The internet is a wondrous place, full of amazing information and things to learn. To me, the internet can be similar to going to the big city for the first time. It is easy to get so caught up in the glamour of the place, the opportunities, that sometimes you get lost and end up someplace you should not. This is especially true for one of my favorite resources: YouTube.
YouTube has fantastic potential. Need to show your land-locked farm kids what the Panama Canal looks like? There are plenty of videos of people passing through the locks. Want to see the Spanish Armada reenacted using Legos? You have that too. Music videos on being a paleontologist? Help learning an instrument? Want to report on human rights abuses to the west? YouTube has the ability to transmit more information and connect more people than any other site.
Many people credit the development of the printing press as crucial in the American Revolution because of its ability to get the word out. Is it any wonder that the Internet has played such a role in recent revolution in Egypt? YouTube is a tool as potent as the printing press; it has the ability to not only give people the means of production, but also distribution as well.
YouTube also has the ability to waste insane amounts of time, and through its “suggestions” connects you to things that have no business being in a school. YouTube videos are not rated, and it is for good reason that most school filters block it entirely.
But, like any tool, in the hands of responsible teachers, YouTube can be great. We recently got staff access to YouTube. And sure, my kids and I looked up a few viral videos (note: a video of a talking dog is a great motivator, and cheaper than candy) but we also saw a bunch of great videos about science. One thing to avoid like the plague, though, is the comments posted by random individuals who seem to get a kick out of being as vulgar as possible.
Here a few tools that I found that can make YouTube a little more school-friendly.
viewpure: A great tool that removes ads and linked videos from a video, making it clutter-free and age appropriate.
Hyperlinking to a point: By clicking “share” and then “more options,” you can link to a specific point in a video.
YouTube Education: A blessedly ad-free part of YouTube where educational videos have been posted, most by other educators, with lessons and tools available for everything from preschool to university courses. You will find every Sesame Street video ever made here, right along with an introduction to particle physics.