The 10,000 Hour Rule is a Lie!

Ok, so the title of this post might be a bit of hyperbole, but I was pleased to learn this week that the big take away from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers book – the idea that you need to practice something for 10,000 hours to learn it – has been misinterpreted and corrupted over time and is more like a partial truth than an actual truth.

According to Wikipedia, Gladwell says that “achieving world-class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.” The key phrase here being “world-class expertise”.  World-class meaning like Bobby Fischer or the Dalai Lama.

Although achieving world-class expertise in a skill is pretty awesome, I’m fine with being “good enough” at most of the things I have to do in the day to day.

So, how long does it actually take to learn something new?

Thankfully, becoming proficient at a new skill only takes about twenty hours (see Josh Kaufman’s TED TALK for more info on this). That’s a lot more doable for most people, and especially for me since I’ve got a toddler running around at home:)

My son, Valentine

Photo of my son, Valentine, running. Also inserted here just because he is too cute and I couldn’t resist.

What do I want to learn in 20 hours?

Basically, what I want to learn is how to use instructional videos to improve student learning outcomes in my ELD class.

Instructional Videos

Push play! Image by 200 Degrees from Pixabay.

How did I come to this decision?

I listed to an interview with Doug Fisher, author of the Distance Learning Playbook on Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers Podcast this summer.  In the interview, Fisher said that instructional videos lead to meaningful learning. “We are enamored with EdPuzzle and PlayPosit. You import a video and it asks quiz questions throughout the video. And the video won’t play until you answer the question. We set it that you could do it over again.”

Distance Learning Playbook

Read this book if you haven’t already. It’s full of research based best strategies to help you teach online effectively.

I filed this information away and got caught up in back to school stuff. Then, in the fall, I noticed that the grade 7 ELA teacher at my school, whose class I push into to offer EAL support, was using slideshows with embedded Screencastify videos to help walk students through the writer’s workshop mini-lessons. And the EAL students would watch those videos over and over again if they didn’t understand the concept or the task the first time around.

I kept thinking to myself that I should be using instructional videos too. I frequently record sample videos on Flipgrid when assigning speaking tasks, but I almost always give writing assignments or review instructions in real time. Then, Jeff Utecht presented last month during our PD day (I mentioned this in my last post as well). He said that if we only took one thing away from his presentation, it should be that instructional videos are the way to go when designing learning tasks for hybrid classrooms.

In a related article called “Virtual School Tips” on his blog, The Thinking Stick, Jeff wrote: “Start by training every teacher how to make videos for instruction. Use Screencastify, Screen-o-matic or Flipgrid. I don’t care, just pick the one that best fits your system and train every teacher on how to make good instructional videos. ” 

By now I was pretty convinced that I needed to start making instructional videos. I just needed a swift kick in the *** to get motivated. So, thank you, COETAIL, for giving me the motivation to do it!

How will I reach my goal of becoming proficient at making instructional videos?

  1. Research “How to Make Instructional Videos” so I have some basic knowledge on the topic.
  2. Learn how to use Screencastify and EdPuzzle (here’s why I chose EdPuzzle over PlayPosit) by talking to our tech coordinator and other teachers at my school who use these tools, and by reaching out and asking questions on social media.
  3. Decide what upcoming lessons I should create instructional videos for.
  4. Try making an instructional video.
  5. Test it out with my students.
  6. Get feedback from my students.
  7. Try making another instructional video based on the feedback I receive and see if I can make it better.
  8. Keep repeating steps 4-7 until I’ve embedded instructional videos into my regular teaching practice in a way that works for me and my students.

Ideally, I will start working on this tomorrow and have the first video ready to roll out to my students in a few weeks. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Idea, Plan, Action

Achieve your goals! Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Have you used instructional videos successfully in your classes? If so, please send any tips, tricks, or words of wisdom my way!





8 thoughts on “The 10,000 Hour Rule is a Lie!

  1. Megan,

    Loved your post! It goes so well with what I would like to do in making self-paced classrooms. Since we are already making so many videos for distance learning, we may as well use them again in the future. Work smarter, not harder, right?

    Your post gave me so many different online platforms that I would like to take the time to figure out. There is so much technology available to enhance the learning of our students that it can often be overwhelming. I remember signing up for an EdPuzzle account at the beginning of the pandemic and never looking at it again. I’m pretty sure that I did that with a number of different websites/platforms.

    I am definitely not a “toxic positivity” kind of guy, but if there is one good thing to come our of this pandemic, it’s that we have been pushed to use technology for education in ways that we never have before. How timely to choose now as a time to begin COETAIL. The education world is advancing so much in how we can bridge student achievement gaps through the use of technology. In my opinion, there is no better way to improve learning loss/gaps than utilizing technology.

    I appreciated your post and thank you for sharing!


    • Yes! Love your comment that “If there is one good thing to come our of this pandemic, it’s that we have been pushed to use technology for education in ways that we never have before. ”

      The teachers in my school who are thriving are the ones who have been able to pivot most quickly and embrace edtech. And I joined COETAIL same as you, I think, because the pandemic has made it clear that the future of education is personalized, networked, and flipped learning. So I thought I had better upskill and get with the program fast before I got left in the dust.

  2. Fisher, Frey and Hattie – Now that’s a trio of authors that I definitely need to check out.

    Love me some Jeff Utecht inspiration, too (as a COETAILer — it’s a MUST — haha —

    I wish you the best of luck with your videos – – if you need a hand, and/or tips, don’t hesitate to reach out.

    Here would be my words of wisdom:
    – Don’t reinvent the wheel; if there’s already an excellent short video that is well-suited to your audience, use it, or add it to Ed Puzzle with some questions.
    – Stick with a medium you’re already comfortable with – You’ve listed some great ones already
    – Prepare, edit and curate – Less than 5 min – Nobody’s got time for anything longer.
    – Good sound and lighting should be strongly considered.
    – Try to change perspective clips often; good videos tend to follow a 10 second or less rule.
    – Google Jamboard is a great digital whiteboard, should you go that route.

  3. Hi Megan,

    I love that you were also sparked into action from “The first 20 hours–how to learn anything”. It really motivated me to jump back into learning Mandarin. I found it so inspiring that I for sure want to share it with my students as well.

    Thank you so much for your linked resources for making instructional videos and “The Distance Learning Playbook”. I began making instructional videos for my students last year, but I know I could be making them better. I just jumped in without doing any research on the topic, so I am sure I will find some helpful ideas and information from your resources. I like the idea of using Edpuzzle to track my students’ comprehension of videos.

    I use Screencastify myself, I like how it automatically saves videos to my Google Drive. While my personal focus has been on using videos for sharing math strategies my grade level has also had a lot of success using them for the mini-lessons in writers’ and reader’s workshop.

    Having these videos for extra review has been great for my ELL students. As you said, they can rewind them as much as they need.
    The other benefit I found was for families, particularly with the math strategies. In our math program, we frequently use newer methods for solving problems, like partial product or partial quotient. By sharing videos of these methods we have helped parents to understand what we are doing in class, so homework time is less stressful.

    This has also been the case with ELA. A lot of times parents don’t understand the terminology that is used, things like “author’s craft” or “part to whole” don’t have a clear meaning for them. Sharing the videos for these mini-lessons has really improved the connection between home and school.

    I like how you have laid out your plans for learning to make videos and implementing them in your lessons. If you ever need any pointers or have questions please feel free to reach out. You can contact me on my blog, or email me at

    Best wishes and happy video-making!

    • Thank you for sharing your contact details, Coleton! I would love to see some of the videos you have made for EAL students. What age-level students are you teaching? I am teaching grade 7 EAL. I also help co-teach the ELA classes where we use the workshop model and do a lot of mini-lessons like you describe above.

      You also really made me think about how the videos can be used not just for students, but for parents too. In the current hybrid model, parents are more involved with the learning than ever. So thinking about ways to bring them in as learning partners is so important. And thinking about ways to make the content comprehensible for all parents (and especially EAL parents) is necessary if we want our students to succeed!

  4. It’s nice to read about the clarity and focus you have achieved and how the message that has visited you numerous times has come to fruition. I am also interested to read that so many are advocating instructional videos. Just last week, one of my students was commenting on how helpful his math teacher’s videos are, and he uses them to review concepts he didn’t grasp the first time. Seeing my daughters enamored with YouTube and this makes even more sense. However, as I read, I cannot help but recall the number of times I did not access content because it was a video. I am significantly older, so perhaps by view is outdated, but sometimes, I don’t access them because I don’t have a quiet space to attend to them (eg family is around so skimming something quickly is easier) and sometimes I don’t access them because I am not in the headspace. And other times, I love them. Without shifting focus, I wonder what can accompany videos in order to serve multiple modalities. Perhaps an addition of infographics, or some other tool, once the videos are mastered?

  5. Megan,

    Thank you so much for including my comparison of EdPuzzle and PlayPosit on your website! I’m glad and grateful it has helped you navigate the best way to instruct your students during this time.

    You have shared so many great resources and information and this post, and I, no doubt, believe your students are going to reap the benefits of all that you’re learning. I love seeing other teachers passionate about honing their craft of teaching (as we all should). Continue to press forward this year and know I’m only an email away if you ever have questions!

    • Hi Adri! I really appreciate your kind and supportive message. I liked how your comparison of EdPuzzle and PlayPosit had a checklist showing the different features of each app. That made it simple for me to evaluate them against each other and decide which one would be best for me and my students. Your instructional video was quite helpful too (especially given my goal articulated above). So, thank you:)

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