January 2016

Derek Muller’s challenge: How to learn from presentations?


Congratulations to Derek Muller’s Richmayer’s award


Derek Muller’s view of misconceptions and their impact on learning.

Today I had an opportunity to attend Derek Muller’s talk at the Winter 2016 American Association of Physics Teachers meeting in New Orleans. Derek Muller (who was born in Vancouver) is a creator of a very famous YouTube channel: Veritasium – 

I have heard Derek’s presentations before, but in my view this one was the most powerful of all. It is wonderful that so many physics educators were present. I also know that they videotaped it and the presentation will be available from AAPT web site. While I took photos of this presentation and posted them on my Facebook: see here, I would like to mention a few things that I have learned from it. Derek called his presentation “Can you lean anything from a presentation?” He also emphasized that some confusion is needed for productive learning. He provided multiple examples where very clear presentations by teachers didn’t produce much learning for their students. To the contrary, it often produced more confidence in their knowledge that was inaccurate.  Moreover, he emphasized that presentations are not inherently wrong. It all depends on the level of learners’ engagement. Many modern educators claim that all presentations (“teacher-centered learning environments) are bad, while all hands-on (students-centered learning environments) are good. I would say this is a new mantra in education and many people follow it as fashion without even thinking what it means…

Yet Derek has a different answer. The focus of his presentation was on how to engage the students in learning during presentations and how to engage them via interactive online videos? I think Derek’s ideas are worth listening to. He emphasized that presentation doesn’t need to be passive and that online videos powered by modern technology can provide unprecedented opportunities for engaging students. I think physics educators might find Derek’s Ph.D. thesis worth reading and certainly his Veritaisum channel is a great resource for physics teaching. I hope my students and colleagues will make use of these resources.   I am very glad Derek received this prestigious AAPT award and I think he is making significant contributions to physics learning.

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