Brilliant video: This Will Revolutionize Education

Explanation by this video:

Many technologies have promised to revolutionize education, but so far none has. With that in mind, what could revolutionize education?
These ideas have been percolating since I wrote my PhD in physics education:…
I have also discussed this topic with CGP Grey, whose view of the future of education differs significantly from mine:…

I think it is instructive that each new technology has appeared to be so transformative. You can imagine, for example, that motion pictures must have seemed like a revolutionary learning technology. After all they did revolutionize entertainment, yet failed to make significant inroads into the classroom. TV and video seem like a cheaper, scaled back film, but they too failed to live up to expectations. Now there is a glut of information and video on the internet so should we expect it to revolutionize education?

My view is that it won’t, for two reasons: 1. Technology is not inherently superior, animations over static graphics, videoed presentations over live lectures etc. and 2. Learning is inherently a social activity, motivated and encouraged by interactions with others.

Filmed and edited by Pierce Cook



Filed under Education, Myths, Research, Review

20 responses to “Brilliant video: This Will Revolutionize Education

  1. Its a punchy video – but I think its conclusions are ultimately wrong – or at least misleading. See my comment at

    • Actually, I think it’s quite correct based on my own knowledge of work in this field of expertise. What he tells references work by Cuban, Clark, Mayer,… And I do think it’s rather evolution than revolutions happening. Sadly I can’t read your comment?

      • Here’s a copy of my comment on YouTube to “This Will Revolutionize Education”:


        I have also commented on Digital Aristotle, who I think gets many things right, particularly about scale and personalisation, but who goes too far in arguing that teachers can/should be replaced, and places too much confidence in the video rather than the activity/feedback loop (which is an area where technology *could* help – but it is a much more demanding technical requirement than simply pumping out videos.


        The fallacy that I think links both pro and con positions is the identification of edtech with videos (or, indeed, with largely trivial social networking platforms). That is the immature state of the current debate.

        And thanks, in passing, for the very interesting links!

      • Perhaps maybe because I’m too involved in the subject, I didn’t see the identification of edtech with videos, I saw it rather as an example as he discusses also learning machines.

      • Well that didn’t work! here is my first comment, in response to This Will Revolutionize Education-

        True, we can’t do without teachers but this does not mean we don’t need good technology too (there is plenty of evidence from PISA that high-performing education systems make more use of textbooks than poorly performing systems – see #textbookscount on Twitter.

        True, learning needs to happen in a social context, but this does not mean it is not also dependent on expertise.

        True, learning happens inside the learner’s head, but this does not mean that what happens inside the head is not a response to what happens outside the head (try putting the learners head in a sensory deprivation tank and see how much learning happens then).

        True, lots of empty promises of transformation have been made in the past but this is not an argument that we are unable to learn from our mistakes, or that transformation is not possible to achieve in the future. Lots of people died jumping off high buildings with wings strapped to their backs before the Wright brothers flew the first airplane (and in the end, there is no qualitative difference between what most people mean by transformation and rapid evolution).

        Caution about edtech is good – it sure has been over-promised and under-delivered over the last 20 years – but this video presents a series of false dichotomies and non-sequiturs. For a more extended counter argument, see my “Its the technology, stupid!” at Thanks.

      • And here is my second comment, in reply to Digital Aristotle-

        Thanks for the video. I agree with the big vision, with two key caveats.

        1. The stuff of teaching is not the explanation (/video/broadcast/book) but the activity and the conversation that encapsulates a feedback-retry loop. This is not to say that explanation doesn’t have a place – just that it is not the primary stuff of instructional content.

        2. You won’t get rid of teachers or just replace them with babysitters because one of the primary motivations for learning is role-modelling – and that happens within a personal relationship.

        So I do not agree that technology will replace school-based, teacher-led learning – but it will sure help deal with the scale problem, which IMO you correctly identify as critical (see my But in order to move forwards (and to date, the data does not show any significant impact for edtech), we need people to develop the software that will merge the exposition / testing dichotomy, creating an activity / feedback loop instead (see my And to do that (which is a significant technical challenge) we need to move away from the monopolistic platform model which the MOOCs and Khan Academy are currently pushing.

      • Replying to you at 11:58. True – the identification with video is not explicit, though both talks often major on videos. It is also implicit in the argument from experience, as the one characteristic shared by all ed-technological platforms until now is that they have been used as broadcast media rather than truly interactive and process control tools.

        My answer to learning machines (and the ILS systems of the 1990s) is that, sure, these didn’t work very well, but this was because:

        1. the activity that they offered was extremely limited (multiple choice & short answer, generally), which is bad (a) because it is boring and (b) because it fails to exercise advanced skills.

        2. they were monopolistic one-stop-shops which:
        i. prevented technical/pedagogical innovation;
        ii. prevented the development of blended learning.

        3. the adaptive logic was also primitive, preventing the system react to contingencies of learning in real life;

        4. I would also argue that the technical environment was not really conducive to edtech before mobile (1:1 device ratios), cloud (easy service acquisition) and consumerization of user interfaces.

      • True, but when you look at much of the present edu-apps this is often still the case. Not that there isn’t progress (luckily there is), but while things such as “personalised review” look promising, it delivers rather food for inclusion into education than that it wil revolutionize, which is the point of this video.

      • I agree with you that current state of educational apps is poor. And if by “revolutionize” you mean “replace the teacher”, then I agree with you again (though that’s not what I mean by the word).

        But I still maintain that it is wrong to be focusing on the teacher and not on the technology – not because we don’t need both of them, but because it is the technology that represents the key lever for change. The reason, I think, we are missing this point is because (like “the dog that didn’t bark in the night time” in the Sherlock Holmes story of that name) it is easy to miss the importance of something that isn’t there.

      • I put the emphasis on changing the “grammar” of schooling, which would be a huge revolution if changed. This is not only talking about the teacher, but about the ground principles of education who evolve but aren’t revolutionized as such.

      • The emphasis on the teacher was the conclusion that I took away from the “This Will Revolutionize Education” video – not necessarily from you.

        I might very much agree with you about the grammar of schooling (and I think I agree with you about quite a lot) though it depends on what you mean by grammar. To me, what we are often missing is management of process (tending to over-rely on personality instead). By process, I mean the design and sequencing of activities, the monitoring of progress towards defined objectives, and the management of feedback. In my view, this sort of process encapsulates what technology *is* – the means by which we achieve our ends. And in order to manage this sort of process at scale in what are complex educational environments, we need better technology. And that leads to another problem in my view with edtech – the chicken and egg problem. We can’t design good ed-tech until we know what the underlying pedagogical processes are, and we are not going to establish what those processes are until we have the edtech that we need in the modern world to manage them.

        I don’t know if that is what you mean by grammar? It could be, in the sense of stringing different elements and episodes together into coherent and meaningful “sentences”?

      • Grammar of schooling references to Tyack and Tobin who wrote:
        – The basic “grammar” of schooling, like the shape of classrooms, has remained remarkably stable over the decades.
        – By the “grammar” of schooling we mean the regular structures and rules that organize the work of instruction.
        – For example, standardized organizational practices in dividing time and space, classifying students and allocating them to classrooms, and splintering knowledge into “subjects.”
        Reference: Tyack, D., & Tobin, W. (1994). The “grammar” of schooling: Why has it been so hard to change?. American Educational Research Journal, 31(3), 453-479.

      • But in fact, we know a lot. Spaced repetition has been known for over a century and sees now a possible benefit through technology. Check as an example.

      • I agree about spaced repetition – this is a good example of my point about process. But though we know about it, we don’t generally do it – because managing the sequencing of appropriate review activities is, logistically speaking, extremely complex for a classroom teacher trying to work through a busy curriculum with five or six different classes. And the fact that we know about spaced repetition does not mean that there is much else that we don’t properly know. For example about the sequencing of activities depending on the intrinsic structure of the knowledge to be mastered, or the need to provide appropriate variation in the contexts in which abstract knowledge is applied…

      • Of course there is always more we don’t know than what we do know, but we know a lot more than many people think. If you look at the didactic principles on multimedia learning (e.g. redundancy principle mentioned in the video), or at the great insights we received lately from cognitive psychology,… it’s huge. The most important problem isn’t technology in this case, but the transfer of this knowledge to teachers who often don’t have the time, as you describe. Scarcity e.g. of time often hinders long time perspective and let you make short time decisions. To me, a much more important field of education where a positive evolution is needed.

  2. Thanks – I’ll try to read Tyack & Tobin when I can get myself free access… I agree that our organisational practices in education are clunky – I would focus on the timetable rather than the segregation of subjects. But I would agree with what I understand to be the gist of the article, as gleaned from its synopsis, that our problem is not that we don’t do x or y, but that we have a system that is resistant to innovation.

    In my view, this comes down to two problems.

    1. Our failure to measure educational outcomes well. Governments have a legitimate interest in ensuring good educational standards, which, given that they cannot easily hold providers accountable for outcomes, they do by controlling methods.

    2. The only way that we will innovate successfully is by understanding & supporting process – see my chicken and egg problem above. And see also Dr Atul Gawande making this point in relation to medicine in the second of his year’s BBC Reith Lectures at

    So I would abstract away from the grammar problem to say that we need not to address this directly, but to create an environment in which innovation can occur. This means:

    a) less central prescription;
    b) better means of measuring and judging the effectiveness of different methods;
    c) better means of replicating approaches that are shown to be successful.

    Neither (b) nor (c) can occur in my view without better edtech.

    • I wouldn’t think of grammar as ‘a problem’, but rather as something that needs to be taken into account, it’s the reason that we rather talk about evolution than revolution.
      There is a more important element in your latest reaction: measuring educational outcomes. I don’t think you want to reduce this to a core curriculum as measured by e.g. the OECD what lately is happening in quite some places. If so, the big danger is that it’s also reducing education to qualification (and forgetting socialization or subjectification, cfr Biesta, 2009).
      Well, in that case: teachers and schools can be replaced, that’s true. But I don’t think that’s the goal.

      • Yes, I meant “poor grammar is a problem”, not “grammar is a problem”.

        On educational objectives, I have no problem with core curricula if they are understood as a core. There will be many educational objectives that lie outside the core and the system needs to respond to demand from stakeholders other than the regulator.

        I do not see that the softer objectives are not measurable. There is an initial problem of defining what we mean by “teamwork” or “creativity”, of course – but once this has been done, we can assess students by teacher evaluation, peer evaluation, self evaluation or by any number of performance-related proxies. The contribution of edtech then lies in the statistical analysis of those data, showing where we have consistent judgments being made, where particular assessment methods are reliable and where they are not (either because there is a lack of validity in the assessment and/or because there are different things being measured) – or of course because the performance of the subject is not consistent.

        On your last point regarding the amount we know – I don’t disagree – but I am talking about technology not science. I don’t think it is enough just to pass on this knowledge to teachers, who have very great difficulty in applying it at the scale that is required by modern education systems, without the technical tools of the trade that other professions generally have access to.

        I (and you too, I imagine) must get on with the day now – but will check back when I can. In the meantime, thanks for your time so far! It has been a very interesting conversation. Crispin.

  3. PS. Re-reading, I see that by saying that we know quite a lot, you were replying to my chicken-and-egg point. I agree we do know a fair amount about what works – but there are also a lot of misconceptions about what works (see Tom Bennett’s Teacher Proof) and so the perception of what works is often muddied. There is a strong perception among British teachers that practice is dull and boring, when the research shows it is stimulating if well designed and essential to skills development. The research shows that isolating particular skills helps develop mastery but many academics and teachers advocate “authentic learning” which muddles up many different skills and concepts in real-world situations.

  4. Pingback: Onderwijs is mensenwerk | 2 BE JAMMED

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