Soapbox Series: Technology in the Classroom (Soapbox Series 7)

I am envious of kids today. They have the benefit of learning in so many different ways, with so many different tools. It is due in large part to changes in technology that make them accessible (at least in theory) to all.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE how teachers are bringing those tools into the classroom … their enthusiasm for reaching students of all ages in ways that are meaningful to them with tools that are relevant to their “future” life is just wonderful. I can’t thank them enough for all the unpaid time they invest for our kids.

But can we find an alternative to YouTube? Please?

Last week, our elementary school music teacher shared this video of Jake Breune playing “Only Girl (in the World)” by Rihanna on the zither. I loved his idea: show kids that music can be styled in different ways with different instruments or by repurposing the instrument. The teacher used a song they know and love … brilliant. As you’ll see, this is one in a series of “dueling videos” between Kurt and Jake recreating pop tunes on various instruments, real and unique.

The problem? When the video ends, “up next” is Lady Gaga and “Born this Way.” When we used to watch some of the Muppet songs, Lady Gaga was there too. Yes, I am the uncool mom. My 9-year-old doesn’t watch Lady Gaga videos. Catherine has gotten used to my explanation, but that doesn’t mean she likes it or stops asking me when I”ll change my mind. Not to mention how tired I am of repeating it, but that’s for another day.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot of incredibly creative, useful videos and tutorials on YouTube. But there is a lot of (ahem) crap, too, and no really good way to control what comes up next. In reality, sounding like a broken record is a small price to pay for protecting kids online. That said, it doesn’t have to be “this hard,” either.

When teachers play videos from YouTube there is an unspoken message that kids (or at least my kid) takes away.

1. Mr. x uses YouTube in school.

2. School is a place where I learn.

3. Mr. X is a teacher  … he is in a position of authority … he is smart … he wouldn’t teach me bad stuff.

4. Ergo, YouTube must have lots of smart stuff I can learn.

Kids are smart, but their logic is sometimes faulty. For them, if they just watched something educational then whatever is linked to it/comes up next must be either (a) educational; or (b) Okay to watch. YouTube – and lots of other sites – aren’t built with that same logic. They aren’t built for the early elementary demographic.

Kids are eager to learn … and their experience in school has made them more so. So they start clicking away and that slippery slope is an avalanche. It isn’t enough that the video comes through one of the “kidsafe browsers” (e.g., Kidzui, Glubble) We have tried them and still the nefarious stuff gets through. On Kidzui the YouTube brand is on it, so the origin is still clear, and we are back at square one. In fact, on Kidzui’s site it says “crack up at the funniest videos, powered by YouTube.” Funniest according to whom?

PLEASE don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to pick on YouTube or Kidzui. I love them and the potential they offer our kids. I use YouTube for work. A lot. It is the default source for finding video for many of us. It’s just that when it comes to technology in the classroom, I just wish there were a better way.

What are your thoughts? Is it an unwitting endorsement of a product/service/resource as educational? Am I over reacting (want to know that, too).



2 responses to “Soapbox Series: Technology in the Classroom (Soapbox Series 7)

  1. As parents, it’s up to us to keep our kids happy, healthy and safe. So I think you have the right to make those decisions on your daughter’s behalf until she is old enough to decide for herself. However, we know as parents that we can’t be with our kids 24/7 and the chances are she will see some of the things you want to protect her from. I think all we can do as parents is explain our stance to our kids, explain why we feel that way, and encourage our kids to discuss issues like this with us.

    I read about a video cropping tool on nik peachey’s blog that might be of some use???

    1. I should have just sent you an email, Susan! You’d think I’d know by now how well you anticipate and tackle all these questions. That post is AWESOME. I am forwarding to school!!

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