Educators world over are taking a fresh look at YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing site, long viewed by them more as a repository of videos purely for branding, marketing and entertainment than one disseminating any serious knowledge. To remove the ‘misconception’, its parent company Google has been for quite some time fine-tuning and promoting a portal that will encourage schools to let students access informative visual content.
Promoting relevant educational videos
In fact, the social video platform is keen to establish itself as a trove of educational materials at little or no cost. Schools across US mostly block access to the site, shielding their students from the perceived irresistible distractions of visual material, for example, ‘the cat in a T-shirt playing a piano’.
Sensing the educators’ apprehensions, Google launched YouTube for Schools late last year, offering schools the scope to pick and choose the videos they want. It scrubbed of all unnecessary comments and linked strictly to other relevant educational videos only. In keeping with its line of thought, the program offered to provide schools with the ability to grant access to the comprehensive YouTube EDU educational library, apart from specific videos from within its own vast network, blocking the general site content.
This customized and focused methodology has allowed tech-savvy teachers to bring some of the popular educational videos from the site into classrooms, such as well-renowned Swedish data presentation expert Hans Rosling’s TED talk on population growth, or a popular short videos series about all the periodic table elements that has turned a rote memorization exercise into fun.
Skill enhancement through videos
Schools are stepping ahead to take down some of the mental barriers and resultant hesitancy to embrace YouTube, slowly but surely. Chicago Public Schools is a case in point. According to its educational technology director John Connolly, they now let teachers make use of YouTube. The school is making content and different tools available to them so as to help them enhance their skills and depth of knowledge. The authorities are clearly excited about the video sharing site’s potential. Chicago is perhaps one of the largest school districts to do away with its certain restrictions in this regard. It’s only a matter of time before others follow suit and more barriers are loosened, say school technology administrators.
When financially ailing states are curtailing the public education allocations and at a time when there is evidence of a fast-widening achievement gap between poor and rich students, schools can hardly afford to stay away from a free online resource of credible educational tools. If schools don’t have a system in place for filtering it, they cannot partake, but they do now, and during a phase of dwindling revenues, it’s a great cost-effective way of finding additional materials.
Schools in the Toledo district, Ohio, earlier allowed limited usage of YouTube videos in classrooms. However, the whole process was quite cumbersome. Teachers would log onto a filtering system, to submit a video for review and approval by the technology department. Those approved could be seen in a ‘safe videos library’. The new YouTube portal though, has made this review process uncalled for and redundant.
Thankfully, students now can safely explore videos on their own, even while teachers are networking privately in order to share resources they come across. It’s a perfect win-win situation for everyone – students, teachers, and of course, YouTube.