Top Gun: Maverick or a Study With Me Video?

I like to think I’m reasonably up to date with what’s happening, especially when it comes to studying and learning but I have to confess I have only recently come across what are called “study with me videos”, which have actually been around for more than 5 years. Study with me videos are exactly what they say they are, a type of video in which people prepare for an exam on camera, while others watch and study at the same time, it’s literally a video of someone studying, either live streamed or recorded.

Before we go any further its worth taking a look at some of these videos.

Firstly, Thomas Frank who describes himself as a video creator and writer with a focus on productivity, learning, and personal development. Thomas has a huge following on YouTube with nearly three million subscribers, although he offers far more than just study with me videos, here is one of his, a  25-Minute Pomodoro Session.

Secondly a Korean YouTuber who broadcasts under the name of “the man sitting next to me”. In Korean they call making these video gongbang, which translates to “study broadcast”. Normally the man sitting next to me live streams but here is a recording with a background rain sound effect thrown in for good measure.

And thirdly Jamie Lee, who lives in New York and has a YouTube channel called “The Strive to Fit.” She started her channel when she was in medical school but even though she has now qualified as a doctor she continues to broadcast. Unlike The Man Sitting Next to Me, Jamie’s “study with me” video are pre-recorded. Two clips from Jamie, the first a typical study session, with background music, its already had 1.3 million views, and secondly a get to know me video where Jamie answers questions.

What purpose do they serve?

As you can see from these videos each person has their own individual style with some streaming live whilst others are pre-recorded and slightly more professional with music, the sound of rain or pen on paper etc. As a slight aside if you just want the background noise and a relaxing scene, here are a few more videos, an ancient library with a roaring fire, a cosy library with jazz playing in the background and heavy rain that will apparently help you throw away that stress.

But what’s the point of these videos, why do people find them helpful?

  • Motivational and help with feelings of isolation – the YouTubers who make these videos are all students, they are therefore by definition the same as the people watching, and if they can sit down for two and a half hours and study, I guess you can do the same. Rather than getting in with a “bad crowd” you’re in with the good guys, they are hardworking, studious, and ambitious, their behaviour and attitude can and does rub off. This is consistent with Albert Banduras social learning theory, where he discovered that when people observe others they begin to model and imitate their behaviours. In addition, these are communities, comments are made underneath the videos by the many students that watch them, reminding you that you are not alone, and that others are feeling the same pressures. These YouTubers often connect on a personal level, by explaining why they work so hard and sharing details of their personal lives, successes and failures. To all intents and purpose, they are your study buddy.
  • Excellent for time management – the Pomodoro technique, which was mentioned above is where you break your studying down into short 25-minute sessions, these videos work very much in the same way by helping manage your time.  In fact, as you saw in the Thomas Frank video, he actually studies for exactly 25 minutes. There is also some evidence to show that studying like this in short bursts helps with memory and improved attention.
  • An inspiring learning environment – environment plays an important when it comes to learning, having a physical location where you study can get you into the right mood as soon as you enter it. It’s one of the reasons people go to a library, you know that before you walk through those doors what you are there for and need to do. As a result, when you sit down at your desk open up your laptop and put on your study with me video, it’s time to start work.
  • Good study practice – in addition to producing the study with me videos many YouTubers will offer up study tips such as how to use mind maps, memory skills, effective note taking etc.   
  • But the research shows that silence is the best – it may be that the sound of rain or the scribbles of a pen on paper help you feel less isolated, almost all of the research in this area has shown that problem solving and memory recall tasks are performed better in silence. As a result, there may be a time when you would be best just turning the sound down.
  • They help the YouTuber as well – most of those making these videos acknowledge that because they feel a responsibility to their fellow students it motivates them to study as well.

One final observation about these videos they are not collaborative in the sense that students work together in order to solve a problem, that’s just not what they are trying to achieve.  

But which one is best, Top Gun or study with me videos?

In the interests of balance, here is the trailer for Top Gun: Maverick for you to decide for yourself.  

The 5 top EdTech trends – summer of 2017

Glastonbury a marginally more interesting gathering….but only just.

We are in the season when many learning and technology leaders gather to discuss what’s new and what’s trending in the world of education. And at two recent conferences, Learning Technologies and EdTechXEurope there was plenty to see. Generally, the role of technology in learning seems to have found its place with many acknowledging it should support learning not drive it. However it’s still very easy to look at the latest shiny new offerings and think, this is great how can I use it, rather than, what learning problem does it solve.

Here are a few of the most notable developments.

1. Video is getting even better – fuelled by the YouTube generation of learners, those who would rather watch a video than read a book as a means to consume knowledge, we have some new developments.

Firstly, using video to deliver micro learning.  Not just small chunks of video but untethered, JIT, 3 minute courses that offer the learner digestible easy to remember information. Think of micro learning as a series of very short courses that could be linked to each other or not, and can even include assessment.

Secondly, interactive video. TV is no longer the all commanding medium it once was, it like other technologies has had to evolve. In recent years the shift has been towards better engagement, offering spin off programmes where there is a live audience, web sites that showcase the backstory to the characters and programmes that require the audience to vote and so influence events. Now we have interactive video, where the individual can choose what they would do and so change the future. Check out this amazing example, used by Deloitte to attract new talent.

2. Gamification is becoming better understood. For the uninitiated gamification is the use of game based principles to improve motivation, concentration and more effective learning. Gamification uses Points (P) as a measure of reward, Badges (B) as a visual record of success, and leader boards (L) to create competition.

We now believe Dopamine, the pleasure induced neurotransmitter (chemical) is not created as a result of a reward e.g. by being given a badge, it is the challenge and subsequent achievement that releases the dopamine which in turn leads to pleasure. This might seem obvious, with hindsight, no one gets pleasure from being top of a leader board, if they did nothing to get there.  In addition, dopamine is released when you have a new experience, so think about changing pathways, setting different questions and tasks, it’s certainly not very motivational to go over the same content again.

3. Information overload is leading to a need for Knowledge Curation – we are living in an age where  information is abundant. You can learn anything from the internet. But there lies the problem, we have too much information, we suffer from information overload. Curation is the collecting and sorting of meaningful content around a theme, and it is now in some instances being thought of as more valuable than the content itself.

Arguably curation is not so much about what you curate and share but what you don’t share. In addition to the organisation of content the curators need to have an expertise in the subject and an understanding of their audience and what they want.

Steven Rosenbaum in his book Curation Nation, offers up a good summary. “Curation replaces noise with clarity. And it’s the clarity of your choosing; it’s the things that people you trust help you find.”

4. The market is becoming more accepting of user generated content (UGC) – organisations are beginning to see the benefits of UGC for a whole host of reasons. It’s a very fast way of generating content, there is a lot of expertise that can be uncovered by allowing individuals to share what they know, it’s often user friendly, and importantly its cheap. It is of course not perfect, and there are concerns about quality, but by allowing the users to rate the content, the quality might just look after itself.

5. Virtual reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial intelligence (AI) – not that these are all related, but just a simple way of me summarising three areas to keep an eye on in the not too distant future. All of these technologies are becoming cheaper, largely because of the investment made and experience being gained in the gaming industry.

By way of a footnote Google have released an open source software called Tensorflow which can help with machine learning, something that they believe will help drive new initiatives in AI.

Video killed my teacher – metaphorically speaking

Video killed the radio star

What did you do the last time you needed to repair, cook or dare I say learn something? Did you google it and follow the link to YouTube? If so you are no different to the over one billion people who actively use YouTube every month.

This blog is not actually about YouTube but the medium of video and the increasingly important role it plays in our daily life and how we use it to learn.



Social learning and the bobo doll

Albert Bandura is the Professor Emeritus at Stanford University and is widely regarded as one of the greatest living psychologists. He is perhaps most famous for his Social learning theory, the theory of how people learn by observing others, and the bobo doll experiment. Click here to listen to Bandura himself explain.

Behavioral theories of learning suggested that all learning was the result of associations formed by conditioning, reinforcement, and even punishment, see Skinner and Pavlov. Bandura’s social learning theory proposed that learning can also occur simply by observing the actions of others. And that is where the true value of video lies, it is in the ability of people to watch what others do and learn from them.

What makes a good learning video?

Firstly, as with any form of delivery it needs to planned and structured. What is the purpose of the video, why use video and not send an email? Think about the audience, why will they want to watch it, what makes it relevant for them? Break it into three sections, a beginning, where you tell the audience what you are going to tell them, the middle, where you actually tell them, and the end where you tell them what you have told them.

Secondly It has to be relatively short, 10 minutes is a maximum. Even 6 minutes of good video takes a lot of planning, equally it wont test concentration levels too much. This does not mean you can’t record many hours of video, it just needs to be chunked, labeled and structured so it can be easily followed.

And lastly think about your delivery. Pace, tone of voice and body language all help the learner. This is where you manage the mood of your audience, if your happy they will be happy. Generally, speak more slowly than you would normally but be careful toooo slowww can be boring, vary how you say something depending on what you’re saying. Also think about the visuals and if it would be better to show an image rather than talk. But don’t go mad and put too much on screen all at the same time, it gets confusing.

Examples of good video 

But of course the best way to explain the power of video in learning is to show the videos.

1.The queen of cooking Delia is also the expert of slow deliberate, perfectly planned presenting. Here she explains how to cook an omelet, notice the attention to detail.  Ps Delia left school at 16 without a single GCE O-level. 3.43 minutes in length.

2.Here is someone who breaks the presenting rules, certainly the one that says don’t talk too fast. However, CGP Grey is great at using visuals, his dialogue is fast but incredibly informative, its packed with information, and it’s funny. If you are confused by the US elections, you won’t be after watching this.  5.19 minutes in length.

3.Crash course is a little like Khan academy which I have written before, what makes it different is the humour and how it is shot to camera using powerful visuals. Watch this clip if you want to learn about supply and demand. This pushes the boundaries time wise at 10.21 minutes.

4.This is the big one certainly as far as hits are concerned. James Stevens, Vsauceis watched by 19 million people. This one answers the questions as to, what would happen if everyone jumped at once? 7.12 minutes in length.