It took me exactly 2 minutes (yes, I timed it) for me to find objectionable content on YouTube. And it's not like I did a search for smut. In fact, I found it in the 'education' section of the site, as one of the featured videos. Now maybe the video does not exceed the YouTube terms for what is innappropriate, but it wasn't anything I'd want kids watching at school... or in their homes. Granted, I had to be signed in as over 18 before I could view the video, but who's checking? And sure, you are supposed to be over 13 to even use the site, but a brief talk with some of my 3rd and 4th grade recorder students told me "everybody's doing it!"
I decided then to see how long it would take me to find something I considered worthwhile, and it didn't take that much longer: I took a german lesson from someone named Kiwi! A little more digging took me to the non-profit section of the Channels, where I watched a few interesting videos, getting a chuckle out of Keep America Beautiful Man, although even this video I woudn't show to students. A bit more poking around and I found some math tutorials, and more language lessons, but as I feared, surrounded by a lot of... junk.
YouTube verdict: not for schools. But only because there is TeacherTube.
I liked TeacherTube. I watched a teacher give her students a tutorial on setting up a Word Document for assignments and love that it is always there on the web if they forget how to do something, I watched a simple explanation of the principles of flight, and I watched a a wide variety of student produced videos. My favourite was a very simple video featuring 3rd grade students reading their sight words in sentences. Great for practicing at home! That simple use of a powerpoint presentation with kids' recorded voices really made me realize how powerful even the simplest technologies can be... and gave me a lot of ideas for my own practice: kids walking around the classroom narrating colours and shapes, kids reading a book with the camera on a tripod above them, focused on the pictures, maybe even using kidpix to animate number concepts, if that kind of file can be uploaded? Lots of possibilities!
TeacherTube addresses almost all of my concerns about video sharing in the classroom. First, the content seems to be quality and educational, and there is a wide variety. Second, users seem to respect the educational nature of the site and refrain from posting, ahem, objectionable material. Third, the privacy of posters is well protected. Posters have complete control over whether their content can be viewed publicly or just by those invited.
Of course, even TeacherTube can't guarantee the quality of everything that is posted, and so, as Karla Kingsley reminds us in her 2004 article Empower Diverse Learners With Educational Technology and Digital Media, "the quality, content, and effectiveness of digital learning materials can vary tremendously (Williams, Boone, & Kingsley, 2004), making it problematic for teachers to distinguish useful electronic programs and materials from flashy, graphics-intensive products that do little to promote learning." Most kids tend to be attracted to those flashy videos just as I am repelled by them, so it remains the responsibility of teachers to find materials that are flashy, appropriate, and useful.
I have to applaud Jason Smith for recognizing the potential of video sharing in an educational context and working to create a safe space for teachers and students to take advantage of the technology. I think making a video to post on the web for their friends and parents to see would be a very motivating activity for most students, and it's great that teachers have a safe place to help their students do just that!
I will definitely be adopting video sharing into my practice when I return to the classroom, but I've got a lot more to learn before I do. I've never made any kind of video, let along edited it in any way! I think this might be the topic for my PD proposal... nothing like needing to teach others what you know nothing about to motivate you to learn! Now I just need to find a video camera...
Intimidation factor: 4/5