K-12 School Computer Networking/Chapter 25/Harnessing the power of YouTube for distance learning classrooms
One major concern for distance learning efforts, especially for K-12 education, involves the loss of the interpersonal connections that are developed by face to face interactions. Non-Verbal communication can be extremely expressive and for many cultures learning the appropriate cues and mores of non-verbal communication is an important part of developing a well rounded and productive member of society. The distance learning tool that is often suggested as a substitute for the loss of face to face communication has been live streaming, web conferencing software. Certainly, this kind of tool brings to distance learning the ability to mimic a face to face classroom or seminar experience, but it also takes away one of the most positive attributes of a great many distance learning frameworks; asynchronicity.
For students who are located in geographically separated areas or for those students who have scheduling difficulties due to a disability or for some other reason, organizing around a fixed live streamed classroom can be limiting. More importantly, however, the asynchronous format that allows for an educational focus that rewards student reflection and gives shyer students or students who are slower in forming their thoughts the ability to participate on equal footing with their peers. One free, web hosted tool that allows distance educators the ability to combine asynchronous learning is the already widely known and used video sharing site, YouTube.
Video in Education
The 2008 Horizon Report lists "grassroots video" as the first of it's "key emerging trends" in educational technology. This is both for distance learning and for traditional face to face classrooms open to incorporating distance learning tools into their practice. The popularity of YouTube amongst both adults and children at a level that has been described as "viral" speaks to it's ease of use. A widely cited report on Digital Youth sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation stated that "Social network sites, online games, video-sharing sites, and gadgets such as iPods and mobile phones are now fixtures of youth culture." The familiarity of YouTube also ensures that when used for educational purposes it will not remain unused due to difficulties in set up or negative reactions to the inclusion of a "new" product with a steep learning curve prior to use.
Some tasks may be easier with some technologies than with others, and thus the introduction of a new technology may inspire certain uses.Yet, these activities become widespread only if the culture also supports them, if they fill recurring needs at a particular historical juncture. It matters what tools are available to a culture, but it matters more what that culture chooses to do with those tools. (Henry Jenkins)
For the most part, YouTube has not yet entirely made the jump from "cultural phenomenom for entertainment" to "respected platform for academic discourse" in the way that products such as iTunes and iTunes University have. (Though there is a site called TeacherTube that acts as a repository for educational videos, it does not have all the functionality of YouTube.) One of the reasons why the video platform may not have gained the academic credibility that iTunes University has may have to do with the video media versus audio media. The adoption of iTunes as a platform for academic and educational materials did not challenge the constructionist (and sadly, often traditional educational) norms of teacher as content expert and the student as passive recipient of information. Lectures and speeches could easily be put into iTunes for students to access at any time and anywhere. Certainly, more constructivist approaches have also emerged in the audio platform that is accorded by iTunes, but the replicating of "taped" lecture was nothing new even if iTunes allows for a more widely distributed audience.
Video, however, may not be an area that teachers are familiar with especially in creating video content that utilizes the visual medium in an asynchronous manner. The need to produce a video over an audio recording suggests that the speaker is doing something more than simply giving a lecture behind a desk. Face to face teachers need to be at least fluent in understanding the ability of how to convey a message effectively through the visual medium of video. The benefit of this fluency is that this powerful medium alllows for asynchronous learning that does not sacrifice the ability for both students and teachers to benefit from non-verbal communication.
Example in Action:
In the YouTube video linked above a teacher uses music, rap and dance to explain fractions in a way that certainly appeals to students differently than would a video of a demonstration at the chalkboard. While this video may have been created for viewing in a face to face classroom, for distance learners, the students might be encouraged to ask their questions either textually or to reflect on their learning by creating a video response or creating their own video explaining a different mathematical concept.
Bleed in an article about the role of visual literacy in higher education states that "Visual literacy is often considered trivial, transitory, or even nonacademic. Visual literacy is outside any mainstream literacy curriculum, taught only in specialized courses in disciplines such as art and architecture. How can colleges be relevant when they ignore this major force in society?" The same can be said of K-12. Television's popularity has been undisputed now for decades and broadband internet access has increased the amount of visual information that is widely available. Regardless of the content being taught, in this day and age it would be hapless not to incorporate visual literacy into the curriculum. For distance learning, using video as the medium lends itself to the perfect way to incorporate video literacy into the educational practice.
New Literacy theorists argue that social context and cultural diversity significantly affect the literacy process. Often, the failure of urban students to develop “academic” literacy skills stems not from a lack of intelligence but from the inaccessibility of the school curriculum to students who are not in the “dominant” or “mainstream” culture. These theorists believe that such students are literate but that their literacies have little connection with the dominant literacies promoted in public schools" (Ernest Morrell)
Students will learn criticism, persuasion, and communication not only through the written medium afforded by the wikis, blogs, text messages, comment boards, and assignment papers sent by email and the postal service, but also through the format of visual expression through video.
One important goal of media education should be to encourage young people to become more reflective about the ethical choices they make as participants and communicators and the impact they have on others. (Henry Jenkins)
Beyond the ability for teachers to convey information out to students in a manner that is asynchronous and utilizing visual medias ability to convey a message through non-verbal cues of the speakers and rich use of visual information, YouTube allows for comments to be posted in response to any video. These comments can be in either written form or in a video response. This means that YouTube provides a platform to encourage video "conversations" in which both student and teacher interact. The student who is better able to express themselves in through the visual medium can gain experience participating in the discourse often available only to those who are more fluent in writing and/or public speaking. The beauty of YouTube is that multiple mediums are available.
We are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media, toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced. (Henry Jenkins)
The open, public nature of YouTube also allows for students to gain a sense of real life performance. No longer are assignement only to be seen by the instructor, but they may be shared with othe class participants, peers and the world at large. This concept of real world applicability may in fact, give students an incentive to feel more or a sense of ownership over the assignments they produce and the responses they contribute to a course discussion.
As cell phones become more ubiquitous in their capability to play and record video, YouTube as a plaftform for distance learning may become even more valuable. Student studying science may find themselves more likely to capture through video an example of weather conditions as they are happening or documents signs of environmental impact of pollution, students studying current politics or journalism may find themselves able to video document local news events as they take place, and students studying languages might have the ability to record themselves engaged in conversations with tourists they encounter who are native speakers of the language.
Ito, M.; Horst, H.; Bittanti, M.; Boyd, D.; Herr-Stephenson, B.; Lange, P.; Pascoe, C.; and Robinson, L. (2008) Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. MacArthur Foundation. http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/report
Jenkins, H. (2006) Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. MacArthur Foundation. http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF
Morrell, E. (2002) Toward a critical pedagogy of popular culture:Literacy development among urban youth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (46), 72-77.
MrDuey1 (2008) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V96_PjlrVQc