Saturday, September 27, 2008

You Tub[ing] in the Family and then at School

It's funny with new technologies--they become such a part of our lives that we forget just how new they really are. I was amazed to read on Wickipedia that YouTube was created in 2005. Not that long ago--and yet it has become a part of our daily life in much the way that the radio plays in the car when we run our errands, or the TV goes on to relax before bed.

Personal Context

I was first introduced to You Tube last year by my husband who loves to look up clips of 'classic' old TV programs like Get Smart, You Bet Your Life, Ed Sullivan and so forth. Its a pop culture treasure chest. Even tonight before the boys went to bed, they and their dad spent some quality time together looking up performances by the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and Elvis. Together they chat about the people/performers and often connect them to a timeline that involves other family members. For example they'll get a kick out of a TV Batman clip from when their Uncle was their age. They also are making connections to other media, including books, that they come across in the clips. They were especially impressed that the actor who played Grandpa Max in the recent film version of one of their favourite cartoon stories - Ben 10 - played the Six Million Dollar Man when he was much younger. My middle son (5 years old) has bookmarked a couple of videos about Star Wars Transformers, where basically the person putting on the video holds the transformer up and talks about its components. It's like a new-age show-and-tell, and my son is completely hooked. My husband and I are very aware of the inappropriate content that is too easily stumbled upon. Even though our computer is in a space of high traffic in our household - some clips slip through. I'm thinking particularly of a scene from Episode Three of Star Wars where there is a particularly gory scene. We've told both boys that they need to be older to watch it on DVD - but they have caught bit sof it as they surf through Star Wars toy and information sites.

Oh, the Places You Can Go with TeacherTube!!

I was excited to see this simple TeacherTube video called Our Favorite Robert Munsch Books at It is not complicated but very effective: the student's drawings of their favorite books are shown then they explain why that book was their favourite.

Another wonderful example of what students and teachers can view or create on TeacherTube is more complex but replicates the type of quality we can be striving for. It is rather long, but try watching just for a few moments, it's worth it! The Cat and the Hat Meets the Grinch:

Safety Concerning Me

Before watching An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, by Michael Wesch, I felt YouTube had enormous potential in the classroom. That potential included access to video clips that could be used to enhance teaching and learning. Safety here did not concern me because I would ensure that students did not have "free range" over the site. I imagine that I would be showing them a clip that was previewed for appropriateness.

An exciting aspect of YouTube was the potential to create meaningful videos that could be viewed by other students around the world. But the more I watched Michael Wersch take us through the wonderful world of YouTube, the more wary I became. There are so many "what ifs" with YouTube. What if our innocent video was mashed up and remade and became subject to what Michael Wesch called "context collapse?" What if our little video took off and gained a life of its own that made us uncomfortable? What if an on-line predator was able to identify a student despite our deligent efforts to not use geographically identifying content? And perhaps a common fear for teachers: What if the technology doesn't work when I need it to?

I think the answer for me, and for many of my colleagues, is to take baby steps. Get comfortable with the technology ourselves before bringing it into the classroom. But while we are all about "baby steps" in education, our students, today's generation, is all about leaping in and having a go. They don't read the manual, they learn by trying. The other thing is that the teacher doesn't have to be the authority in the classroom (perhaps something which makes a lot of us uncomfortable); Web 2.0 is all about the social aspect of learning. More than one person takes on the responsibility for understanding and for representation of that understanding. Web 2.0 platforms like YouTube and TeacherTube provide maybe less than ideal platforms, but still real platforms for students and teachers to construct knowledge together and share it with the broad and diverse audience that is the Web.

Last Rant About Filters

As I examined YouTube and TeacherTube I had a little thought at the back of my mind, "none of this really matters because I likely won't be able to access it in the elementary school due to restrictions, just like last year..." Then I came across Will Richardson's blog at: in which my frustration of filters was presented, and his wisdom and eloquence gave me hope. He says:

"I truly believe that filters make our kids less safe. They step off the bus into unfiltered worlds with no context for making good decisions about the stuff coming at them. It’s a huge problem. But on some levels, the bigger problem is what we are doing to our teachers. It insults the profession to not at the very least provide desktop overrides for teachers when they bump up against a filtered site. Have a policy in place to deal with incidents where teachers make poor choices if that’s what the concern is. Seriously, am I missing something? Why is that so hard to implement? The only way we’re going to get students, or teachers, to master the Web is to let them use it."

I am hopeful to see a future where more administrators and school boards take such words to heart. I can't help but feel that YouTube and TeacherTube are only the beginning...


Sheila said...

I think it is fantastic how one way you connect as a family is by using video sharing sites. It is something that I now plan on doing.
It is still a concern for me as well about the technology being available when I or my students need it. It has unfortunately failed me in the past!

Joanne de Groot said...


I completely agree that teachers need to take small steps to become more comfortable with the technology--and use the tools for their own uses or interests before they start using them in the classroom. Watch some videos of your favourite musical group (or tv show or whatever, like you describe) first and explore it personally before you try and figure out professionally!

Carol N. said...

Funny, all the shows we've been looking up have been initiated by my husband--but a show we used to watch as a family when I was little was The Carol Burnett Show--it's on YouTube too. I think I need to introduce that type of humour to the boys--the Looney Tunes are starting to get to me!