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.
Last week, we published Fair Use Explained by Common Craft, the 98th video in our library. For the first time, we're offering this video with a Forever License for a limited time.
The Forever License means the video is available for purchase and download without Common Craft membership or recurring fees. The file is yours forever...and the clock is ticking.
The Forever License will only be available until midnight (PDT) this Friday, April 20th.
This offer has now expired.
The purchase includes:
A standard version of the video (.MP4)
Video version with open captions in English (.MP4)
A Lesson Plan for teaching with the video (PDF)
This video, like all Common Craft videos, is designed to help educators introduce Fair Use efficiently and create a foundation for a deeper lesson. You can easily insert the video into presentations, training materials and learning management systems. The Forever License is also available for schools, school districts and organizations.
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
As of tonight, it has been ten years since we published RSS in Plain English on YouTube. I can't believe it's been so long. We owe a debt of gratittude to those of you who were with us in the beginning. It makes our day to know that you've stuck with us. We'd love to hear from you!
To mark the occasion, I wrote about how we came up with the idea for making RSS in Plain English and what happened the day we published it. Here's an excerpt:
YouTube was a year old at the time and growing incredibly fast. Soon, our discussions turned to ways we could ride the YouTube wave to new destinations. But how? We had no background in video production. What kinds of videos could be useful? What could two people and a cheap video camera do?
In 2006 YouTube was not alone in experiencing incredible growth. This was the dawn of the social media revolution and ideas like wikis, blogs and social networking were just starting to become known and adoption was slow. Being a big fan and user of these new tools, I wanted more people to use them. I believed they could be adopted quickly by the mass market.
But I also saw problems. These powerful, free and useful tools all suffered from the same malady: confusion. They were so new and different that most people couldn’t make sense of them intuitively. It was like a huge mountain of value was being obscured by a dense shroud of foggy, technical communication. Clearing that fog was the problem we decided to solve. We set out to make these new tools understandable for people like our parents using the power of YouTube videos. For the first time, we thought about what it means to explain an idea effectively using video.