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EdTech Update




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Do U U Tube?

I hear this question, well-stated in a recent e-mail, quite a lot:

We have been debating about unblocking YouTube at school.  Have you had any experience with this?  And what is your take on this situation?  My principal and myself are totally for it but we have a lot of teachers with resistance.  They cannot see the educational benefits or uses of YouTube.  We have a staff meeting on Friday and I am sure it will turn into a heated debate.  I am contacting a few "experts" to get your take.  :)

My response:

We have never blocked YouTube in our district. I think at this point I might be lynched by teachers if I tried - even if I did want to.

There are two factors to consider when deciding to block or not block YouTube.

First is content. While plenty of YouTube content is worthless and/or tasteless, my understanding is that none is pornographic or in violation of copyright. (Some bad language, granted.) So none of YouTube falls under the CIPA requirements that sites that are "obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors" be blocked. Nor does a teacher or student violate any copyright laws by using YouTube materials. Oh, and YouTube really does have a lot of material that our teachers use for class purposes - especially materials on popular culture and current events.

Second is bandwidth. When you have a lot of people streaming video via YouTube (or any other  video site like TeacherTube), it may slow down your network. This is a standard reason that a lot of tech people give for blocking YouTube. Our solution to this problem has been to employ a packetshaper on the network that will prioritize traffic and gives YouTube a low bandwidth priority. Users will only get video as bandwidth is available.

Personally, I think a lot of teachers see YouTube as an annoyance and would prefer the district block it rather than have to monitor student use and tell kids to stay on task.

OK, Blue Skunk readers, YouTube: Block or not. And why. And if YouTube was once blocked and now it isn't, how and why did the change come about?

Let's hear it.



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Reader Comments (35)

I use YouTube to teach and many of my teachers do as well. Their are videos on Plagiarism, Database searching, etc. It is also fun to show students Epic 2015 and Karl Fisch's Did you Know 4.0? I have shown my music teachers some men's acapella groups such as Straight No Chaser. You can also use the videos for short sponge activities. When my students are on YouTube from studyhall, many times they are watching sporting events or music videos. Some of the author videos are great too. We definitely YouTube! (Our students certainly are....and this makes our information more relevant to them if we can include technologies they identify with.) They look great on the Smartboards too!

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJune Keuhn

I check out MUCH fewer videos and most teachers credit that to youtube. There would be an uprising here if that was suggested. I think most of the reasons that teachers want to ban it is not due to pornographic content, but due to it being a distraction. I wholeheartedly feel that is a management issue and NOT a reason to censor. Without classroom/lab management, then students will just migrate to a games site, a celeb gossip site or somewhere else to chew up the time instead of working. Engaging work with constant vigilance and support will keep youtube from being a distraction, not outlawing it. Youtube is an easy target, but certainly does not cause student distraction or attempts to get out of assigned work. I am pretty sure those attempts happened even before computers!

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

The Library department in our district has been on a systematic campaign for several years to open as much of the web to our teachers and students as we reasonably can. We have been fairly successful. Currently, YouTube is open to teachers for them to evaluate its usefulness. The plan is to open YouTube up for students in January if the teachers agree. Since so many of them are finding such wonderful resources, we anticipate no problems opening it up to students. Part of our move to this point has been several offerings of the 23 Things. We have trained many teachers in the benefits of the web 2.0 world for their students. Thanks Doug for your comments on this subject. A good summary of our thinking about YouTube exists at this blog post.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Bishop

There is such an incredible amount of education-worthy videos on YouTube--old PBS videos, SuperSize Me (as examples)--and channels (National Geo, Discovery,...) that blocking YouTube limits the resources a classroom teacher can use to what they can find in the school library. Being a District-wide Media Coordinator, I appreciate not having to buy videos every year because I can direct teachers to YouTube.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

I'd consider packet shaping essential in this case.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

I've never heard of "packet shaping" and can't wait to start pestering people with that question. Our district has blocked it and I find it very frustrating. My six year old daughter and I have learned so much from youtube. It's up there with Wikipedia as a reference tool (also blocked). We've learned all about sharks and atoms and bats and planets and everything. We even watch the Periodic Table of Videos. And the live performances! Poetry and music and concerts. It's breathtaking really. And I've used it with students (by downloading and such) critical thinking things like debunking local news "ghost" stories and more. I would love it if they unblocked it here, but the trend seems to be blocking more and more. I've always heard the bandwidth argument too, so "packet shaping" sounds great. Thanks!

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

We were successful in having YouTube unblocked for everyone this year. There are so many valuable videos on Youtube and sometimes Youtube has the best and most current information on a topic. Everything from video book talks to Web 2.0 instructional videos and everything in between. I also use many of the old PBS videos that are available as well as themes from TV shows. Our teachers use YouTube in the classroom to supplement the online video streaming service we purchase. Last year students would use proxies to bypass our web fileter to get to YouTube and other sites that were blocked. This year I have noticed that they are using YouTube for more academic purposes and not for purely entertainment. It took us two years of much debate at our district technology committee meetings as well as a tech director who understands the world of education for these changes to take place.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAllison Novotarski

I work in a large district (91,500 students, 14,000 employees). We have differentiated filtering based on role - so students do not have access to youtube while teachers do. Teachers are welcome to use it in the classroom, as long as they are in control (ie, the person logged into the computer). For those who do not block it for students I wonder how you handle issues of inappropriate use or viewing.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Langer

Doug, philosophically I believe Youtube should not be blocked. The district I work with has chosen a filtering system that can drill down to the classroom level so schools and teachers can actually make the decision instead of the IT department. We also put a "block/unblock" committee in place to make decisions on the district level. The committee considers the request from several perspectives so that it isn't somebody who knows nothing about curriculum or instructional technology making the decision. That said, I also know that sometimes there are legitimate reasons such as bandwidth to block it.

My experience is that sometimes the IT department doesn't do a good job of communicating why they do things and that causes a lot of anger and misunderstanding.
When we all came together to discuss our frustration about what was blocked it turned out the IT department didn't like the system we were using either. They listened to what teachers,tech. facilitators and librarians wanted and found a system that we could all live with.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDottie

Make room for more packets.

Your current Internet connection is like having the high school baseball team play their season inside the classroom.

It's not you though. The big problem is that our telecommunications overlords haven't figured out their business model since we all stopped paying per minute for long distance telephone calls.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Pederson

I teach English in a high school and agree wholeheartedly that if students want to find a distraction, they will find one, so blocking sites such as YouTube are not going to address that issue. We have Facebook blocked, but not YouTube and that is partly due to the fact that when we were discussing it at a faculty meeting a few years ago, two new, fresh-out-of-college teachers told all about how they use it in their classes. Since then, many more "veteran" teachers have incorporated it into their teaching. Last spring, my juniors and seniors in a Novels class were complaining about doing a reading from one of their novels in front of the class-- until I promised to videotape them and post them on YouTube-- then they became excited about reading their selections. It gave them another audience to think about instead of just the people sitting in my classroom and me.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

We do not block YouTube for either our teachers or students. We do offer the time honored lecture, "Imagine your grandparent/parent/pricipal sitting next to you while you are watching that video. If you would feel uncomfortable while watching that video with them, you should not be watching it at school." Even my middle school students understand that one.

From time to time we do have problems with bandwidth, so some teachers and I have begun downloading the videos during off peak time and running them locally when I need them. Yes it takes hard drive space, but I do not have to worry about bandwidth.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAM Rowley

Looks like it's unanimous. I personally am very thankful for YouTube. As a "mature" learner returning to college I have often taken advantage of the tutorial videos. I see it as a valuable resource. I agree with a previous post that stated if kids want to find a distraction, they will. Why not teach them how to use YouTube to thier benefit? They will figure out the rest on their own.

I am sure you have seen Alan November's article about blocking/filtering in schools - but if you haven't, it would be an excellent article to have your staff read -

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudi Wolf

Our district blocks YouTube...sort of. You can go to the YouTube home page, you can view YouTube videos, but in order to find videos you have to do an internet search with "YouTube" in the search parameters. Teachers appreciate that we can watch the videos, but many don't know how to search for them and therefore don't take advantage of YouTube videos very often as they end up having to do most of their searching at home, rather than during their plan time. We do utilize packet shaping in our district which does mean we often the the spinning and "buffering" during busy times. Our teachers and students have the same level of filtering here, which means what is blocked for one is blocked for all so an evaluation of YouTube on the teachers' part is not an option. In my mind, the number of invaluable resources available on YouTube outweigh the "junk" that can also be found on YouTube.

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErin Misegadis

Our district blocks Youtube, then again it blocks and Emily Post as well. The Tech Director wants to set up different degrees of access so teachers can have it but students cannot. Amazing how many years that takes to implement. I find myself every week getting a request to download a Youtube video for a teacher: I search Google videos, find the properties of the URL, put the URL into a Youtube converter, then make it a WMV.

Once you demonstrate the ability to walk on water...

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBob

I am excited to say we opened up Youtube in our district this year for our teachers. Youtube provides valuable just in time curriculum nuggets that have been very beneficial for our school and classrooms. Just an hour ago, I was discussing with one of my teachers, about her new Youtube channel, and publishing student created material on it. We need to also prepare students for their audience - aka - the World! Students get access to youtube before and after school, but I see very soon those constraints lifting as well. Previously, we had bandwidth issues - but those are now gone. IMHO, Youtube has moved from a distraction to a necessary learning tool!

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen Hegna

Thanks to Doug and all commenters. We're using this info to try and get You Tube unblocked in our district.

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

We used not to block YouTube, but sometime last spring Technology got the word (I think perhaps from the Headmaster) that it (and Hulu and other video & game sites) needed to be blocked for students -- yes, a management issue, but one that was taking up a lot of time.

I am torn on this one -- I must say it's nice to have more students less distracted when they are in the library (whatever other diversions they find, they are generally less group-oriented/rowdy) and the computers are always filled with kids doing schoolwork. But the block went into effect a week before I taught a short-term class on creating Book Trailers, which we then posted to YouTube. Teacher computers can be unblocked by machine IP, so there's never a problem with a teacher not having access, but student access for learning takes more pre-planning. Technology unblocked my library computers for the class, but kids now have to watch their own videos from outside school.

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna Watkins

We are in the throws of this debate as I write this. While I know there is merit for using You Tube, I also know it is a full time job monitoring student use. Education has always been in favor of the new and exciting technology, teaching methodology, and ways to increase scores and on and on. The problem is that nobody is ever trained on this new technology or methodology. Money is spent and there is no forethought into these decisions. I feel like this is the case with all this new technology. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon and then when a student is involved with a predator online or something else illegal the district will look back and say "what could we have done to prevent that” I am suggesting that districts (teachers, administrators, etc) do the foot work FIRST and then decide if it is a good idea to allow students access to something. Look at the worse case scenario and work backward to protect students, faculty, administration and the district. Being proactive is the best course of action, invariably education is usually reactive. Just my two cents

October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMusings on YouTube

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