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I just released this video on Veritasium about two systems of thought
inspired by the book "Thinking Fast and Slow"
and this video is going to be based on that,
so it won't make any sense unless you've watched that video first,
so...please go and do it.
One of the things I was thinking about
is why do we enjoy watching educational
videos and I think my main answer is we
like it when someone else's Drew has
done the thinking work for us. A great
educational video allows you to leapfrog
on someone else's thinking and as was
the thesis of that video, thinking is
difficult it's uncomfortable and a lot
of people in the comments kind of asked
why is it uncomfortable though and I
think there is probably a biological
reason for it. You know the brain
actually uses a lot of energy and if you
can minimize the sort of the deep strenuous
work that it does you can actually reduce
the amount of resources you expend.
I made this comment towards the end of the
video about watching videos that give
you the sense of understanding without
actually learning anything and I was
wondering if anyone would pick up on
that but of course they did and thought I
was roasting the audience or trolling
them or something.
Mainly, I just wanted I guess to point
out that I know that phenomenon can
happen for example there are videos like
the 10 dimensions video which are
complete nonsense when it comes to
actually explaining science and yet
people watch that and they feel like
they've had some profound insights. There
are some other videos, that I'm trying to
think whether I should mention, that you
know have this sort of like gloss of
deep thinking and yet there really isn't
deep thinking there and so I think it's easy
to trick people into thinking that
there's deep thinking. I also think it's
it's possible to trick people into
believing that they're understanding when
they're not. You know, I did my PhD trying
to study how can people learn from
educational videos and what I often
found was the videos that people felt
they learned the most from or felt they
were the clearest most concise the
easiest to understand were actually
the ones they learned the least from
and when I looked at confidence
in correct answers after watching any
video I found that just watching any
video increased confidence by like a
step jump and you could look at the data
of how much people actually learned and it
and it would be quite different
depending on the video but the
confidence increase in the correctness
of their answers was always about the
same so it seemed to me like watching an
educational video gives me a boost in
confidence on these answers whether or
not that boost in confidence is sort of
justified or not and so that's
something I wanted to reflect on. I
also think that sometimes as a video
creator myself I'm faced with the
question of do I try to explain this or
do I try to present this in such a way
that it's more confusing for my audience
in that I think that they will have to
think harder and that will lead them to
learn more or do I want to make this
more clear and fun with the potential
risk that they may learn less and... um, you
know I'd love to say that I always make
the choice to make people think harder
and you know get them to learn more but
the problem is I kind of have a double
bottom line where you know I don't get paid.
My living does not come from
people learning necessarily it also
comes from just people watching my video
so if I always went the route of a you
know forcing people to think hard and
potentially learn more but not share or
enjoy the video as much then I think the
channel would never have grown as much
as it has. Another thing I've thought a
lot about are constructivist approaches
to teaching and that basically just
means this realization that students are
active builders of their knowledge that
Drew has to be very active and engaged
with the material in order for it to end
up in long-term memory the goal of any
teacher. I worry sometimes that this view
of learning has been misinterpreted by
some people who take it to mean that
students must be active in order to
learn. Yes, they need to be cognitively active
Drew must be active but they don't
need to be physically active necessarily.
This has also been taken a step further
to say that in order to teach students
science we should ask them to do science. I
understand kind of where that comes from
like eventually... the idea is when a
student learns a lot they become a
scientist so why not just make them to
science from the start and I think that if
you understand Gun and Drew there's really
good reasons why students of science
should not be made to do science at
least not in that complex of a way and
not too early.
The reason is this when a scientist
looks at something they have this wealth
of experience they have a massive
library of prior knowledge which means
they have an incredible set of chunks
really big complicated networks of prior
knowledge so looking at any particular
problem or an experiment they
immediately have insight it's kind of
like a chess master looking at a
chessboard they look at it
their perception of it is completely
different from the novice's perception of
that board because they see meaning and
they see structure and they immediately
see strategy and they have all these
tools that are built in that Gun has.
It's recognition it's like you know
seeing faces for us. We all have great
recognition of faces but we don't all
have great recognition of chess boards
or of scientific problems because we
haven't all spent the time investing in
them so if you try to expect a student
to do science right off the bat
the problem is it may look like a
straightforward task to the teacher the
professor it doesn't look like a
straightforward task to the student and
rather than using Drew's effort
carefully and wisely to focus in on a
key problem the key things that the
student needs to be paying attention to
in order to learn it they may be sort of
completely focusing on the wrong things.
All the studies of novices do show that
they can't seem to pick out the salient
features what do I really need to be
focusing on and studying at this
particular moment and that's why the
teacher is there and that is why we
teach the way we do typically at least
historically by not making students do science
straight up. We teach them about how
scientists have done science in the past
we teach them rules and laws and
formulas. I have this analogy because I
played trumpet from the time I was in
grade 7 and I did not read music.
I could kind of fake as though I could read
music like they would give us music and
then we would play it but here's
something right you notice that when
you're teaching kids to play music you
give them songs they already know
because then although they had the music
in front of them and although you're
teaching some sort of basic music theory
they don't really need to read the
meter because they know how it's meant
to sound and they just make it sound
that way and that's what I did at least
before of the year or two multiple years
I didn't really understand what 16th
notes wereI didn't really understand
what the 4/4 was. It is funny to admit
this right but I know that that was
true that I didn't know how to read
music and I was just kind of playing and
the whole point of giving students songs
that they already know is that Drew
doesn't have to think through the music
because Gun knows the song and so
there's no extra mental strain there but
here's what happened for me anyway after
a couple of years after playing songs
that I knew mostly and sort of seeing
the notes go by I developed a sense of
how music works and I started to be able
to read music after a period of years
but it's kind of amazing if you would
ask me to say sight read a piece I
didn't know when I was in, say, grade 8 or
something I would have done it terribly
and you might have said that the music
system is failing us because you know
these kids have been playing music
for a year can't even read a single you
know a few bars of of sheet music this
is the whole purpose of scaffolding
students to these deep understandings is
that they need to build up that breadth
of experience with different pieces of
music and just with with seeing a lot of
it go by and eventually something does
click and maybe it's less hard on Drew
to do it that way. I made the GPS analogy
in the car but again I think there's
more subtlety there which is
you know if you force yourself to figure
out where to go and you don't use a GPS
I think you've got a much better chance
of figuring out the lay of the land
because you actively effortfully have
to employ Drew to think about all the
different turns and look for landmarks
and all that sort of stuff but if you
drive the same route with the GPS say 20
chances are that over that time Drew
will start to engage a little bit here
and there and pick up bits and pieces
and you won't have to rely on the gps
for so many turns and ultimately you
might be able to turn the GPS off and Drew
might be okay so i think there's an
argument about speed of learning
something here where the more you
scaffold the slower you learn it
but that's not to say you won't ever learn it.
*moment of realization*
* Mind = Blown *
So what's the takeaway message here
The takeaway message is that learning
happens through Drew and that is complex
and challenging it's hard it's hard for
anyone and there are ways to reduce the
strain on Drew
but you don't want to reduce the strain
so much the Drew doesn't engage at all
like in a lecture and he just falls asleep
or focuses on something completely
irrelevant because then you'll never get
there but you also don't want to load
all of the effort on to Drew. This is
really an optimization problem and I
think that's both a science and an art for
teachers to figure out just the right
way to give Drew enough of a help
that you know he doesn't feel
overwhelmed but also not too much help
so that he doesn't engage. That is the
real point of great education
*mindblowing silence*