I don’t know what’s going on in the newsgraphics department at the New York Times these days, but they’ve really hit upon the most wonderful way to create beautifully engaging and effective teaching videos. Have you seen these?
There’s so much to love about these gems, it’s hard to know where to begin. But let me try…
First and foremost, the clean, elegant look – no intrusion of the interface, the video takes over the whole screen in luscious high-definition.
- The blend of narration and text to explain (good judgement there about when to use what).
- I admire the way they control the pace of the learner through the story – you vertically scroll to proceed – with some control – but at certain key points, the video takes over and just plays. One caveat to this is that there are no standard video controls available to you. If you try to imagine (as I’ve done) applying their method to an educational module to explain, say protein synthesis or cell division, you would want to give the learner the ability to “rewind” a scootch, replay, reconsider.
- The overlay of instructive graphics on top of an image is particularly instructive. Not only does this method skewer our eye to the critical element (in the case of the slalom skier, Ted Ligety, the extreme angle of his body in relationship to the ground), but they guide you through the explanation by drawing the graphic in real-time, John-Madden-style. Very effective.
- A generous and smart mix of media types – animation, video, audio, still graphics, text, models, sketches
- A very clever mix of focus – long-view, close-up, macro, micro – your eye and your brain feel exercised and engaged. There is no downtime.
- Numbered steps when you need them to aid the explanation.
- Often when using digital media to teach, we learners suffer from the “spelunking problem” – that is, it’s a bit like spelunking in a cave, you don’t know where you are in relationship to the whole journey – when will it end? In the case of these modules, you are given subtle cues about how much information lies ahead of you. Note the small vertical column of dots to the right of the screen that serve as a progress bar – a clear commitment read out. Knowing that, you can relax and concentrate on the business at hand.
So very, very well done. Bravo, NY Times, and keep them coming!