Learning / Teaching via Digital Videos


Richard Katz


Late August 2002


It's been over three years since I demonstrated that a cohort of hockey skaters could acquire the physical skill of skating forward by watching, repetitively, a 6 second video of Andre Lacroix skating forward. Those were kids who already knew how to skate. They had begun to acquire a professional stride in less than five minutes; that's what Andre had said, when he later screened the videotaped record of the training session. Good enough for me.


This year I've managed to get some results for two other parts of the system.


1. Shoko's people at Dr Chance's lab in Philadelphia showed videos of knot tying to some students and measured the subjects' oxygen uptake somewhere in the prefrontal cortex of their brains. Shoko hasn't shared much of the data with us. But, it appears to me, from studying a PowerPointPresentation of the work they did on knot tying in Philly, that they measured pretty good uptake of oxygen, indicative of cognition, whilst the video was being shown to the subjects. The subjects didn't know how to tie the bowline or the clove hitch before they watched the videos, and they knew it afterwards, so they learned it while watching the video. That's about all I know about it at this point.


2. Several months ago, I signed up as a substitute teacher in the West Contra Costa Unified School District in order to get some human subjects to show videos to. When I showed VHS movies to students, on a good monitor mounted nice and high, the number of students with their eyes on the monitor was approximately zero. When I showed Quicktime movies of the GetSkilz genre to students, on a big screen at the front of the room from a nice bright projector mounted high overhead, the percentage of students with their eyes on the screen was one hundred percent. *




*I left out all of the "experimental" details, even though it makes for an interesting story. Here are a few of them:

The first class I was assigned to was a week long stint teaching "Science" to middle school students. This particular classroom had a first-rate VCR setup, with a big monitor and a working remote control. I borrowed a number of good VHS tapes from a very competent (if somewhat overenthusiastic) science teacher next door (she went around wearing a NASA jumpsuit every day, in preparation for an upcoming field trip to Chabot Observatory; seriously, every day, all day, a bright blue jumpsuit). I picked the best one, a 20 min production about acid rain, called Acid Rain. I showed Acid Rain to the classes, and myself and at least one other person would take note of how many faces were turned to the screen. The data obtained can be expressed very simply: Zero. At any given time while the movie was running, not one student would be watching the screen. Occasionally a student would glance at it. One of the scorers had fun keeping track of what else the students we


For the Quicktime movies, I only had one chance at the one room that had the big screen at the front of the room with the nice bright projector mounted high overhead, during the last hour of the last day I ever taught school. The lesson for the day was to write an essay about "My Chosen Career" (they were seniors.) I told them they had fifteen minutes to write, and then they would read their first paragraph or so out loud. They could finish their essay over the weekend, and turn it in Monday. These kids all hate to read aloud; so I told them, furthermore, that I would write an essay also, about my chosen career, and that being a professional writer, I would finish drafting mine within the fifteen minutes, and would illustrate it with the computer. So I wrote an essay about how I had had several careers, as a biochemist, a real estate entrepreneur, a trucker and trucking company owner, and a computer business owner; and that ten years ago I had embarked on a c





Back to FrogOJT page., with links to some Quicktime movies.