A number of years ago, I came across a book that had a powerful influence on me, E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, by Clark and Mayer. I would recommend it to anyone who prepares teaching materials for display on a screen.
I learned that there is an entire science of how students learn best while watching a screen (“best” means most time-efficient, with long knowledge retention.) I’ve tried to apply this science to the materials I’ve prepared, and although I don’t have a randomized study to back me up, I believe that following these tested principals works the best.
1. Early on, you need to decide whether you are primarily teaching, or primarily entertaining.
You can try to do both, but it’s very difficult to do a good job, because:
- The rules governing good entertainment and good education are quite different.
- The structure of what you create is different.
- The tools you use are different and frequently mutually exclusive.
2. We learn using two channels, audio and visual
We learn “best” when we use both channels at the same time, so long as:
- The two channels are supportive of each other and not in conflict.
- The channels are not identical (e.g., having the narrator read a sentence off the screen is not good for learning. The audience immediately switches off their learning mode and shifts into a fact-checker mode…did the narrator read the sentence accurately?