Were witnessing not just the now-routine Internet phenomenon of major new resources, but also massively and unpredictably scaled repositories of public domain materials that are vital information resources for ourselves and our students. As the information abundance spreads, and if we are brave and curious enough to embrace it, we will find our own serendipity fields dramatically expanded."
~ Gardner Campbell (Professor of English, University of Mary Washington)
I vividly remember the 1995 school staff meeting when it was announced that our long awaited Internet hooked-up would be installed that week. Those of us who had little interest in technology barely looked up from the meeting agenda, but the remaining teachers (those who worked with computers) sat on the edge of their seats in rapt anticipation. A few even cheered.
Little did any of us know what a monumental event that was, for along with the online connectivity came not only an abundance of exciting learning opportunities, but an unimaginable number of what Will Richardson refers to as friction points.
Although much advancement has been made in the area of Internet usage in schools, the point of friction is still the same. Much to our chagrin, the very Web sites and online tools that provide incredible learning opportunities also provide the ever-present possibility for students to access and misuse inappropriate information and images. The enduring challenge for educators is how to access one without the other.
YouTube, the latest gift/threat, is a free video-sharing Web site that has rapidly become a wildly popular way to upload, share, view, and comment on video clips. With more than 100 million viewings a day and more than 65,000 videos uploaded daily, the Web portal provides teachers with a growing amount of visual information to share with a classroom full of young multimedia enthusiasts.
On the heels of teachers recognizing the educational value of YouTube, however, came controversy about the number of inappropriate videos that would be available to students. Within weeks, YouTube was blocked from school districts across the country. The action reminded me of the days when the projected horrors of the Internet prevented many schools from offering Internet access to their students -- a time when excessive blocking prevented students and teachers from accessing much needed information.
The widespread blocking of YouTibe has left teachers across the land wondering how we can once again navigate the waters between powerful learning content and inappropriate, unsafe Web content.
Many teachers have found a partial solution by downloading YouTube videos at home (using free online video capture tools like KeepVid or Oyoom) and then bringing it to school on a memory stick or personal laptop to show students.
Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, suggests that this bandaide solution only sidesteps the larger question of how we, both as schools and as citizens, deal with the growing amount of information and content in the world." He proposes that downloading a video at home for use in the classroom is a 1995s solution to a 2007 problem and recommends digging deeper into the issue with our students by teaching them how to make informed, intelligent decisions about what is and isn't appropriate, what is and isn't academic, what is and isn't true."
Lehmanns suggestion is in sync with the recommendations cited in the newly released New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce (a proposal about how to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy). Here, critical thinking is listed as one of the essential 21st century skills.
What better place than school to teach about and practice evaluating the value and ethical use of sites like YouTube? But just talking about it isnt sufficient; students need the chance to develop their ability to evaluate Web content to determine what is and isn't appropriate, what is and isn't academic, what is and isn't true." Anything less would lack authenticity.
As educator, David Warlick puts it --We don't teach children how to cross the street safely on a fake street."
Using YouTube in the Classroom
Learn how teachers and students are using YouTube and other video-sharing Web sites.
Author: Brenda Dyck
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