We’ve come a long way these past two years, and I’m proud to present this video summary of my COETAIL personal project:
Becoming a YouTube Educator.
The Process Reflection
This project represents only the beginning of what I hope is a powerful tool for my career, for the learning needs of my students, and for the learning needs of other tinkerers, gamers and makers around the world. I’ve reflected on the process quite a bit so far, so I encourage you to check out some of these posts and videos that I mention in the project summary video above.
A Reflective Experience, Literally
There is something inherently narcissistic about a solo video project. Throughout this experience, this was the part that bothered me the most, even though I could see the benefits in reflecting on my own presentation and teaching techniques. Spend 100 hours editing video of yourself describing and explaining things and you may learn to hate the sound of your own voice, become persnickety about how you move, look, or habitually react to things. It’s easy for this to have a negative impact on your self-image and to become overly critical about aspects of the work that are not crucial to the desired outcome of producing the video.
For some time I played with the idea of removing myself as a presenter from most videos, relying on voiceover narration. I asked some kids and coworkers to watch clips from two videos, one with me as a presenter and another with voiceover only. They all preferred the version where I presented. I received feedback that it was “easier to understand” when they could see me, and decided to stick with it.
So while working through my hangups as a presenter and video editor, I realized it wasn’t all bad. I could use this intimate mirror on my teaching and begin to work on correcting some of the quirks of my presentation style that might adversely affect students. I noticed I sometimes use technical vocabulary beyond the understanding of younger kids, and sometimes speak too quickly. This isn’t a problem in the video world, but it’s certainly feedback I can use to improve my classroom teaching. These are just two examples of how recording my teaching and reflecting upon the videos was more informative than most classroom walkthroughs I’ve had, and I highly recommend that every teacher occasionally records themselves teaching for future reflection. You don’t need to spend hours watching yourself repeat the same phrase while you try edit the perfect backdrop, but don’t be afraid of the camera once in a while. When it comes to self reflection, video is more honest than a mirror.
Value and Community
This began as a project to enhance student learning, but it became one to inform our community.
Although I’ve yet to reach the number of viewers/subscribers that would tip the scales of value vs. effort in favour of value, the effort has paid off in different ways and there is infinite room for growth. The discussion this has generated in team collaborative planning meetings at school has opened teachers to new understandings of how their students learn and entertain themselves. It has resulted in new lessons in units about performance and digital citizenship, more conversations about privacy online, and changed administrative priorities on how students publish their work. The greatest impact however, has been with the parent community.
Since publishing my YouTube survey results with a blog report for parents and creating my video guide, I’ve met with 43 different families from our school community to discuss it. Both parents and kids were present for all of these meetings, and the discussions I facilitated between them ranged from time spent on YouTube, creating content and privacy, tools to help parents participate, and age appropriate content, but I believe the most valuable was in connecting adults with children’s interests. Out of the 43 families, only one parent could name their child’s favourite YouTube channels at the time of our conference. After all of my research, I couldn’t help but feel that this was negligent. How could parents be so oblivious to the hundreds of hours of video their children were consuming?
I decided to approach this as a literacy problem, and an opportunity for growth in our school community. I choose not to think that parents are negligent, but that some parents underestimate the impact of YouTube in their children’s lives and have difficulty engaging with new forms of media or content that they do not understand. Gaming videos, for example, may look innocent and seem beyond the comprehension of non-gamer parents, so they don’t engage. That’s a lost opportunity to learn more about their child’s interests, but it’s also a risk as many of these videos contain vicious language our school would deem inappropriate for young kids. How would a parent differentiate between the constructive, kid-friendly, how-to-build-something YouTuber and the foul-mouthed, competitive bully?
They need to spend some time with their kids watching it. It’s the only way. And because of this project, I am confident there are dozens or families who are tuning into this way of thinking.
The Future is That-a-Way!
I have no aspirations of being out of the classroom by making videos for kids. This powerful tool and a familiar workflow for making effective videos quickly can really cut down on the need to repeat instructional content and it can create opportunities for differentiation. I imagine being able to cut down on teacher-lead instructional time and make more time for applying that learning to projects and experiments. I envision being able to make alternate versions of content for students with varying needs, and provide opportunities for students who need content repeated or slowed down to have that individualized experience. Using video as a potent instructional tool is the closest I can get to cloning myself, and for any busy teacher struggling with complex schedules and diverse student needs, that’s a dream come true.
Thanks COETAILers, for being a part of this project. For reading and watching, and your valued feedback. Please keep it up as we move on to more independent pursuits, and as always, feel free to reach out here or on twitter if you ever need a hand.
With great respect,