Saturday, 15 June 2013

10 Ways to use a Youtube channel in education

Youtube: The ultimate distraction (apart from Twitter, but that's for grown-ups, right?).

A marmite resource which teachers either love or hate. Personally, I love it. Marmite me up all day long, if you will. It provides a never-ending source of educational videos, inspiration, challenge, provocation and kittens launching themselves at erratic torch-beams wielded by sadistic owners waiting for their cat to splat into a wall and bag them £500 from "You've Been Framed". What's not to like?

Apart from the cats bit, that's why I started our own Finham Park Media Youtube channel. It's been building up gradually over the last few months, the longer I've been on my journey to explore how iPads and BYOD technologies can be used to enhance my own teaching and learning practice (previously blogged about here and here, so forgive me if I don't go over old ground). I've found it an invaluable companion to this journey, so I thought I would share the countless opportunities Youtube offers educationalists in this blog*. In the form of a list. So you can count them. Ahem...

1. The simplest way to use Youtube is as a place of stimulus and discussion for class topics. A video URL can easily be set as research, to provoke debate, to extend thinking for more able students or to help explain something more simply for those having trouble getting to grips with a new concept. Once the students watch the video you've shared, the comments section below allows for the debate to occur. If you "Favourite" the video, it will appear in your channel, and you can then direct students to your channel, and supervise and moderate what they're saying, especially if you have set this as a homework task.

2. I love using Youtube as a place for flipped learning videos too: I create a very simple video, say a tutorial on a concept I'm teaching, an app or piece of software I need students to be able to use, or instructions for hardware such as cameras, particularly useful for subjects like ICT, Media, Photography, DT, Music etc (example here). A Youtube channel allows you to curate all of your videos in one easily-accessed place for your students.
  1. Video tutorial
    I then set it as homework for students to watch and take notes on, so that they come to the lesson knowing how to do what I've been describing, or as a minimum, having questions they want clarifying. The ability to review the videos as often as they like allows the students not to feel they have to move at the same middle-ground pace as the rest of the class, and personalises the learning a little more. Allowing questions right from the start of the lesson also allows me to differentiate from the start, allowing those who know what they're doing to get right on, while I can spend time helping those who had questions. I should say at this point that I am aware there has been much criticism of the Khan Academy approach to flipped learning, about the boring videos and inaccuracies, 
    but these criticisms mostly miss the point, which is the principle that if you create a video of information you've already taught in class, it can not only be accessed any time to refresh the students' memories, but it can also be done slightly differently to differentiate, be that to stretch the most able, or to assist the less. The great thing about having these videos on your own channel is that you can arrange them into playlists on the same subjects, and have the playlist order follow the same logical order that students should tackle them in, gradually getting harder. the students are improving their skills with every video, but tackling each new topic at their own pace, once they fell they have mastered the preceding step.
3. I tend to use flipped video lessons in conjunction with Ted-Ed, a brilliant resource in itself which I've described elsewhere. It allows you to take any TED or Youtube video and create quizzes based on the videos which students can undertake as the test of how well they have done their homework, and be used as the basis for differentiation from the start of the class. The test immediately shows who has not done the homework, who has done it but needs more input, and who should be moved on straight away. The quizzes can be done different ways, in class, using different software, or even paper if you're into that sort of thing, but the TED-Ed quiz facility has a few nice features (such as hints about where in the video the answer lies if students struggle, and a self-marking facility) which add to the variety of your teaching.
4.  The same principle applies to teachers. I use my Youtube channel to help other teachers with app tutorials to help them work out how to make best use of certain apps to improve their teaching and learning. Again, all of these are arranged into playlists, by topic, to make them hopefully easier to find. I learnt a lot from other teachers who have put tutorials on Youtube (@eyebeams was one particular early inspiration), and a Youtube channel for me just felt like an easy way to share things I was showing teachers in my own school. 

5. However, new media technologies take us way beyond simply finding things other clever people have done, and this is where your own Youtube channel comes into its own. For a start, if your students create their own video work (on phones, iPads, at home, on PCs etc), it is the place to store it for later referral, for assessment (remember, you can comment on their work from there). The process of uploading is incredibly easy once you have the video file, or even more automatic from certain apps which are already linked to Youtube.

6. This also acts as a public showcase for your students' work, which is a huge incentive for them. You need their permission to share this work publicly (you can upload things to Youtube but keep them private, or stipulate that only people in your classes can see them), but if they and the people they filmed are happy with it, you can then open the channel up to more public eyes and exposure. This knowledge that anyone could come across their work can really sharpen their focus and inspire students to produce over and above their usual class efforts.

7. Not only that, but if your students are serious about their work, the channel acts as a networking opportunity for your students, to allow others to see what they have done, and allow them to talk about and discuss their work with industry professionals. It might even get them noticed by someone really important, but even if they're don't get signed for their first multi-million dollar film deal, the channel opens up the way for discussions with people who can help them to improve their practice. In one recent example, a friend of mine who works on video effects saw the work of a student and started a conversation with them about how they could get better, and different techniques they could use. hey presto, the student's next piece was even better. Feedback from an expert certainly carries more weight than mine does (apparently!).

8. The discussion and comments sections for videos also allow an opportunity for extended peer feedback: By sharing the links with other schools, you allow your students to put their work before a broader audience of their peers, and a broader range of criticism. This acts the same way as the way other colleagues share their class blogs between schools, and with the same positive effect in my experience.

9. Additionally, I think having your own channels allows you to share your students' work with other teaching professionals, providing an opportunity for moderation. Anyone who finds themselves in my position of working in a small department without a budget to send you to those costly moderation meetings will appreciate the ability to share your links with other professionals and get their opinion on the marks you're giving, or how the work could be improved, especially if you're feeling a bit too close to the work to be objective.

10. Finally, there is a great deal to be said for how far a Youtube channel gets you noticed as a school. Ours has attracted attention from all over the place, and when people from around the country discuss the work of Finham Park students, many of them have seen it on our Youtube channels, so our school's reputation is enhanced.

One final word on Youtube. Many schools block it, despite the fact that it is the most extensive resources of video material the world has ever seen. For me, that's all horribly wrong. The fact that students could access inappropriate material via Youtube is not a reason to ban it. After all, no school banned the Internet, despite the rumour that at one stage it consisted of 90% pornography (This may be apocryphal and impossible to prove, but you have to admit it's persuasive and emotive: Everything we need from a "Gove-fact"!) Essentially, it should not be for technicians or bureaucrats to decide what your students can and can't access. It should be for the teacher. If the teacher doesn't feel confident that students will stay on task and use learning-related sites they have stipulated, then they shouldn't take a risk in using it. On the other hand, if you feel you trust your students, or that you have the ability to manage behaviour (it is the behaviour which you are criticising after all, not the technology), then use it. As far as I am concerned, what students can access should be a matter of teaching and learning, not decided by technicians. They are there to serve the teaching and learning community after all, and that's a powerful argument to take to leadership teams to get them to unblock these sites.

*If you are about to skip the rest of this blog o the basis that Youtube is blocked in your school, I suggest starting at the LAST paragraph