I'm not sure this is all there is to say, however. Decades of research into audio-vusual and multimedia learning have shown that images, both photographic and diagrammatic, cimematographic and animated, can convey cogntive lessons that stick. The domains of subject matter include mathematics and natural sciences as well as more practical realms, like how to re-string a guitar or perform electronic soldering.
It's interesting that we are awash with "learning" video these days, from the wonderful new PBS learning site to the Khan Academy online. Yet there is, as far as I can tell, no systematic coverage of all this activity in terms of a more general theoretical model.
The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia (updated)
From Annie's Blog:
"TED talkers are nothing if not fluent. Could it be that the effective presentation of the speakers in TED-style videos fools us into thinking we’re learning more than we are? As someone who watches TED videos often, and who has given a TED talk herself, I’m biased. But I think there are good reasons to believe that these videos can be vehicles for genuine learning. Here, five ways that well-made videos (including MOOCs and other kinds of digital instruction) can help us learn:
• They gratify our preference for visual learning. Effective presentations treat our visual sense as being integral to learning. This elevation of the image—and the eschewal of text-heavy Power Point presentations—comports well with cognitive scientists’ findings that we understand and remember pictures much better than mere words.
• They engage the power of social learning. The robust conversation that videos can inspire, both online and off, recognizes a central principle of adult education: We learn best from other people. In the discussions, debates, and occasional arguments about the content of the talks they see, video-watchers are deepening their own knowledge and understanding.
• They put practitioners in the role of teachers. We take in knowledge most readily, not when it’s presented in the abstract, but when it’s embedded in a rich context of stories and experiences. TED’s speakers are effective teachers because most of the time, they don’t teach; they do.
• They enable self-directed, “just-in-time” learning. Because video viewers choose which talks to watch and when to watch them, they’re able to tailor their education to their own needs. Knowledge is easiest to absorb at the moment when we’re ready to apply it.
• They encourage viewers to build on what they already know. Adults are not blank slates: They bring to learning a lifetime of previously acquired information and experience. Effective video instruction build on top of this knowledge, adding and elaborating without dumbing down.
It’s become fashionable to mock the distinctive style of TED videos; their success makes them a tempting target. But in a world in which we want—and need—to be learning all the time, they’re excellent arrows to have in our quiver. (An abstract and link to the Carpenter article can be found here.)"