Monday, April 25, 2016

YouTube: A Gift and a Curse

YouTube has become a household name throughout the country and the world.  According to YouTube, "YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet — and every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views."  That's a lot of videos!  Because of the vast quantity of content on YouTube, people - especially young people - turn to YouTube for entertainment, as well as to learn new skills.  If you ask your students to research how to do a task, the first place they will look is, most likely, YouTube.  I was working with Michal VandenBerg's third-grade class at Lake Center on their Genius Hour projects last week.  The students were researching everything from how to do snowboarding tricks or playing the piano,  to how to design and build a video game.  Each of the students was, at one time or another, on YouTube, watching videos explaining how to do the task or skill they were researching.

We live in a video-based world where you can "research" how to do just about anything, simply by typing a search into YouTube.  Last year, our district unblocked YouTube.  It was a labored decision, but once done, we had very little push-back or negativity about it.  In fact, we had more thank-you notes than anything else.  So many valuable resources for blended-learning, like EdPuzzle, use YouTube for content delivery.  When we blocked YouTube, using these resources was a hassle, at best.  Now teachers and students can create their own educational videos using the YouTube creator studio, as well as make their own playlists for learning and stream their school announcements live!

YouTube can be an amazing gift as an educational resource, however, like any great tool, there are also drawbacks with using user-created content sites.  The content is not always the highest quality, and since the content is not specifically tailored to the education world, the videos may not always be appropriate for our students.  There are a few easy things you can do to help your students be safe and successful when using this tool.

  1. Turn off auto-play: You may be watching a video with your kindergarteners on colors and shapes, when all of a sudden the video is done and another video begins playing.  This "next up" video may not be as five-year-old friendly as the previous video.  In order to prevent videos from auto-playing, all you need to do is turn off the auto play feature.  This is done with a simple toggle switch in the top right corner of the video play screen.

  2. Use a YouTube Scrubber: If you want a nice and clean interface to show YouTube videos to your class, then you can use a YouTube scrubber to eliminate all the advertisements and distractions.  In Portage, we recommend using  You can create a clean and simplified version of the video using this link.  Simply copy the video URL from the address bar at the top of the YouTube video page, paste the link into, and you will get a link with no advertisements or "up next" playlists.  You can then show the video to your students on your TEC using this new link, or you can create your own playlist in Google classroom or a Google Doc.

  3. Walk around your room: I know this one goes without saying, but the best way to manage something like YouTube is proactive classroom management.  Walk around your classroom.  Set up your room so you can see the screens when students are working.  Look at the browser history (ctrl+H) if you have any questions or concerns to see what sites/pages/videos the students have been on during class.
For other tech tips on using YouTube, check out:

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