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Tag: youtube

Video Will Not Fix Education

Hank Green, co-creator and host of the wonderful YouTube learning channel Crash Course, appreciates the people who claim their videos could be used to “fix” education. But he says, it’s not going to happen: “This is not a simple problem and we have to stop seeing it that way.”

The whole post is a wonderful rebuttal to those seeking educational shortcuts, but for me, the core idea is right here.

Personalized education? OK, maybe. But don’t tell me you want your kids brought up in a classroom without teachers. What do you think is the more important output of the education system, students who can solve math problems or students who work together effectively and speak intelligently? No one is going to disrupt teachers away. Teaching is probably the most difficult of all current jobs for an AI to manage. If you don’t believe that, then you have never truly taught.

Kids, and adults, can certainly learn stuff from watching videos of the type Green produces (and I have). But those topics exist in isolation. And connecting them into something actually useful is a far more difficult process. One that requires teachers.

Because the best, most lasting learning happens in relationships between people, not screens.

We Need Smarter Filters

When it comes to most web filtering systems the philosophy seems to be to try and find all the evil stuff on the web and then block it from being delivered to computers used by students.

“Evil”, of course, is a subjective qualifier and almost all the electronic nannies I’ve been subjected to adopt a sledgehammer, all-or-nothing “solution” to the process.

However, what if you approached the problem from another, smarter direction?

That’s seems to be what some schools in England are trying when it comes to YouTube, one of the web resources most frequently blocked by schools despite offering a rapidly-expanding amount of great teaching content.

Instead of blocking everything on a page, this particular filter screens out objectionable fluff around the edges of a video while letting the teacher-selected material show through.

Teachers say that they would use YouTube to access videos of scientific experiments that are too dangerous or complex to perform in the classroom, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and footage of other cultures or foreign landscapes. The system is dependent on teachers submitting videos for approval. It then filters out content surrounding the footage and links to other films. A selection of suitable material is then created for other staff to use and for pupils to look at.

The article plays up the fact that this system will cost the schools up to £10,000 (about $16,000US) depending on the number of computers using the system, but that shouldn’t be the point.

We already pay large sums of money for the heavy-handed approach. Is there any good reason the all-purpose filters we use now couldn’t be configured to do the same thing?

Obviously, it’s simpler (and cheaper) for filtering companies to just block every site containing any material that might possibly offend someone, somewhere – and then unblock some pages when they get complaints.

But for the amount we already turn over to these “services”, we should be able to get intelligent electronic gates, programmed to be responsive to the needs of the people who should be trusted to differentiate good from bad when it comes to instruction, namely teachers.

Learning to Communicate

Apparently it’s now ok for employees at federal agencies to communicate with their clients and customers using a variety of social networking tools.

The General Services Administration has signed agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv that make it possible for federal agencies to use new-media tools while meeting their legal requirements, GSA officials announced today.

Under the agreement, agencies can immediately begin using new-media tools that let people post, share, and comment on videos and photos on the Web. Individual agencies must decide which tools their employees may use and how they may use them.

Agencies are already free to use Twitter because GSA found its standard terms of service compatible with federal use.

Of course, someone at those agencies will need to teach those employees how to properly communicate using these tools.

Since that’s not something they’re likely to learn in school where many of them are blocked.

[Thanks to Tom for the link. And for getting my blood pressure going this morning.]

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.

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