Learning that’s just-in-time to frustrate me

Last night some new strings arrived for my ukulele. I’ve only ever restrung a ukulele once (despite owning a zillion) so although I knew I was a complete n00b, I figured I ought to be able to work it out.

Last night someone in my house may have thrown a violent tantrum of frustration.

Don't tell me to be calm!!
That person may have been trying to change ukulele strings.

That person may have been me.

When faced with the task in which I am incredibly lacking in any knowledge or experience, i would turn either to someone knowledgeable nearby (in person or through PLN) or youtube. In this case, it was youtube. This was just a short manual activity, surely a video is going to be the best way to learn it. The situation, and my experience, made me think of the iterations of flipped classrooms and recorded lectures that I have experienced up until now – and why I’m still skeptical of the “down with lectures!” push that seems to be gaining traction.

In light of the recent conversations of the value of lectures (from many viewpoints), I wondered – what would have been the optimal way for me to learn this valuable, yet infrequently applied, knowledge?

I knew the makers of my ukulele make a lot of informational videos, and that my ukulele build (with the slotted headstock) is somewhat unique, so I specifically searched for the brand assuming that they would have something relevant – and they did. The value of this resource was that it was exactly specific to what I needed to achieve. There was little fluff or extraneous title slides or cue music. And there was my just-in-time just-enough resource.

Unfortunately, their videography skills meant sometimes fingers or hands were in the way of seeing the string action, and (most) strings are clear plastic, so difficult to see clearly on dark wood or if they’re behind or in front of each other. If I missed something, usually to recreate on my uke what they were going through on the video, I would miss important visual cues that had an impact later on in the process. Of course, the advantage of video is that you can pause and rewind, being able to go back to a specific section and watch it over again, and over, and over, and over, and over, and WHY IS THIS SO FREAKING DIFFICULT ITS JUST A STUPID STRING ARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!

And, so, tantrum.

You see, when I didn’t fully grasp something, I couldn’t ask for the video to move around to another view, I couldn’t ask for them to clarify a word I didn’t understand, I couldn’t ask them to slow down individual steps (it’s somewhat difficult to press pause on a tiny mobile device screen whilst also holding a thin slippery but stubborn string in both hands and between teeth and balance ukulele body between legs for fear of it hitting the table and chipping a very expensive piece of wood). I was a passive consumer of information. And I was frustrated at the lack of control. If that had been an assessment, I would have lost all motivation. If that had been a pre-course ‘reading’ of the flipped classroom persuasion, I would have arrived at class demotivated, frustrated and woefully behind.

The passivity of these recorded lecture resources creates a risk that if the deliverer of that information is not accounting for all the questions and situations in which their information may be consumed, it might be completely ineffective. If I had a ‘tutor’ or ‘lecturer’ available, I might have been able to ask those questions directly, just-in-time.

And how many of the flipped classroom video resources that so many proponents of the anti-lecture movement are going to effectively address those? What about the research into the length and style of effective videos? Are they simply going to reuse recorded lectures from previous years? Are they going to be created using technology that supports engagement with the resource (the Echo360 active learning platform and Kaltura’s capturespace control over video inputs are two products that come to mind)?

As it happens, through sheer stubbornness I eventually finished. The resulting sound, heard from a few brief strums and plucks, confirms that it was worth the hassle. I also know that next time it will be easier (not in the least because the video provided some helpful steps that, once understood, make perfect sense and are easily replicable).

So, yes, a video can be useful and solve a variety of problems (distance, time, scale, replication) and in this case was ultimately successful and effective in helping me some my immediate need; that is, “the proof of [my] mastery is in what [I] can do“.

But don’t think that a video replaces a person.

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should (and deserves to) be”


One thought on “Learning that’s just-in-time to frustrate me

  1. Hey Kahiwa. Thanks for the post.

    I think your point is valid, it is important to have someone to be able to ask questions or further guidance when stuck. However, I don’t think it proves the need for lectures. If you had been sitting in a 300 people lecture theatre, you may not have asked for the lecturer to stop their “sermon” to the 299 others, just to show you another view.

    However, in a smaller group, more of a tutorial setting you may have. So your experience shows the need and opportunity for the flipped classroom. Show the skill, practise the skill on your own, then have the ability to really get stuck into the nitty-gritty in a face-to-face setting, with the opportunity to problem solve at a higher level.

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