YouTube & Students in 2011

The idea that many students are using YouTube to learn and gather information for various topics is not something that is new. The new thing relates to the direct explosion/popularlity of students uploading videos for their own digital presence/profile. While I know this has been happening for a long time in the USA the fact that many of our students in Western Australia have only just recently gained access to a device that allowed the creation of videos to be filmed, edited and uploaded in a matter of minutes.

The reality of this situation is many people reading this at the moment would immediately start to think of ways to control and inhibit this practice as its dangerous and put them at risk. While I agree there are risks I do think that it comes back to appropriately educating students about the right ways to utilise these online communities. So that aside, and for everyone that disagrees the reading stops here, the question is what are they creating?The first answer I thought was a nightmare for media teachers all around the world. There goes a terms work as they are already versed in the technical issues of creating movies and have proven they don’t need a plan to film something. However, what they are creating represents true expression of what they enjoy and what they can do.

So what is happening?

In the first instance when I started to notice this phenomenon it was as simple as students creating short music videos on the weekends and when they had friends over. The idea came from the fact that their Apple laptop had a built-in camera with software that allowed them to film and keep a record of them singing a song. Now this was what I call the first iteration of the YouTube experience. The reality was that these short videos didn’t reach YouTube because of one issue, their voice. Now because we as a society hate hearing our voice, many students only shared their individual videos with their friends, but the method of sharing these limited their audience.

The second iteration of this phenomenon came about when my fellow colleagues and I spent time teaching them how to use iMovie 09. The thing was that many had already used it to edit short clips themselves but the real kicker to this process was based around the ability to augment their voice. An explosion of chipmunks started to appear in their tasks, insane to hear over and over again, but it gave them an outlet to mask their own voice. Learning how to detach their own audio and delete it and place a song over it also jumped this process along.

The Third iteration was the full-blown creation and uploading of their own creative works to youtube via the direct upload link in iMovie. Students now don’t mask their voice or are scared to show their talents because now so many of them are doing it it is becoming just a part of natural expression. Students that would normally be quiet and reserved in class are displaying their skills in shuffling, piano playing and matching music clips to their favourite songs.

So what do we do about this?

The simple answer to teachers, administrators and anyone in the education industry is to harness this, bottle it up and incorporate it into our curriculum. The College where I am fortunate to work allows me to host and upload College work to our branded YouTube channel. It was through this that I discovered the amount of posts and YouTube videos students are creating. As an ICT teacher in the school I was initially concerned but realised all they needed was a little guidance, which I provided to them in the form of encouragement. I put in place some context to remember where they are filming, what they are wearing, what song lyrics they are dancing too but very very importantly that if their channel was good that the College would subscribe to their channel.

This idea of subscribing to the channel is the number one thing that makes this method work. Its like being part of the game, but playing it not to get the best videos but playing it to make sure they are participating in this digital world in a safe way. While I don’t actively monitor their YouTube presence I do receive emails when they upload a new YouTube clip, which I watch and I have often used in my presentations to other schools.

 So whats the moral of the story?

Students don’t need us to engage them in learning, if they truly find something interesting they will go ahead and do it themselves. Through a SINGLE post on a students video from the College YouTube channel I was able to get more credibility and gain access to a culture that many schools are refusing to engage in. I now have a team (more that 10) of student who want to learn how to do green screen for their music videos and edit it in other programs, like Final Cut Studio and more. With students already embracing the development of videos for public display in their personal time what am I going to teach them next year in Information Technology?

I have linked a few of the videos I think really represent this changing culture. – BTW they will appreciate you subscribing to them :) 

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