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Online Videos for Education
by Guest Columnist Molly Dubois, Burlington High School, Burlington, Vermont , 03/10/11

Today, my high school guitar class, along with 7,500 other viewers from around the globe, broke the Guinness World Record for largest guitar lesson, by attending online. The lesson, taught by Steve Vai (Grammy winning guitarist who has played with Frank Zappa, among others), was sponsored by Berklee College of Music, and available for free to anyone with an Internet connection. My students had the opportunity to learn tips and tricks from one of the world's best guitarists without leaving the comfort of their own classroom. Online videos have changed the way we teach and learn.

Online video websites, like YouTube and SchoolTube, offer millions of videos, many which can benefit your students. I find myself turning to YouTube to learn all sorts of things, from a new knitting stitch to cooking techniques. I have a colleague who posts a "Highlights Reel" from many of the middle school's basketball games on SchoolTube so every teacher can see the team in action. My friend Kelly is in an improv acting troupe, and they advertise by posting videos to YouTube and sharing them on Facebook. Let's harness this powerful tool to help our students!

Videos are a great way to share primary materials with your students. Instead of just hearing or reading about the cool jazz movement of the 1960s, students can see a video of a live John Coltrane performance. Instead of studying a history textbook to learn about the first moonwalk, students can watch the original video. Don't ask your technology class to imagine how iPod innovated portable music: show them Steve Jobs' original announcement!

Many teachers use YouTube or SchoolTube to advocate for their program, class, or club. Student- or teacher-produced videos of performances, activities, and projects are great ways to show what your group can do and share it with the world. I have a YouTube channel set up for my high school musicians. I record and post videos from rehearsals and concerts. Students can follow my channel, share it with their friends, and I can share the videos with my middle school colleagues to use for recruitment.

Make a YouTube channel for your school or class so parents, relatives, and community members can subscribe and follow posts. First, set up a YouTube account. If you already have a Google account, the same login will work for YouTube. Otherwise, all you need is an email address. From there, you can post videos, add a description, control privacy. Videos can be uploaded from your computer or directly from most mobile devices.

Before you share anything in your classroom, be sure to preview the video yourself. Set a playlist up with your selected videos before class starts to be sure you have the correct links. When posting your own work, be careful with copyrighted material- try to use original work from your students or material from the public domain. Also, find out your school's policy for student videos and publication. If the rules are strict, try some of these tips:

  • Use audio-only recordings over a slideshow of appropriate classroom pictures or text-only slides
  • Record students from behind, wearing masks, or using puppets
  • Have students create animations for the video

Is YouTube blocked at your school? Check in with the technology department. Many will give permission for teachers to get on the site, as long as students are not allowed free reign on their own accounts. Describe the projects and experiences you could provide your students if you had access and explain the advantages of getting online. If you create your own YouTube login, you can cater the experience for your students by removing the related videos and comments areas. If these tactics are not successful, many videos can be found on SchoolTube and other video websites. 


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