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Technology in the Classroom: Using YouTube

Jordan Catapano

Last week I needed to fix my kitchen faucet. Instead of calling a professional or tearing the thing apart myself, I decided to try my go-to resource: YouTube. Fortunately, there happened to be a video of a guy fixing his kitchen sink and explaining the steps along the way. I watched, and within half an hour I had my own sink repaired. I’m no plumbing expert, but I learned how to fixed a kitchen sink. Amazing! YouTube is nearly 11 years old and, as I’ve discovered, it has a video on just about everything for all your technology in the classroom needs. I don’t teach much about fixing sinks in my classes, but there is plenty that YouTube can offer to each and every student. How are you using YouTube for your technology in the classroom needs?

Technology in the Classroom: Videos for Flipping and Supplementing

Students can learn a great deal just by watching technology in the classroom videos and learning from the thoughts, experiences, and demonstrations of others. In fact, they already are. Students are naturally watching videos that are interesting and relevant: From skateboarding to guitar playing to car driving to putting on makeup. YouTube has become the perfect place to find entertainment or knowledge – or both in the same video.

Just like I used YouTube to help me with my sink, students are already using it to solve problems they may have. The question is, have you invited students to use YouTube as a resource in your class?

There are four main ways YouTube can be leveraged in your classroom:

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  1. Flipped Instruction. Do you want students to learn about something before coming to class the next day? Do you want to give students a resource they could use to learn outside of the class? Find (or create your own) videos on YouTube that address the material you need, and give the links to your students.
  2. Supplemental Information. Let’s say you want students to have some extra information that you don’t have class time to commit to. Share the interesting links with students. Students could benefit from some additional video resources to help them when they’re working outside of class.
  3. Self-Directed Learning. Depending on your curriculum, you can direct students to YouTube as a resource to find the information interesting and relevant to them. If students are working on a more self-directed project or have an individual passion they want to explore, encourage them to take advantage of YouTube.
  4. Classroom Enhancers. Videos can illustrate ideas and engage students far more substantially than textbooks, lectures, pictures, or other activities. When possible, turn to this free resource for building more effective lessons during class time.

The Era of Crowd-Funded Learning

The traditional education depended heavily on the teacher-is-the-sole-expert model. Students could not easily access additional resources and depended on their teacher’s expertise. A teacher’s expertise is still essential; however, students ought to be encouraged to take advantage of the wealth of resources surrounding them, including YouTube.

YouTube is becoming a place where more and more professionals are uploading their free, awesome content. John and Hank Green, for example, are creating nearly three new videos a week for their Crash Course series covering literature, psychology, philosophy, history, and much more. Other experts and institutions, like Khan Academy, are creating excellent resources on math, science, and economics. New experts are contributing to YouTube every day, creating an ever-expanding onslaught of interesting educational videos.

With so many talented, knowledgeable people in the world, why should students strictly learn from only one teacher? Now we live in an era where the teacher doesn’t have to be the sole expert. Instead, the teacher can help students find resources that can help them the most.

Schools are often known as the place where curiosity goes to die, slaughtered at the hand of the unrelenting fixed curriculum. Maybe YouTube and resources like it are the tools we can use to revive it once again.

YouTube’s Advantages

Here are some of the specific advantages to encourage YouTube in your classroom:

  • A place for teachers to learn. Teachers can learn more about their content or their teaching practice from these resources too!
  • Videos are interesting and engaging. There’s something about videos that make them easy hooks that get students interested in watching and learning more.
  • A wealth of resources from experts. Although there are loads of cat videos, there are also loads of experts who are sharing their knowledge and perspectives for free.
  • Visual and audible means of learning. The video medium helps students learn by both seeing and hearing, which helps understanding and retention.
  • Watchable anytime and place. As long as students have Internet access, they can view the useful videos any time it’s convenient for them.
  • Easily shared. As students themselves find useful content, they can easily share it with teachers, friends, and classmates.
  • Student can contribute themselves. And don’t forget this is YOUTube … which means that students themselves can create original content and share their own expertise with viewers. This is a great way for students to develop an online presence and have a creative way to show what they know.

Getting Students Started

So ask your students a few of the following questions to help them find the most useful resources on YouTube:

  • What are the skills you’re working on?
  • What are you curious about?
  • What do you need help with?
  • What interests you?
  • What would help you when you’re working on your own?
  • What qualifies as a trustworthy source?
  • What do you want to learn more about?
  • What’s something interesting or useful that others could benefit from?

These questions, you’ll note, are not limited to YouTube use. As students answer these questions and explore YouTube, they’re more likely to find the ways they can benefit from the resource.

Of course, we want to teach students to beware of distractions, too. YouTube is a fantastic place to supplement one’s education; it’s also a great way for students to distract themselves from their objectives. Students can find limitless entertainment, so they must be equipped to remain focused on what they need rather than get sidetracked by the alluring suggested videos.

Make your classroom a place where you and your students freely share the latest and most useful learning tools, including the easily engaging wealth of YouTube expertise. Everything we know as humans is steadily being catalogued on YouTube, and the student who wants to learn can find everything they need and more on this amazing resource.

Is YouTube a resource you use in your classroom? Tell us how you get the most out of this tool in the comments below!

Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.

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