Don’t Fear The Tube

I hear this from people all the time: “I can’t use YouTube.  It’s blocked in our school”.  Especially in high schools.

I wonder if the people who made the decision to add the video sharing site to their blacklist have actually looked closely at what is there.  At the ever expanding bits that could actually be used for learning.

Like the Periodic Table of Videos, wonderful examples of how to present chemistry concepts in ways that can’t be done in most classrooms that’s only one part of the growing collection of science materials.

The last election was played out in YouTube (now part of the historical record) as are current political debates, including the weekly addresses from President Obama and the Republican opposition.

youtubeAnd now more than 100 universities and other educational institutions are adding materials from their classes to the channels that make up YouTube EDU.

Plus the Library of Congress is preparing their own channel with hundreds of historical and cultural clips on YouTube (and iTunes, another resource increasingly being thrown behind the filter).

Of course there’s a lot of crap on YouTube.  You could say the same thing about television (which seems to be recyling the YT junk into an infinite feedback loop), movies, bookstores.

But isn’t that why we have teachers and librarians?  To help students find the good stuff out there in the world and teach them how to make the best instructional use of it?

It’s time for administrators (and many teachers) to get past the reflexive urge to block and ban anything on the web that’s popular with students, thinking that it must be educationally invalid.

We need to spend more time training teachers how to use these resources.

After all, live, intelligent filters are always more effective than the electronic ones.

5 Comments Don’t Fear The Tube

  1. Doug Johnson

    Hi Tim,

    A common reason I hear for blocking YouTube is that it takes too much bandwidth. Our district look this out of the equation by installing a packetshaper on the network that allows us to prioritize different types and sources of traffic.

    All the best,


  2. Mark Scardiglia

    No doubt those videos are great. Most of your remarks are probably right on with respect to elementary schools and possibly middle schools. But I think they betray a certain naivete with respect to HS students and the HS culture, in general. Unfortunately, instructional vids are not what HS kids want to or will look at, unless forced. They want to watch stuff like “naruto”, “hip hop dancing” and “2 girls 1 cup”. Maybe the answer is to give teachers unfiltered access, but not students. I’m not sure.

  3. Tim

    That “HS culture” is a major part of the problem. We assume that the regimented, locked down environment found in many if not most high schools is the only way educate teen agers. It also leads to the high level of mistrust between teachers and students.

    In my 18 years of teaching middle and high school, I always found the best approach was to teach the kids the right way to do things, assume positive intentions, and then adjust the process and repeat for those who didn’t get it the first time. Naive maybe, but it usually worked. Learning responsibilty with the use of internet resources should be part of the standard curriculum.

    If you want an excellent example of a school in which that approach works, visit the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, an inner city public high school with a principal and staff that gets it.

  4. Neil

    I have to agree with you here Tim. There are two main issues I have with blocking content on the internet. First, it doesn’t teach responsibility. Second what’s so bad about rap videos?

    We expect students to be responsible when they go to parties, or when they’re driving cars, or any number of other circumstances. We all know that responsibility isn’t something that many of these students have. Responsible behavior needs to be learned. The only way they can learn responsible behavior is by practicing it. Go to the YouTube and look at a high school fight. That’s irresponsible behavior and should be punished. However, go to YouTube and look up clips from the presidential debates. That’s responsible behavior and should be praised. Students come to high school to learn, and they can’t learn the difference between right and wrong without an opportunity to see the difference between right and wrong. It’s the difference between talking about a math problem and actually doing one.

    The next point deals with the actual content. I’m at school right now posting to this blog. Does it directly affect the way I teach? Are my students worse off because I spent 15 minutes not thinking about their education? Why is it a bad thing for a student to go to the library during lunch and watch a music video? Or clips from a new video game? Or read a comic book? Balancing work and play is another skill they need to know. 15 minutes on YouTube won’t make them flunk out of school. It won’t corrupt their mind. Just like Obama takes breaks in the White House and teachers take breaks during school hours, students shouldn’t always have to be engaged in “school work” 7 hours a day. Everyone need a break every now and then.

  5. Dave

    I came to post exactly what Doug said. The concern for out tech folks is bandwidth, and streaming video is using a massive portion of ours. My understanding is that no one here has a problem with light non-educational use — if a teacher wants to watch something on Hulu during lunch, sure, who cares. The problem is the more reckless use: teachers and students leaving video and audio streaming for entire classes or all day, always choosing the absolute highest quality settings, not downloading videos before or after school when that’s an available alternative to streaming, and students in computer labs spending the whole class period streaming content.

    I was pretty impressed when I ended up as a fly on the wall at a meeting about bandwidth because I saw that most people on the tech staff really didn’t care about personal use beyond solving the bandwidth problem.

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