Over the past ten years, I've written hundreds of scripts for explainer videos and if there is one thing I've learned, it's this: the act of writing the script and trying to explain an idea for others teaches me more about the subject than anything else I can do. My understanding doesn't become clear until the ideas in my head make the jump to the script, where I'm forced to present them logically.
This process of writing explanations in order to understand them better is also known as the Feynman Technique. Richard Feynman was known as The Great Explainer thanks to his talent for transforming complex scientific information into easy to understand models and ideas. The 1.5-minute video below summarizes the technique.
For a new study in Applied Cognitive Psychology researchers led by Aloysius Wei Lun Koh set out to test their theory that teaching improves the teacher’s learning because it compels the teacher to retrieve what they’ve previously studied. In other words, they believe the learning benefit of teaching is simply another manifestation of the well-known “testing effect” – the way that bringing to mind what we’ve previously studied leads to deeper and longer-lasting acquisition of that information than more time spent passively re-studying.
They found the students who performed best at understanding and remembering a new subject were the ones who learned the subject and then taught it to others.
Why does this matter? Because anyone can use this practice to increase their understanding of a subject. Studying is great. Taking notes is helpful. But if you really want to understand and remember a subject, explain it to someone else. Or, simply pretend that you're writing a letter or video script with the goal of explaining it clearly.
Sachi and I often find ourselves discussing what is in "the zeitgeist", meaning subjects that are becoming more popular and representing a particular period of history. Early in our video careers, we created videos about Twitter and Wikis because they were in the zeitgeist at the time.
Today, there are few subjects in the technology world more in the zeitgeist than the idea of blockchain and how it enables Bitcoin, among many other ideas, to work. The problem, as with most subjects in the zeitgeist, is that new, transformational ideas are often difficult to understand. This is certainly the case with blockchain.
We produced a video called Blockchain Explained by Common Craft that's available in our video library and designed for use in classrooms, training, etc. Now that blockchain is becoming a more popular idea, we've decided to publish the blockchain video so it may reach many more people. You can now find and share the video on YouTube and Facebook. I've embedded the YouTube video below:
Using an example of a song written three generations ago, this video shows why it makes sense that the public domain exists and what it means when a song, photo, artwork, document or other creative work is in the public domain. This video teaches:
The basics of copyright law and how it gives creators control
Why copyrights expire over time
How public domain works are available for use without payment or permission
Why creators and organizations contribute to the public domain
Every once in a while, we come upon a subject that is both extremely complicated and potentially transformational. We treat these subjects with care and work hard to capture the big, fundamental ideas that create a foundation for learning more in the future.
Today, that subject is Blockchain, which is the backbone of the digital currency Bitcoin and a concept that could be used more widely in the future.
The video below uses an analogy to show why blockchain may represent a better way for a small village to manage ownership of village property.
This video provides a big picture look at why blockchain matters. Using the story of a village, it explains how villagers, who had a centralized authority for ownership, discover a new, decentralized way to manage ownership of village property. It teaches:
How central authorities (banks, government) currently account for changes in ownership
Why a fundamentally new accounting system is now possible using the internet
How blockchain works to create a decentralized system that users manage
Why this new system is considered safe, secure and transparent
The new video explains algorithms - what they are and why they matter.
What it Teaches:
This video is an introduction to the basic ideas of algorithms. It explains how computers, websites and digital products need instructions that answer the question “what should I do next?” in order to complete tasks, serve customers and gather information. It teaches:
Why algorithms are similar to offline customer service
Today we've published a new video that explains Net Neutrality.
Note: This video release is special. For the first time in about four years, we're publishing a version of a new video on our websiteandYouTube so that it can be shared easily.
Why? Because it's about a complex and important subject that could impact all US internet users. This subject deserves to be understood by everyone, so we want to make that easy by making it more sharable.
The debate on Net Neutrality is about the future of the Internet and outcomes that could impact every US internet user. This video explains what net neutrality is and why it matters, by focusing first on the idea of neutrality.
What it teaches:
What neutrality means outside of the Internet
Why utilities, like providers of electricity, are designed to be neutral
Why the internet is currently similar to a utility
How the internet experience could change without neutrality