There are many ways to “bring an expert” to your class. Here’s another great (and free!) approach…
The debate about Khan Academy is very interesting to follow. People from the Learning Sciences will be quick to point out that content (in any form – video, books, etc) by itself is only PART of the learning experience, especially for novices. You can learn ABOUT something from a video, but what you really learn depends on how much you already know (or think you know). In some cases, watching a video is “dangerous” because now you think you’re smart. For deeper learning, the video is only part of the experience.
Some things are easy to learn from a video – learning “about” something (declarative knowledge) and learning how to do something (procedural knowledge), are generally well covered using “explanatory videos”. But there’s more we (and our students) need to know. Conceptual understanding and a host of “higher order thinking” skills often referred to in one of many lists of “21st century skills” (http://www.p21.org/ has a nice list – we’ll ignore the fact that these skills have been relevant for a much longer time than simply the last 12 years).
I really like how many educators are using video to supplement the learning experiences students are having, and I like how video allows students to explore almost ANY topic on the planet. However, what novices need in order to reach mastery is that “something else”, which is usually the human interaction (mentors, facilitators, expert guides) that provides a safe place to ask important questions, and then the opportunity to put what they THINK they know into practice.
So in the end, the key is to design the “complete learning experience” to maximize the impact.
One very specific type of video being produced for learning has been designed by a team at MIT under the Blossoms project (http://blossoms.mit.edu/). These math and science videos are meant to be used by high school teachers (or other in-person facilitators), and they feature experts talking about their topics.
As described by the Blossoms team, “Every lesson is a complete resource that includes video segments, a teacher’s guide, downloadable hand-outs and a list of additional online resources relevant to the topic. We carefully craft each BLOSSOMS lesson to make your classroom come alive. Each 50-minute lesson builds on math and science fundamentals by relating abstract concepts to the real world. The lessons intersperse video instruction with planned exercises that engage students in problem solving and critical thinking, helping students build the kind of gut knowledge that comes from hands-on experience…”
In my view, here’s the magic of Blossoms: The experts work with the Blossoms team to create carefully designed videos that are meant to be watched in short “chunks” (unlike many of the other “open education” recorded lectures I’ve seen). The chunks lead to an activity (discussion, experiment, etc). The teacher plays a chunk, then stops the video so the students can respond – then they watch the next chunk. It’s a great example of video purposefully designed to be integrated into a more complete learning experience.
So whether or not you’re “flipping” your classroom with pre-recorded explanations, consider using (or creating) videos that are integrated into your classroom’s face-time...
Jim Vanides, B.S.M.E, M.Ed.
Global Education Program Manager
Sustainability & Social Innovation