned quizzes, I almost stopped the video.

Lectures--while potentially interesting--are not a very effective form of education. They are, for the most part, an opportunity to introduce a concept which will later be taught through repetition in homework. "Application" comes in the form of correctly regurgitating the information.

As homeschoolers, we tend to skip the lecture step and jump right in to application and practice. Growing up, Science was observed in colorful books and hands-on activities. Math came straight from the book and the practice problems. And, honestly, sitting through a lecture on history proved incredibly boring in high school and college. I longed for the way I learned History as a homeschooler: Experiencing it through the eyes of those who were there via literature.

Learning this way does not require tests or busy work. We get to talking about the ideas and implications. We can see how well we've grasped a concept, and go back to correct misunderstandings immediately. We're in this game to learn, not to pass.

So, where videos enable teachers to get out of the lecture model and straight to the application of an idea, I think media will continue to rock pedagogy. But where videos simply take the place of live lectures, I don't see them taking over the educational world. They won't be very effective nor interesting.

At least, that's my prediction as one who has helped produce a few popular Math and Science videos.

What do you think? Have you taken advantage of any of these exciting learning opportunities?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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