Asking the Big Questions about educational videos inside and outside the classroom

by Sayraphim on July 3, 2019

So I’m still turning the Big Question around in my brain. Each phd has a Big Question and a methodology to research that Big Question. I think I’ve got the methodology down, but I’m still rubic-cubing the various possible question/s in my head.

I have a lot of questions.

So my supervisor suggested that I write a big, overarching question and then add some sub-questions to that. So, you ready?

What is the educational potential of YouTube,

This one is fairly umbrella, which was the point of the task. Set up the boundaries or the country you’re going to be looking at, and then narrow it down with the sub questions.

The educational potential of video has been fairly well documented. From the earliest motion picture days through technology progression of television, video, DVDs and then the internet, people have always talked excitedly about the ever increasing potential of application of moving images/video for education. In fact, Derek Muller’s phd cites a quote by Thomas Eddison from 1922 which he stated “that the motion picture is destined to revolutionize our educational system and that in a few years it will supplant largely, if not entirely, the use of textbooks,” (Muller, 2008, p6 (Edison 1922 as cited in Cuban 1986, p.9).

But the potential for youtube as an educational tool hasn’t been researched as much as I thought it would have been by now, it launched in 2005 making it 14 years old at time of writing. Yet there hasn’t been much research into it.

What I’m interested in is not just how teachers use videos on youtube as teaching tools, although obviously I am interested in that, but also the content creators, the people making the educational videos. The teachers making videos for their class, the teachers making videos on their specialist subjects for the world, and the non teachers sharing a subject they are passionate about.

And I’m interested in what could be seen as the dichotomy between those creating curriculum content, stuff based on official school education curriculum, and informal learning which is partly or entirely outside of the school curriculum. Kelli has termed this Public Pedagogy* vs Pedagogy in Public**.

*originally any learning opportunity outside a school environment, IE a gallery, museum etc. Now it also includes public internet things.

** Putting current curriculum resources/content out in public for anyone to view and use them.

1. And what do this mean for the future of education in Australia?

THAT’S a biggun! I’m not even going to attempt to answer this at this stage! Predicting the future of education is hard enough, especially when I haven’t done anywhere enough research to even attempt it!

2. Is youtube changing how we think (or should think) about our curriculum?

It should be. I’m not sure if it is, but my sweeping generalisation gut feeling is that younger teachers are embracing the technologies they have grown up with while older teachers stick to what they know. So the curriculum will change slowly as younger generations get into positions of power. But in the shorter term, the use of youtube and other social media in student’s every day lives should be reflected in their school environment. There is a move towards integrated subjects, where science is taught alongside and meshed in with maths, and/or English to better reflect how things are out in the real world – when confronted with a problem or even an activity in the real world (as opposed to the classroom) it is rarely a single subject experience. Walking to the shops for some milk involves geography to get there and back, language and social skills to interact with people, maths for the purchasing, environmental studies for the choice of bag and/or purchase and so on. Single subjects taught one at a time doesn’t reflect a student’s life outside of the classroom. Following on from this, the classroom should include uses of phones, ipads, social media and the internet to better integrate student’s learning with their life outside the classroom.

Which is why the Victorian ban on phones at school from first term 2020 is so short sighted. The education minister, James Merlino, has decreed that

“Phones must be kept in school lockers from first bell to last bell unless a child needs to keep a phone for medical reasons or if there is a specific instruction from the teacher that the phones are needed for a classroom activity.

The policy may not be universally popular, Mr Merlino said, but it was the “right thing to do”.

Mr Merlino said teachers wanted children talking to each other in the schoolyard, not checking their phones.”

This is short sighted. Students need to be taught how to use their technology well, how to integrate it into their every day lives. And this decree seems to ignore the fact that technology is SUCH a part of every day life! Students are checking their phones because there is social interaction happening there too. Part of a person’s life is now online, and you have to allow for that in the school environment.

To drag this answer back to the actual question, the curriculum should be changed to reflect the increased use of technology in our every day lives.

3. Is youtube changing how teachers create lessons/teach lessons (more than just bunging on a video)

So I was at school from the early 80s to the mid 90s (not including uni) and videos were utalised back then for teaching purposes. In primary school there was a single television on a trolley and it was usually in the AV room, a room with big wide stairs as seats which a whole class would troop into once a week to watch the latest BTN program (Behind The News, a current affairs program for students). In high school there were still TVs on trolleys, but there were more of them per school, and I remember watching terrible 70s BBC versions of Shakespeare plays in English class and having my media teacher occasionally throw open his cupboard full of pirated videos to watch a film when he didn’t have anything else for us to do (he used to pirate the copyright warnings, which made us laugh every time we saw them).

Now, each classroom is equipped with a projector and screen, many have interactive whiteboards too. Any film, any clip, pretty much anything is just an internet search and a few clicks away. Has this ease of access changed how teachers plan and/or teach their lessons? I would say, yes, but I would like to do more research as to HOW before I answer this fully.

4. How has youtube changed the classroom experience for students?***

Again, I am going to say yes, it has, but I need more research to talk about exactly how. But it’s quick and easy to find things, short and engaging videos help to break up the lesson while creating more learning opportunities, videos help cater to different kinds of learners and students can have an input into lessons like never before. I was teaching a class recently about different ways to learn and one of my students asked if I’d seen the Periodic Table song, which I hadn’t. So I searched for it on youtube and it came up, so I projected it onto the wall and we all watched it. Some of the students sang along with it – they had been taught it in year 7 and now, as 3rd yr undergrads, still remembered it.

Some of my other students also hadn’t seen it, and now they all had an extra item in their teaching basket to use with their students.

5. How has youtube affected learning outside the school environment and for people who are not students at any school?

Ok, so THIS I’m also extremely interested in. Formal learning vs informal learning. Formal learning is the stuff a student does at school and homework assigned. Informal learning is where someone is interested in knowing a thing and so searches it out for themselves.

A student of mine told me that without Crash Course, she should not have passed year 10 biology. Formal learning, based on curriculum, outside of school hours.

When I wanted to learn how to crochet, I went onto youtube to watch some tutorials. Informal learning, not based on curriculum. Although crochet/craft might be in the Victorian curriculum for school students, I am not at school and therefore I don’t have any curriculum to follow. Which may sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes in academia you gotta do that.

On this idea, of folks learning stuff from youtube outside a classroom environment, Zoe Glatt who is currently doing her phd on youtube at the London School of Economics, said that “I’d say that a central component of YouTube culture.” which is awesome. (link – Zoe’s comment on a youtube video

So these are all things I want to examine in my phd. And each time I write something like this I edge closer and closer to having the actual Question phrased. Hooray!

*** Supervisor says this is too big a question for this phd, that it needs a phd all of it’s own. So not this question then 🙂


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