Horn or Halo Series – YouTube

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  • July 8, 2015

Welcome to our first Horn or Halo post. Here we take controversial EdTech topics, ones that can be considered both good and bad for the classroom and discuss them. Each post in this series offers some ‘horns’ and ‘halos’ before coming to a verdict.

Background: In April 2005 you could watch a single 18 sec video. Ten years later, YouTube has 1 billion users and delivers 4 billion views each day! It is the 2nd most popular search site (bigger than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined) and, of course, the largest video sharing site. With so much rich video content available, where do educators stand on YouTube in the classroom? Is it a Horn or Halo?

YouTube in the ClassroomHalo: Video is powerfully engaging and YouTube has more of it than anywhere else on the planet.

A 2013 consumer study found that adults are ~40% more likely to share and ~55% more likely to ‘like’ a video vs a text article. Another study finds that combining both visual and audio in articles improves recall by 65%.  “We’re making content and tools available to our teachers to help them increase and enhance their teaching [through YouTube for Schools],” John Connolly, educational technology director for the Chicago Public Schools, said (via nytimes.com). With it’s unique power of engagement, there is absolutely a place for video in the classroom, and since YouTube has more of it than anyone else, it’s a clear Halo.

Horn: Many videos are not educational, and some are downright despicable.

Despite YouTube’s ground rules, bad and despicable content is abound. Also, and this might be even more problematic, there is seemingly no limit to the potential time wasted watching low value and useless content. A 2014 study found adults watch an hour of online video each day while another 2015 study put it at 1:15 daily. Without a doubt we are all victims of ‘lost time’ when it comes to online videos and ‘time’ is high up on the list of things we don’t have enough of in education. “There is a lot of stuff on YouTube I wouldn’t be comfortable with my students seeing,” Jesse Spevack, assistant principal at the NYC iSchool in Manhattan, said (via nytimes.com). The idea that we can control and direct access only to the ‘right’ videos seems naive and it’s a clear Horn.

The Verdict: Given today’s generation of learners, learning without video is unrealistic.

Does YouTube get a Halo or a Horn? EdTechReview put it well, “as a coin has two opposite sides, everything is a combination of pros and cons, but when used in a proper way, YouTube can be a great educational video resource.”  With sections on the site such as YouTube Edu and YouTube for Schools, YouTube helps filter out inappropriate videos for students as well as direct educators to good material for class.

YouTube and videos generally are too powerful a learning tool to be completely turned off. Tomorrow’s citizens must know how to independently leverage online videos to understand concepts and learn skills. Without that ability they are at a disadvantage…and school should be about, among other things, helping create life advantages rather than artificial disadvantages.


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