Are you living vicariously?

First I have to thank one of my favorite podcasts: Hidden Brain for motivating me to write about this post today. They recently published an episode titled “Close enough: the lure of living through others ” and it resonates so much with me.

Do you ever find yourself going through video after video about a certain project you plan to do? Perhaps you are looking for instructions on how to do it, or simply looking for inspirations from others that have done it. It’s almost mesmerizing when we watch experts do what they are best at. And we somehow feel we can do it as well after we watch enough videos which is really an illusion. I find the same analogy also applies to our students: they watch us solve problems in class, and they may even find YouTube videos on the same topic and watch a few of those. And they tend to believe they can also solve similar problems after spending so much time watching. We all know how that turns out when we mark students’ test papers. They don’t know how, even though they’ve spent a lot of time watching others do it. Watching is not equal to doing. It’s a simple fact and yet many fall into the false belief that if we watch enough, we’ll become that expert in the videos.

I have to admit sometimes I make the same mistake: when I’m attending online courses, I watch others having discussions and feel I’m also part of them, even though I didn’t post a word; I feel I’m expert in the subject matter after browsing through what’s offered in the course, without actually spending much time on the listed learning objectives, only to find myself at loss when I come across the same problem somewhere else. In order to avoid this from happening, I tend to register way less courses nowadays, so I will have enough time to really sit down and study.

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