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Who You Callin’ A Tube? (Part 1)

June 17, 2012

I was delighted to have been asked to speak at the recent Google Apps for Education Event in Glasgow (check the Twitter hashtag #gooscot for more). I’m biased because I was speaking, but I found the whole day to be a superb opportunity to look forward with a lot of like-minded people. It was a really inspiring event, and I dearly hope that David Cameron‘s closing address was recorded because everyone involved in Scottish Education should hear it…

However, I was speaking about YouTube and in time honoured fashion, ran out of time before I could say everything I wanted to. Here, then, is the first part of an expanded outline of what I was saying, complete with links and other goodies! This first part is the background and a few points on searching with YouTube. Part Two tomorrow will cover the specific examples I used, and also some of the really clever tools and YouTube extras that you may not know about. Enjoy! 😉

The Entrée

My slides were designed to give a quick overview of the history of YouTube… but I should really have checked with YouTube first as they have a nifty video (d’oh!) that covers the same ground… here it is:

Anyway… the main thing I was talking about was why YouTube is such an important and worthwhile tool in the classroom. The following page references come from the slides!

Slides 8-23

YouTube’s rise has been nothing less than phenomenal. Consider the numbers… it has gone from one video uploaded in 2005, to over 1 trillion views in 2011. YouTube is where the world goes to see, and laugh, and share, and learn… and that needs to be put into context to understand just how remarkable it is. Consider this slide:

It took 1700 generations to get to this stage, and only within the last 300 have we had writing to record our learning and knowledge. The permanence and ubiquity afforded our knowledge by printing is only 35 generations old. Yet, in less than a third of a generation, YouTube has shared more knowledge and understanding than the sum total of human endeavour. It has become the true record of humankind, not because it is always accurate, or unbiased, or ‘academic’ but because it is real and it is valued and it will afford future anthropologists more insights into our development than has ever been possible. And YouTube is a great leveller. Language has the potential to become irrelevant when you can SEE something happening… though YouTube can always add captions or subtitles!

I think we ignore or block YouTube in schools at our peril. It is here, it is valued, it is valuable, and it is free… but it is also in need of careful teaching. Learners today need to know how to judge the authenticity of a clip, or be able to identify the moral centre of a clip, or even just know how to comment responsibly on a clip. That isn’t easy when the only contact they have (before they switch on their phone), is a screen saying “No entry: This site is blocked because it contains cat videos/social media/learning potential”.

GoogleTube (Slides 26-29)

Here’s a quick task you can try for yourself if you have teenage kids at home. Ask them where they go to find out something they don’t know. If your experience is anything like mine, they go to two places: Google and YouTube. In fact, YouTube is rapidly heading towards becoming the search engine of choice for young people…

The reasons for their love of YouTube is, according to them, that they like to see the answer to a question. That they can also access YouTube very easily on a mobile device is the second big attraction for them. Knowledge and entertainment are available on tap anytime, any place… but I think there’s another more important reason we need to consider (slides 27 & 29).

Finding things on YouTube is more fun for young people because:

  • YouTube lets you find your own answers;
  • YouTube doesn’t ask you the question, you do;
  • YouTube doesn’t ‘judge’ your answer.

As a profession, teachers are very prone to asking questions to which we have answers that are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ using a very narrow frame of reference (Check out the Barometer story if you want ‘proof’ of that!). Yet the truth is, we learn more through serendipity and coincidence… In my own case, that meant a well worn copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.I would look up one thing for an essay, and a few minutes — or hours — later, would struggle to remember what I’d originally been looking for because I’d been taken on a voyage of discovery. YouTube is like that. Younger people are much more likely to click the “If you liked this, you may like these” links at the end of a YouTube video. We see them looking at CatVideos… but then we don’t see them actually using YouTube to its potential. We don’t see them using it to help with their research. A quick example…

The grab on the right is what is returned by searching YouTube for Wilfred Owen. No shortage of resources… each with a thumbnail, and more importantly, the length of the clip. You can tell in advance how much time you’re going to invest… not all may be relevant to the topic being researched, but — like Brewer’s before it — the serendipitous nature of the results are an enticement to find out more.

This is all the more likely when, on finishing a particular video, one is presented with related examples…

This is the links presented after viewing my Keynote animation for Owen’s poem “Dulce et Decorum Est“:

Plenty for the learner to follow up… especially as they develop the 4 Capacities of Scotland’s Curriculum.* Of course, this is my real focus for using YouTube. The working definition of Literacy within the Curriculum documents (slide 35) is this:

Literacy is the set of skills which allows an individual to engage fully in society and in learning, through the different forms of language which society values and finds useful.

Look at the YouTube numbers. And then think about how useful YouTube has been over the past year or so in reporting live news from Libya, Egypt, Syria… the list goes on. YouTube is a source of information that we ignore at our peril… but we do have to take a responsible attitude and approach to it. We need to be teaching effective and safe use — merely blocking will not do that.

One final point for now. The most common reason for blocking YouTube is the quite reasonable one to do with bandwidth. YouTube is video, video consumes considerable amounts of it, and the thought of even greater use by schools will probably fill most network managers with dread… but… there is an apparent anomaly here. I have been told by several different people, and on several different occasions, that the ‘Pathfinder Project’ – rolled out since the mid to late 00s – meant that:

For education, the barrier of bandwidth capacity previously has now been removed…

Shame then that so many Local Authorities are not delivering the blistering speeds promised (up to 300MB/s) to the schools.

That’s it for part one… Part two (coming tomorrow) will cover the actual examples I discussed in my workshop, as well as going through a handful of immensely useful YouTube tools that will help you find even more value for it in the classroom. If you want a taster, try out It’s YouTube without the comments, and a plain dark background. Perfect for schools! 😉

* We have been talking about the Curriculum for Excellence for years now — just a thought: Isn’t excellence the goal of every curriculum? Also, in the absence of any other curriculum in Scottish mainstream schools I’m just going to talk about Scotland’s Curriculum if that’s alright with everyone else! 😉
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