Gun and Drew: Leveraging Veritasium’s Video to Improve Our Discussions

We got a lot of leverage in the Teaching of Physics out of watching this new Veritasium clip, “The science of thinking…


First, “Gun” and “Drew” are great shorthands, and the examples in the video make it easy to relate to. (It actually reminded me of Liza and Ellen from this lesson and this revision as shorthands, although in a different way). The humor embedded in the video, together with these shorthands, allowed us in class to be more jokey about our thinking and who was behind it. Knowing that we all have a Gun and a Drew made it fun to share what Gun and Drew were thinking, rather than embarrassing to be wrong. It almost, depersonalized our thoughts… as if we were sharing the thoughts of the different characters in our mind, rather than sharing our “real thinking” (whatever that means).

Second, it helped us to value each other’s pauses and to honor wait time (it was evidence that the person was letting Drew do the hard work he was meant to do). I have one student is often apologizing for being a “slow thinker”, and this video helped her (and us) to see this slow thinking as exactly what you are supposed to be doing.

I’m thinking of showing it in my regular physics class…




7 thoughts on “Gun and Drew: Leveraging Veritasium’s Video to Improve Our Discussions

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  1. Thanks for the post. This is interesting stuff and things that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. There’s an interview that Derek did with John Sweller a few years ago that you might want to check out:

    During most of this video, Derek was pretty much describing CLT and also hitting upon a point that is emphasized in Daniel Willingham’s book, Why Don’t Students Like School?. Namely, that thinking is hard and we’d rather not do it.

    Dylan Wiliam recently posted that in education, cognitive load theory is probably the single most important idea to understand:

    The funny thing about this Veritasium video is that the last two minutes it seems that Derek is describing something like Modeling Instruction, which in some ways is not how to implement CLT in the classroom. Then, in the video that John linked to, Derek clarifies that it’s all about timing. “A time to tell,” as some people would say.

    I’m pretty surprised whenever I hear about programs like Physics First, and Modeling in Physics First, especially at the grade 9 level. I simply cannot picture a scenario where anyone other than hand-picked kids are ready for the conceptual/abstract nature of physics and modeling at that age. In terms of timing, some students can handle the skill/knowledge based instruction as long as the teacher is aware of cognitive load. I believe we see significant cognitive development between grade’s 9 and 11 as evidenced here:

    1. I have seen that video, but I should definitely rewatch it, because it been a while. And I agree in general that something like cognitive load is more and more important to attend as I teach more and more. Both in planning and in the moment decisions. But I also like to push back against that we naturally “hate thinking”. His analogy is to exercise– people are intrinsically lazy. I loved to work out incredibly hard, when I wrestled, because I had a community that made my working out meaningful. I was learning about my body and what it capable of (and could learn to do), being accountable to a community, etc. In teaching, I spend more and more of my time working in building a community of kids who enjoy thinking, sharing their thinking, considering other’s thinking. People don’t always hate thinking– their are kinds of tasks that we love to think about even without people (puzzles, games, etc), but community make a big difference, in sustaining and interest in thinking. Heck, I have learned about myself that I don’t really like doing research all that much, outside of a research group / community to sustain a need/desire to think about the puzzles.
      I’ll respond more later and the physics first thing, after I read the post and thinking about it.

    2. I think one question of “cognitive development” is the extent to which we think of it as more like biological maturation or more the result of experience, contextual learning. There is a lot of reason to think early cog. dev. research way overestimated the role of “age-based development” or “stages”. More recent studies that shows that little kids can do a lot of very abstract / logical reasoning, but usually in areas where they have a lot of domain knowledge. For example, have you ever listened to kids argue about the rules of a game, when they disagree about the rules? Or kids reason about strategy in a game they’ve had a lot of experience. I’ve watched a six year old go through many, many layers of, “Well, If I do this, then you will probably do that, but then maybe she will do this,… OK let me think of something else.” While it may look like these skills mature “globally” (across domains), it may just be the it’s cropping up in a lot of individual domains in clusters, because those domains are reaching critical size/connectedness around the same time. In other words, there is reason to believe that sophisticated reasoning emerges in areas rich with domain specific knowledge, and the longer you live the more likely you are to have many such areas. For me, a good starting place for me reading about this kind of stuff was: Metz (1995), “Reassessment of Developmental Constraints on Children’s Science Instruction” You can definitely go over board, and start go too deep into “everything is domain specific”… Also, have read that paper about physicists trying to reason about biological graphs? It shows that they are pretty unsophisticated in their reasoning about graphs for domains in which they have limited knowledge.

      1. I had read about early cognitive development being overestimated, especially in terms of 4 set stages. However, I hadn’t seen much on the way of younger kids doing more abstract/formal reasoning. Your post makes me laugh at watching my son when he was younger. He would make up games with the most complicated rules and I eventually figured out that the real goal wasn’t to play a game but rather to make up a bunch of rules.

        My very limited anecdotal experience with the black box/wiring test really struck me though because the older grade 11 kids shouldn’t have had any new domain knowledge when compared to the grade 9 kids and the speed at which they solved the puzzle was an order of magnitude faster. Quite possibly I was seeing outliers. It makes for a good story though because it provokes some interesting thought.

        In terms of my own teaching and reflecting on cognitive load, I’m considering some procedures that I could use to help with this. For example, despite renewed efforts to deal with weight/Fg, this continues to be a thorn in the side for my students. They consistently mix up mass and weight and don’t automatically think of weight as mg. This year we started forces with a short lab on using spring scales to find the weight of different masses. We graphed the data and found the slope of Fg vs m to be 10 N/kg. I then passed out some notes after a whiteboard session and the students did a few problems involving Fg=mg. Over the next two months, for at least 1/3 (and likely closer to 2/3) of the class it was like this had never happened. I’m wondering if some of the basic domain knowledge (definitions, equation) needs to be presented at a time different from the lab work, in case that the lab work is preventing transfer to long term memory. And if this is the case, then I also have to ask myself exactly what then is the point of the lab work?

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