Tuesday, October 27, 2015

YouTube: Informational Text Hotbed?

A couple of years ago when I wanted to learn how to tie a bowtie, the first thing I did was go to YouTube and watched this video. Within fifteen minutes I was able to tie my own bowtie - mission accomplished and Bow Tie Tuesday was no longer out of my reach.  

Of course, the truth is, I never would have considered YouTube as the right place for research if it weren't for my son, Paul. Paul is a YouTube fanatic (I would argue that he is slightly obsessed) and basically all the information he consumes comes from YouTube. Whether he is watching his favorite #MineCraft channel (Pat & Jen Popular MMOs) or doing research on drones for his science class (he watched this video by Mocomi Kids), Paul does not go to Google to find something out - he goes to YouTube! YouTube is this generation's Google - with over 75 hours of video content being uploaded every minute to YouTube it is a primary source of information for our youngest generation. 

The more and more I started thinking about the notion of YouTube being the go to "search" engine for our children, the more and more I started considering the ways we could harness the power of YouTube within the classroom to engage our learners on a different level. Sure, we can show video clips from YouTube, that is one way to use the resource in the classroom for educational purposes... but what if we challenged students to think more critically about the videos that they are actively consuming? What if we challenged students to consider the various features of the videos they are watching and how those features impact the quality of the video and the delivery of the information? What if we asked our students to rate different videos based on how much they learned? This is something I think we need to seriously consider in our schools because integrating YouTube videos within the curriculum may not only engage students in a different way but will also be a direct link to their "real worlds." Our children and students are spending a lot of time on YouTube so why not educate them about how to critically consume the information they are exposed to within that context? Why not bridge the gap between what they are doing outside of school with what they are learning to do within the walls of our schools?

With the integration of the Common Core State Standards (regardless of how we might feel about them) and the emphasis on 21st Century Skills, I have thought a lot about promoting critical thinking skills in our students and I think this is another way to make that happen. The first thing that comes to mind is the nonfiction work our children do in school. They read nonfiction, write nonfiction and sometimes write about the nonfiction they are reading. They explore expository texts, directions/recipes and informational texts. What if we broaden the lens of what we consider an informational text? Could we work YouTube videos into that unit of study and push our students to analyze the features of this type of "text"? We know that informational texts are intended to inform the reader about the natural or social world and the more and more I think about the videos our children are watching on YouTube, the more I think we are missing a powerful instructional opportunity. 

So, although I'm not sure if YouTube is a hotbed of informational texts, I am sure that we can use appropriate videos from this site to teach our children how to be stronger critical consumers of information and at the same time, hook an entire portion of our student body that we have missed in the past.  


  1. Logan has recently become very interested in Sharks! We have a few Shark books, which he can use independently by looking at the pictures, but being that he's 4, he needs someone to read the words to him to be able to learn and ask questions about sharks. However- he recently discovered a whole channel on YouTube Kids all about sharks and loves to watch the videos and learn about them- all on his own! Even as a kindergartener he is already independent using YouTube to learn (of course with supervision!) Amazing tool!

  2. Whenever possible, when I am doing a nonfiction text with my students, I will check on Youtube to see if there is a video to go with the text. Usually there is and the kids love it! It is a good way to assign homework they will want to do! It is also especially good for helping students hear the vocabulary they might come across in the text! (Their listening vocab is so much greater than their reading). Now I am thinking it might be cool to ask them what aspect of the Youtube video helped them understand the topic; for example: the pictures, the interview, the narration, etc. and maybe compare the book's text features with the features in the film.

  3. This is brilliant Tony! Such a thoughtful insight into developing modern literacies. Our world is changing so quickly that you are wise to look to the manner in which Paul gathers information as an indicator of what's next. I find it fascinating, and exciting, that in our life time information went from in an encyclopedia to Google, now past that to YouTube and beyond. Keep up the great work with your blog, I always look forward to reading your posts.

  4. My kids use YouTube like I use Twitter or Google search. It is their go-to for entertainment (shows & music) and to learn how-to do anything they want. Schools are silly not to harness that.