YouTube, in my opinion, is the hidden gem of education. It’s hidden, not because people don’t know it exists or what it can do. On the contrary, everyone and their dog is aware of the diverse clips that YouTube contains. It’s hidden because many schools, including until recently my own, have chosen to block it. The reason for this is fairly understandable – YouTube contains clips which are clearly unsuitable for children.
Whilst this is true, there is too much to be gained by exposing children to the wealth of educational opportunities that exist on YouTube to justify blocking it.
The other day I wanted to buy a phone. I had a few in mind, but didn’t posses the technological nous to help me find something that would best give me value for money and fulfill my practical needs. So I did what many do when they can’t make their mind up about something – I asked YouTube. On YouTube I watched clips on the various phones, was given a run through of their features, advantages, design and reliability issues etc.
This helped me settle on a phone. But my education didn’t stop there. As I am a visual learner, I require more than just a booklet to follow. To set up my phone and navigate my way through the different functions I turned to my dear friend, YouTube, who again, didn’t let me down.
YouTube is the modern-day instructive tool. It clearly and carefully teaches people practical skills in language they can understand. It plays the part of teacher.
At the moment I am teaching my 5th Graders about finding the lowest common denominator before adding and subtracting fractions. As a test, before writing this blog post, I typed some key words into a YouTube search and came up with many fine online tutorials on this very skill that kids can readily access. It shouldn’t replace the teacher, but it can certainly help a child pick up a concept.
And it’s not just academic skills that can be developed through YouTube. If my school hadn’t relaxed its position on YouTube, I wouldn’t have had the chance to show my students the best anti-bullying film going around. I have come across so many lame and unconvincing films about bullying in my time. So to first find Mike Feurstein’s masterful film, and then get the chance to show the movie to my appreciative class, was a major coup for my ongoing efforts in trying to keep my classroom bully free. The film, posted below is as good a reason as any to allow teachers to use YouTube in the classroom.
Sure teachers have to be on the lookout for students who may exploit this privilege, but ultimately that is our job. If we banned everything that has possible risks or negative outcomes, we wouldn’t have much to work with at all.