This will revolutionize education

If a moment ever comes along when I am teaching a class, and I require any old YouTube video to embed or link to as an example, my go-to is inevitably a video from my all-time favorite YouTube channel, Veritasium.  Veritasium, an educational science video blog hosted by Derek Muller, recently decided to tackle the question of what will revolutionizing education.  The video is definitely worth every second of viewing.  I hope you enjoy it.

Did you watch it?  I hope so.  I can’t resist piggy backing on a few points made in this video.

First, there’s quite a lot in education that doesn’t change from decade to decade or even century to century.  If you read the calls for reform made by both John Dewey and competitor reformers around a century ago, they sound pretty similar to various calls for reform today.  As mentioned in the video, the hype around new technologies and their potential to revolutionize practice has been emphatic and surprisingly parallel with each new innovation in technology.  Yet the majority of meta-analyses continue to indicate that there is no significant difference between technologies when comparing their ability to convey information. 1   Richard Clark, a famous learning technologies researcher, has even boldly claimed that Media Will Never Influence Learning.  One of his particularly memorable quotes is the following:

“Media are mere vehicles that deliver instruction but do not influence student achievement any more than the truck that delivers our groceries causes changes in our nutrition.” 2

– Clark

What matters is what is on the truck, not the delivery mechanism, according to Clark.  The subject isn’t considered closed by the many researchers who have offered counter-arguments, but the dearth of studies demonstrating a significant difference in learning when different medias (animation, video, text with pictures) are applied lends some credit to his long-stated and long-defended position.  Also, this isn’t to say that compelling research on how to effectively organize the content being delivered doesn’t exist.  How you organize “what’s on the truck” and what you include in the delivery does make a difference.  (In fact, Derek Muller briefly mentions a few of my favorite studies, but I’ll delve into them in an upcoming post.)

So if the newest media is not what will boldly revolutionize education, let’s consider the video’s core claim, and what is most interesting to me.  Here’s the money quote:

“Luckily, the fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver content.  It is to guide the social process of learning.  The job of a teacher is to inspire, to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn.”

What are your thoughts?  Clearly there are still open questions and widespread debate.  Is Derek Muller right?  Are new technologies revolutionizing learning?  Or are they more of an evolution than a revolution?  What do you think will truly revolutionize learning?  We would love to discuss this and other topics with you either in the blog comment section, in person at the Center for Instructional Innovation, or at Ebrik Coffee Room, for that matter.


  1. Check out this article for a nice discussion of these findings of “no significant difference” that also includes a critique of the design of these meta-analyses
  2. Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering research on learning from media. Review of Educational Research, 43(4), 445-459.
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20 comments on “This will revolutionize education
  1. TAB says:

    Great post, Heidi!
    I consider technologies as tools instructors can use to encourage students. Whether the instructor is face-to-face or online their interaction with students is what is central to the success of the student– not the video that they have embedded, the LMS that is being used, or the infographic they spent hours creating.
    I’d like to encourage faculty to invest their time in connections with students rather than hours using a new technology to create an awesome learning object.

  2. hbeezley says:

    You raise a critical point. With limited time, faculty just can’t do everything. Building relationships with and mentoring students, offering meaningful feedback, and supporting the social process of learning is one of the highest priorities for faculty.

    If something like an infographic or video will really help clarify a concept, it may already exist. If not, at the CII we are always happy to help make the creation process quick and easy. In fact, creating things like infographics, splainer videos, and other technology enhanced learning objects is one of our favorite things to do. We see our role as shouldering a large part of that burden so that faculty can focus on their relationships with students. So feel free to bring your ideas for digital learning objects to us, and we’ll make them happen.

    Thank you so much for your comment!

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