I’m a huge fan of the Khan Academy and have blogged about it enthusiastically many times.

That said, I am in the same camp as Catherine Johnson when it comes learning from a video, versus learning from a book:  Watching videos to “learn” feels like a chore; learning from a book feels like fun.

I can’t explain why (maybe because I can read faster than I can watch a video?), but it’s a very distinctive difference in the way I feel, and it shows up most apparently when it’s “time to get to work.”


Book: I’m Excited.  Can’t wait.

Online Video: Dread.  Drudgery.  How much longer does this go on.

One exception to the video versus book preference: When I need a solution, I don’t feel the same “video dread.”  I’m happy to go in, learn what I need to, then leave.

Salman Khan wrote an article about his vision the other day in the WSJ that’s worth the read.

I wish the video learning worked better for me, because it sure sounds logical and seems much easier than reading a book.

Illustrations by Jennifer Orkin Lewis

  • Elise

    I recently found your blog and I must say I am fully enjoying it! I have a son who is a senior in high school and a daughter who is a junior. My son took the SAT twice and my daughter once so far. I sort of wish that I was more self motivated to do what you are doing instead of living vicariously through you! ha ha ha. However, I did take one section of one of the practice tests last year – just to see- It was a reading section I think and I got all but one or two correct. I was curious since I did poorly on the English portion when I took the SAT in 1981 (high 400 range). I got a 630 on math back in the olden days and I think I was a little too scared to try it on the practice test last year because I think I would go down in my score!

    Also, one last thing before I end this overly long comment, I think maybe I would not like to learn through videos either. I love to read books but cannot seem to stay focused enough to listen to an audio book.

    • Were you surprised at how hard the SATs were when you revisited as an adult? (I was)

      Apparently most adults who go back and take them do better on the Critical Reading and worse on the math. I did better on the reading and did exactly the same on the math (but it was hard to go down from where I was in high school).

      Did you kids prep? If so, how did they do it, and was it effective? Any tips on how to motivate a teenager?

      Thank you for your comments!

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  • i think video can augment teaching, but if you just let it roll for more than a minute we’re back at the same problem with sitting in a class. so on one hand it forces you to keep moving through a lesson, on the other hand maybe our brain doesn’t want to move at the same speed?

    i am looking into some of Adobe’s newer tools (Catalyst and Interactive PDF) and seeing if there’s a way to take the good bits from video, and combine them with text.

    • The “brain moving at the same speed” is the problem for me. Either it’s too fast, or too slow, but never just right (I feel like goldilocks).

  • Antonello Lobianco

    Hi.. I agree on book as, in general, the best source for learning, but I also think to know the reason, at least for me: In a book I can “learn with my time”. I can go quick on things that I already know or I don’t judge important, and I can stop, write notes on things that instead I judge iportant. With a video I am “forced” to stay at the author’s time. Yes, I can pause or go back on the video, but that’s not so precise/simple. With audio-presentations it is little bit better as you still have the audio of the speaker but at least you have a “buffer” to play with given by the time of the current slide (and that’s also why I ate those presentations where they add a single item at the time on the slides).

    Cheers, and happy learning with books!