Videos: how to use them

It is now accepted that videos can be a great resource for learning and are increasingly used in classrooms. There is even a new educational methodology called flipping the classroom where students watch videos with lectures and demonstrations in the classroom. The teacher’s job then is merely to manage, support and clarify. In one way or another using video for the purposes of teaching both in the classroom and as a self-study resource can be very effective.

However, there is a way in which the use of videos for the purposes of learning tango is counterproductive and can set the learner back quite significantly. This is to simply start searching around the internet for videos of tango. Generally speaking, searching the internet (Google, Youtube, etc.) for learning resources is useful only to the extent that it helps us to find a structured course provided either by an educational platform providing such courses, or independent educators who provide such structured educational materials on their own platform. Such materials should be well organised into progressive levels and include printable materials in PDF form for download, systematic practice exercises, etc.

So a good way to use video and the internet for learning is either when it is integrated into a structured course of study by a teacher as part of classroom instruction, or when it is part of a course of study provided online via an educational platform (eg., Udemy) or an independent teacher selling educational materials.

A bad way to use video and online information is to simply search around for something randomly. For example, if I want to learn to play the guitar I can search around and find videos teaching various techniques for playing guitar and soon enough I will be confused and exhausted because I won’t stick to anything and the things I will be learning will not be organised in any systematic and progressive form that will allow me to progress to something tangible and keep me motivated to continue. So soon I will quit learning guitar due to boredom and move on to something else.

This problem is even worse in the case of tango. When one searches “tango” on Google what one gets is mostly exhibition tango, whereas the teaching materials that are there are mostly demonstrations by Salon Style Tango and Tango Nuevo teachers. These demonstrations are for set routines that they teach in a way that is non-interactive. That is, a typical studio dance lesson involves the teacher demonstrating a set routine that has a name such as “Paso Basico” and the students copy that routine based on the visual image that they receive. The result of these images is that students come to believe that this is social dancing, when in fact it is derived from stage show dancing.

Even when looking at social tango learners are likely to get confused because there are many aspects of the video that require explanation. In other words, the videos need to be curated, selected and clarified by the teacher. Students viewing videos will have a lack of understanding of the context of what they are seeing. A well-designed progressive course of study involves providing information at a level that is appropriate to the level of the student.

Watching videos of dancers who look very good has two other detrimental effects:

(a) It promotes a focus on the visual image

(b) It leads to feelings of failure which are bad for motivation and promote end-gaining.

Watching videos of dancers that look very good leads learners to focus excessively on the visual aspect of dancing (see Imagery). Because it focuses attention on how the dancers look, it promotes the idea that learning to dance well is a matter of looking a certain way as if one were to see oneself from the outside, rather than as feeling a certain way from the inside. The learner will not compare how they feel when they are dancing, but always how they look, the visual image of themselves compared to the instructor or model on the video. The focus is always on the outer image of dancing and never on the inner feeling.

By far the biggest problem with watching tango videos on the internet, however, is that it is that it is bad for motivation and promotes end-gaining (see Systems). The dancers who are either performers or teachers (rather than average social dancers) will always look great and much better than the student, and the student will tend to compare themselves to these much more advanced dancers. Comparing himself to some ideal that you aspire to you will make the learner aware of their shortcomings and this will be perceived by the subconscious brain as a failure and will be bad for motivation and promote end-gaining, that is, trying too hard.

Students of tango watching videos that they found on the internet will attempt to learn things that are beyond their current level of ability in terms of skill and understanding. So the fact that many online resources are available is not always a good thing and can be counterproductive and prevent students from learning effectively. It does not mean that the teacher is no longer required and it is in fact the job of the teacher to curate these resources so that they are actually conducive to learning.