“We must never assume that an appeal to the masses represents illiteracy. In fact, it implies a high degree of literacy. And in the new century, that increasingly means visual media.” Stephen Apkon
Greystone Centennial Middle School is hosting their fifth “Innovation Week” (if you want to learn more, connect with Jesse McLean on Twitter), where students suggest things they want to learn, create, make, during the week, and have time to explore and develop. In the last week before holidays, it is amazing how engaged the learning is within the school. It is a pretty powerful experience for students and it is a glimpse in what school could look like all of the time, not just a couple of weeks. From the work that is happening at the school, I know the experience has shaped and reshaped the learning that is happening year round.
As I walked around looking at what the students were doing, I saw one student using a program that I had never seen before called “Blender” in which he was designing a prototype for a car. It kind of blew me away to see what he was doing and how he was doing it, because I guessed that no one showed him how to use the software before. When I asked him how he learned to use it, he just simply replied with one word; “YouTube”.
I was quickly reminded of this Will Richardson quote:
I don’t disagree that a lot of professional development monies are wasted. And truth be told, teachers should be responsible for their own PD now. Kids wouldn’t wait for a blogging workshop. Adults shouldn’t either.
The student wanted to learn about the program, so he went and learned about the program. This is not in this case, but in so many, whether it is learning how to play an instrument, do a dance, or build something new. There is a ton of learning opportunities out there, they just might not all be related to the curriculum. Is our job to teach students how to learn a curriculum, or our students how to learn? Maybe it is more a combination of both, but more importantly, it is the latter.
I then started to think about how so many schools have blocked sites like YouTube because of all the “distractions” that are on the site. I admit, I can get lost surfing the web and it is easy to get sucked into something totally different than what you first started looking for, but we lose so much when we take such a robust platform full of information away from our kids.
“Among the more than three billion videos watched each day on sites such as YouTube, there is undoubtedly a lot of garbage. But in what medium is there not?” Stephen Apkon
(As I wrote the above paragraph, I thought about how we have so many books in a library that are simply there for the pleasure of the reading, yet we wouldn’t pull out every novel and replace it with non-fiction, because we see reading is directly correlated to learning, whether it is for the purpose of school or not. Is there a parallel to the videos we consume as well?)
I know that video sites can become a distraction, not only for kids, but adults as well. It is rare that there are only positives with any form of technology and I wonder what we lose when we block sites like YouTube (and a myriad of other sites that have a lot to do with learning and maybe not so much to do with school), not only from the perspective of preparing kids for the world we all live in, but also for the powerful learning that can take place. I can guarantee that if I looked hard enough today, I could have found a student using it and being totally off-task from what they were working on. It is obvious that still exists. But if we looked at sites like YouTube as a library filled with knowledge that we still have to teach our students to navigate, would schools still thinking about banning it from their students?