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YouTubers do it on video: YouTube = skills = opportunity for educators.

What is the future of video in education?

Can schools, colleges and universities take advantage of the skills the YouTube Generation are learning and make use of them in classrooms?

Can the making of educational videos by YouTubers students be made to work? 

This article will scratch the surface of an idea before its time.  It will show how inspiration comes in many forms: in my case a 3in tall soft toy. 

It will explain how I developed this idea and the first unsuccessful (so far) steps I have taken to revolutionise learning in the classroom.

To many in the 30-something and beyond generations, YouTube is a strange phenomenon and a somewhat confusing business concept. Older generations do not fully understand what YouTube is about and generally avoid it. 'Kids' spending hour after hour on the computer making & sending silly video clips to each other What is that all about? In my day...

Well YouTube is here to stay and that is that. And if it is here to stay, can it be used in the field of education?

Can the skills young people have developed in making and publishing YouTube videos be utilized in education? 

Can the making of educational videos by students be used in the classroom and how beneficial might this be in improving student understand a topic?

Would a 'hands-on' approach to make a video essay allow students to better retain what they are learning?

This article will argue that the short answer to each of these questions is 'yes'. The key is how is it to be done and what resources are out there to help.

Where did this idea come from?

Thank Ozzie.

The genesis of this idea started while I was standing under the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland.  I was traveling on my own as I have recently been let go from my job (redundant in UK parlance) and decided to visit several places on my 'to see before I die' list.

While the Swiss mountains are breathtaking, I only had Ozzie to share it with and he wasn't much good. Ozzie is a 3 inch tall blue and white soft-toy mouse which I found while working in the Australian Outback in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, Western Australia some 13 years ago.

I suggested to a teacher friend of mine that I could photograph Ozzie in various exotic locations for her class of 5 year olds (who gave the 'mascot-with-no-name' his current title by the way). I took many photos in Switzerland, Prague and Amsterdam but more importantly ended up producing a series of video clips of his escapades abroad ('Ozzie on Tour' YouTube clips here).

I saw the enjoyment these 5 years had in seeing Ozzie on his travels and this morphed into an idea of showing older students places of interest and then maybe making basic video documentaries of historical places without the razzmatazz seen in television documentaries. My thinking was quite simple: when students visit a site on a school trip they see what is there today, not some high tech computer generated image.

The reality soon dawned on me that I was not particularly good at making these mini-documentaries myself. But

'Why not let the students make the video documentaries themselves?'

This thought eventually led to my web site, Video History Today.

My thinking was quite simple. Kids today love making videos and sharing them via YouTube. Surely these interests and skills could (and should) be harnessed? If you can provide them with the basic raw video clips, a computer and a concise topic they could use their YouTubing skills to create an essay you can see and hear rather then an essay you can read.

This is the aim of Video History Today: a library of downloadable video clips accessible via the internet. Students can choose from a range of video clips recorded in Europe and the United States which can then be brought together to create a video essay.  The main topics covered include the Holocaust, D-Day & Normandy 1944, The American Civil War and the Cold War.

Think about it for a moment.

To write an essay, you need to be given a topic; do some research; read a little; take notes; produce a 1000 word essay.

What about if the end product was not a written report but one you produced as a video documentary? Tell the story you would previously have written down using visuals. Make a commentary using your notes. Tell the story. Bring in your own video. Bring in your own photographs.

In short:


Current state of video (and use of YouTube) in education

My first realization in 2006 still applies today (September 2008): this idea is ahead of its time.

Today, simply using YouTube as a tool for education is seen as radical: in a popular web site and forum for history teachers in the UK (, a recent popular talking point was a short segment on the BBC news channel where this 'radical' idea was aired (YouTube clip here). What I found most interesting about this interview and the general comments on the forum afterwards is the thought that these videos have to be made by the teacher community. 'Lets make videos for students and share them', is the current thinking. No discussion of LETTING THE STUDENTS MAKE THE VIDEO.

The BBC introduced an annual 'School Report' project whereby school students spend a day making new reports for broadcast on television (although mainly aimed at school web sites). The main point here is that students are encouraged to think about what goes into a news broadcast as well as the technical aspects of making the news report.

I recently had a new subscriber to my YouTube Channel based in the United States. She was behind the development of a new degree course this year: "YouTube for Educators" through the Boise State University Department of Educational Technology.

A short introduction to the course was given, 'This is an academic course for students in an advanced educational technology program. It is my belief that YouTube, and video-sharing in general, cannot be ignored within a field of emergent technologies for learning. YouTube is having an impact on society, politics, and the lives of individuals from all walks of life.' (YouTube link)

In other words, the video essay idea is a step ahead of the current thinking.

Clearly there are hurdles to be overcome. I am not a teacher. My ethos in the video essay idea is to allow the students to benefit from the entire process of producing a video essay, not just in watching one prepared by somebody else.

There are many hurdles I cannot address:

How would they physically make these videos: in the classroom? At home? Both?

How would schools and colleges go about using this approach to education? Group projects? And which subjects? History? Sociology? Geography? Politics? All the above and more?

Do schools and colleges have the staff proficient and confident enough with this new communication medium to teach the youth of today?

The Future?

Someone somewhere may be writing a 4,000 word dissertation on this very subject (or might consider it worthwhile after reading this). I have merely brushed the surface of the topic.

The whole point of this article is to raise the idea of using the inherent new skills the young people of today have developed in using YouTube and putting them to an educational use.

I have raised this idea many times to friends, family and on educational forums. The general response, through glazed eyes, has been, 'I don't get it.' The result, from a business point of view has therefore been disappointing so far. If the people I want to purchase my video clips do not understand or 'see' how it might be used, the business idea fails.

I plan to stick to it however. I predict that within 5 years students will use raw video, provided by web sites like mine, to 'write' essays using video. I recently saw this YouTube video aimed at the teachers of today...Shift Happens.  The future isn't only here, it has gone.

And after all, when I was a student in the late 1980's, a word processor (pre-Windows, Apple, PC's and the 'net'), was some sort of alien contraption only found in classrooms belonging to long-haired hippie types who said 'man' a lot. With hindsightHealth Fitness Articles, it looks like I did the wrong course.

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The author has developed various web sites & products designed for schools, colleges and universities including,, &

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