I Tube, YouTube, WE ALL TUBE....Buuuuuut....

So, it's been a minute :(

Fall has been such a blur that I failed to realize Jane Hart's annual "Top Tools for Learning" survey results were released more than two months ago! 

If you've never checked out the Top Tools site, it's very worth it. This year's list was generated by 2,524 votes from 46 countries. Although not all of the resources are free, a good number of them are. And, with Top 100 lists for education, workplace learning, and personal and professional learning, it's an invaluable resource for staying up to date on the seemingly infinite selection of online tools for learning. 
(Note: I am forever indebted to Jennifer Maddrell of Designers for Learning for making me 
aware of this fantastic resource!). Also, this is not my graphic. I know how to spell discovery.

Lifelong Learning through "Discovery"

Besides being an invitation for me to jump down the rabbit hole of checking out new resources recommended by educators, I love this survey because it also summarizes new trends in technology in learning.

One of this year's trends I'm most excited about is the notion of discovery by way of using curation tools such as Wakelet (October's resource of the month) to provide informal learning options. (Congrats to Wakelet for being a new addition to the list!!!!) In a world where lifelong learning is essential for building and maintaining the skills needed to remain productive in work and life, I believe part of our role as educators is to provide options that condition learners to search for and explore content related to the skills they need to develop. It's encouraging to see there are more and more tools entering the mix that make it easier for educators to provide such discovery experiences. 

This Year's Top Tool (And the year before, and the year before that, and....)

Image of YouTube's original interface.
YouTube's original interface (2005). Oh how I miss the days 
of file folder tab navigation! And "Screen Names"!
Speaking of tools for discovery... topping this year's list for the fourth year in a row was YouTube. Ever hear of it? In the 13 years of the Top Tools survey, it's landed in the top three all but one of those years! 

Part of the beauty of YouTube is the fact it was designed to allow anyone, anywhere to share their content with the world. Recent statistics suggest that creators upload approximately 500 hours of content per minute!!! That's a lot of content! 

The Free Web—Taking the Good with the Bad

Obviously not all of that content is educational. And while I obviously love the crowdsourcing aspect of YouTube (and, of course, the fact it is a free resource!), there are legitimate concerns over the platform's ability to spread misinformation because of YouTube's loose video screening and take-down policies combined with its algorithms, which are designed to serve you both a) ads, and b) content that it believes you will like...regardless of accuracy. 

Quite honestly, I have a number of issues with YouTube and Google, and this puts me at a bit of a crisis of conscience in making YouTube this month's Resource of the Month. This concern was only increased after the 60 Minutes interview last week, Is YouTube doing enough to fight hate speech?where YouTube's CEO was questioned by Leslie Stahl about the company's policies regarding what content they take down and why. (I encourage you....and your students....to watch the segment, because I believe it's important to "know what you get" when using tools such as YouTube.) This, combined with the fact YouTube ended up paying a $170 million settlement in September because of its alleged violation of children's privacy laws, makes it challenging to promote the clear (and, obviously, widely acknowledged) educational benefits of YouTube. 

Creating a Teachable Moment

In an age where we expect tools and services such as YouTube to be free, coupled with "Login with Facebook/Google" convenience to access pretty much any of these tools seamlessly (it's SOOO much easier than trying to remember all those passwords!!), we all have to understand that in today's world, if it's not being sold TO YOU, it's YOU who is being sold. 


Given this is the reality of our "information age," the question we each must ask ourselves as educators is: Do I block students from using these tools, or do I use this as a teachable moment? I lean on the side of immersing students in these environments—with guidance—mainly because given this IS our reality, we must help our learners become critical consumers of information who understand internet safety and the ramifications of online activity. Additionally...
  • Lifelong Learning is Required to Be Participatory in Society: Lifelong learning is no longer an activity for geeks and hobbyists...it's a mindset and requires a set of skills that we all need to embrace in order to live, work, and thrive in a digital world where what we do and how we do it constantly evolves. As noted above, I believe we should be conditioning our learners to engage with content from many sources (discovery!), and teach them to become critical consumers of this information. This only comes by way of exposing students in the classroom to the type of information they will ultimately be encountering outside the classroom
  • Tech Will Always Outpace Policy: Because of the speed with which shiny new tech is developed and our equally fast willingness to adopt "the next, best thing,"we often immerse ourselves in new technology before we can fully comprehend the ramifications of its use—how it is impacting our thinking and behavior, and what is going on behind the scenes. Our institutions simply cannot keep up with the pace of technology, so we need our learners to understand and expect that their safety, privacy, and security might not always be fully accounted for when they engage in online environments. There probably is no better example than this cringe-worthy video to highlight the challenges our nation faces with keeping pace...

I also encourage educators to use privacy blocker extensions such as DuckDuckGo or AdBlock Plus. While these are not perfect solutions, they are better than nothing. You can also use browsers such as Safari (Mac users only), Firefox, or Brave (interesting new player) which have great security features.

Harnessing the Power of the Crowd—Let's Build a Video Library!

Soooo, stepping off the soapbox (and, admittedly, clearing my conscience a bit), I will leave it to you to make determinations for yourself and for your students regarding YouTube use. However, I have to maintain that the educational benefits of this tool are undeniable. 

That said, just because there are thousands of hours of educational content available, the question remains: Is it quality content? Just like exploring the Top Tools for Learning list can be an all-day affair for geeky tech educators like myself (and likely yourself if you are actually reading this), finding the right video for the concepts you teach can be challenging and time-consuming. 

I wonder if there is a way for us to organize things a bit more...

I'm going to use this month's Resource of the Month to conduct a little experiment. In the spirit of the trend of "discovery"-style learning, and as a first stab at crowdsourcing content, CrowdED Learning wants to pose a challenge—to build a video library of content, generated by educators, that includes 200 videos by the end of the year. 

Want to join the crowd? It only takes 5 minutes....
  1. Go to YouTube and locate an educational video you use or are aware of and stand by as being quality. If you don't have one in mind, conduct a search for a video on a topic you teach. (Note: For this experiment, we are going to focus within the subjects of reading, math, language/writing, social studies, science, ESL, digital literacy, essential 'behavioral', and career.)
  2. Once you are certain the video is accurate, engaging, and in no way offensive to learners, click on the "Share" link to get a shareable URL. Copy that URL. (If you are unsure how to get a "Share" link, check out this 7 second instructional gif.)
  3. Open up this Form. On the form, you will be asked to paste the video link, as well as provide the following information: 
  • Video Source: The answer is not "You Tube." Please provide information about the creator of the video, which is listed just below the video player. 
  • Topic: Something that clearly indicates the concept or topic being taught in the video. The more brief, the better. Think "lesson titles"....things such as Add and Subtract Fractions, Basic Punctuation, The Rain Cycle, etc.
  • Tags: This part is important. The better tagged a video is, the easier it will be to find for others. So, for example, if you posted a video on "The Rain Cycle", you might add terms such as "evaporation" and "condensation." Think about what terms someone might use in hopes of finding that particular video. 

Note: This experiment requires the video URL be a YouTube video. Many sites you may use (GCFLearnFree, Khan Academy, Crash Course) also have duplicate versions of their videos on YouTube. So, if you have a video in mind that comes from one of these sites, check to see if there is a version available on YouTube. Otherwise, go ahead and explore on YouTube! After all....discovery only occurs through exploration! (I encountered this super cute punctuation video during a recent exploration...and as a result discovered a great video site I didn't know exists.) 

Each time you submit a video that is accepted, you will be entered into a raffle to win a special thank you from CrowdED Learning. You also will be given a super-secret link that will give you a sneak peek at next month's resource of the month, which is magically connected to the contributions you make to the video library. Intrigued?!?!?


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