YouTube in the Classroom


My daughter, Natasha, came home from school last week and she was extremely excited about something her class had done.  We’re talking wound up.  Once we calmed her down enough to figure out what she was talking about we discovered that her teacher had videotaped her Grade 2 class as each of the students presented their favorite part about a book they had read, then posted the video on YouTube.

I’ve been a GeekDad contributor for going on a year now, and prior to this, spent three years as a weekly “suburban humor” columnist with a Canadian news site.  During these tenures, I’ve written about my kids literally hundreds of times and published dozens of photos of them.  But, I’ve always drawn the line at showing their faces.  Every picture I’ve posted is a shot from the back, a photo with the face turned away, a costume disguise, you name it- I’ve become a master of the private, public persona.

So I have to admit, that when I saw the YouTube video and Tasha waltzing up to the camera, I was a little aghast. 

But then a light bulb went off.  She was excited that the video was going online and that sense of enthusiasm was evident in each of the kids as they made their presentation.  I love reading, always have, but having to do a book report never got me particularly worked up.  Where it gets more interesting, is that the author of the book discovered the YouTube video and wrote about it on his blog.  In fact, he wrote: “My favorite is the girl who liked Fox because he’s part of the dog family and is cute.”

That’s Tasha he’s talking about.  This level of immediate and personal interaction between students and their studies (or between groups of students in different schools) is really unprecedented and can create a feedback loop with the potential to really energize the kids.  Anything that gets kids excited about learning is something that I will stand behind.  But it takes a teacher who gets how the technology can be leveraged to make this work.

Seeing Tasha and her friends on the computer screen, it dawned on me that I’ve been participating in an online ecosystem, but with one foot still planted firmly in a largely imaginary safety zone.  I think I’ve become the technological equivalent of the parent who won’t let their kids play unsupervised in the fenced back yard at an age when they themselves used to be allowed to wander six blocks to the park as long as they promised to be home before dark.  I don’t think I’m the only one.  Is it a generational thing?  This overprotective reaction is especially hypocritical given that I write with candor about anything and everything, have worked for an Internet-based company for well over a decade and my house is over-run with computers, iPods, game consoles, etc…  I can guarantee that no one would walk in my front door, look around and declare that a Luddite lives here.  But sometimes it takes a nudge from someone with a fresh perspective to push you out of your comfort zone and fully into the water.

And speaking of water, Ms. Cordy and her class also put together an interesting project about the Water Cycle, with the class providing voiceover to a video that pans through a series of their drawings illustrating various stages of the Water Cycle.  Very cool, very collaborative and very exciting for the kids.

As my first foray into this fully immersive community, I’m including the YouTube video of Ms. Cordy’s Grade 2 Class reviewing Jeremy Tankard’s Grumpy Bird.

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