YouTube in the classroom: can it be used as an engaging teaching and learning tool? Or is it a nothing more than a distraction?
I've been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of YouTube in secondary schools. There are child safety features available but are they sufficient? How can you ensure YouTube is used properly and safely in schools? Students are way smarter than they let on, with many being able to sidestep a siteblocker quicker than a nimble full back.
YouTube is something of a double edged sword. On the one hand it provides vast amounts of content for teachers and students. It is also free (to a certain extent) and can be used on demand. I have referred to YouTube in class to search for a clip and share it with my students on countless occasions.
On the flip side, it is impossible to control what you can actually filter. Maybe this has changed but when I look at it last in 2012, it certainly wasn't the case. At the same time, it seems pretty old school to prevent learners accessing YouTube, considering many students already have smartphones with YouTube pre-installed.
We can't control the apps or content on a students personal smartphone but we can and should put in place suitable measures and filters to ensure YouTube is not used inappropriately via school systems and network.
Should I block YouTube at school?
If you're able to effectively block it from students, whilst giving staff or special users access, then be my guest. However this isn't always the case.
At my last school I turned it off completely. Limitations on our network meant we could either have it available for everyone or have it turned off for everyone. I was certainly not Mr. Popular when we turned YouTube off.
In some cases, teachers were frustrated that I had taken away their ability to search videos on the fly. This meant YouTube was only accessible at certain times of the school day (between 3pm and 4pm).
My workaround was to give teachers the option to send the IT team, the video links they wanted to use and we would download the videos for them, so they could use them instantly in class. It was this or being in a situation where learners had potential access to content which was not suitable for them. It was an easy decision for me to block until we found another option.
I would love to know how you use YouTube at your school and the challenges you face / are facing? I believe it's something that should not be ignored.
One thing to keep in mind when using any kind of social networking platform in the classroom, YouTube included, is safety first, so have a look at our tips of staying safe online by clicking here.