Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

YouTube: The Next Major Teaching Tool?

on January 18, 2010

Conventional teaching tools have changed dramatically over the past several decades. Schools have gone from blackboards and chalk to whiteboards with dry erase markers — and in some places, from thick textbooks for every single subject to laptops that place a vast world of current, up-to-date information at students’ fingertips.

One of the latest developments in the education world is the growing use of YouTube, the popular video sharing Web site where any user can upload and share videos of every possible kind.
 
The first thing that many people associate with YouTube is that it is an easy, convenient way to view music videos, television or movie clips. Meanwhile, it is also becoming clear that YouTube has much more potential than that. Many incredibly talented people have been discovered through YouTube, but more significantly, it is now beginning to make a name for itself as a hugely convenient and versatile tool for many teachers to use in the classroom.

However, a vast amount of school districts all over the country have blocked YouTube, citing the fact that many videos have inappropriate content. Despite that, certain teachers feel strongly about using YouTube as an educational tool.

For example, as reported in The Missourian, Mr. Mike Perkins, who teaches a Case Management class at Columbia College, often shows YouTube videos to his class when covering a particular topic. In his discussion of tarditive dyskinesia, a complex neurological disorder, he often found it very difficult, to the point of it being “almost impossible,” to verbally explain the range of complicated symptoms that patients experience.

Instead, he shows videos of real patients with tarditive dyskinesia, which he found on YouTube. Mr. Perkins’ words sum up the reason that many teachers use YouTube as a teaching tool: “You can stand up there and try to explain something all you want, but a picture is really worth a thousand words, or much more than that,” he told The Missourian

YouTube can also be a valuable resource for instructors who teach foreign language. The Missourian also reported about how College professor Dawn Heston finds YouTube videos featuring native Spanish speakers speaking the language in real-life situations and shows them to her class to give them a realistic foreign language experience.

In addition to showing them videos, she can utilize YouTube as a tool to assess her students’ proficiency with the language. In their next exam, her students will watch videos in Spanish and then upload to YouTube videos of her students discussing the videos in Spanish with their partners. 

Due to these benefits, some teachers do not look very kindly on the fact that many school districts have blocked YouTube through a filtering system. The administrator of the “A History Teacher” blog and corresponding Twitter account made an online statement in one entry that says that by blocking YouTube, “We are eliminating another possible educational tool from our toolbelt. The ability for students to easily share school projects is lost at school. Additionally, there are videos on YouTube that potentially could be used in an educational setting. It could be video clips from a television program, an expert discussing a specific topic, or maybe just some nice home movie footage of a place you are teaching about. What then?”

YouTube is similar to Wikipedia in that it is comprised entirely of user-uploaded content, meaning that a good amount of it might not be reliable, verifiable or appropriate. A teacher could spend hours searching through the Web site and not find any content that is legitimate, accurate, unbiased and appropriate to show to a classroom full of students.

However, YouTube can still be considered a worthy teaching aid. Like every other form of educational tool, though, it is also a double-edged sword. 

About the author: Anushka Mohideen enjoys visiting zoos all around the world and supports the conservation of rare wild animals.


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