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YouTube: some reflections on user-generated media clips in the classroom.

As the boundaries between life activities and school continue to blur, literacy practices continue to undergo rapid changes. It is important that children have the opportunity to 'read' visual and textual information as they sort, categorise, synthesise and analyse information (Allington, 2006). However, as educators we need to ensure that we are encouraging engagement with appropriate resources in our classrooms. Digital technologies do challenge what we 'traditionally' understand around notions of authorship, authority, audience and text genres (Warschauer, 2004) and as Jewitt (2003) argues, with every new technology, new kinds of texts emerge that call into question what it means to be literate. Such understandings require that we remain open to the potential of such technologies while critically evaluating their pedagogical benefits.

YouTube was created in 2005 as a virtual space where videos can be uploaded, viewed and shared. The videos contained on YouTube are user-generated and include a range of clips from movies, television programs, music videos and scores of more amateur content such as home movies, video blogging and short original videos. While there are some media corporations and recognized organisations that upload material to the site, the vast majority is uploaded by individuals with varying degrees of quality, accuracy and authenticity.

Nearly ten years on from its inception and YouTube has found its way into many primary school classrooms. Without any prompting, many educators and learners alike are spending countless hours immersing themselves in media clips covering a huge range of topics. Some argue that it is the most powerful Web 2.0 application available. Many classrooms are equipped with internet access and devices such as Interactive Whiteboards. Bringing these technologies together enables educators to source and share media clips with their students with relative ease. YouTube does provide educators with amazing flexibility to bring video technology into classroom teaching and learning experiences. However, as we often see with the use of new technologies, initial excitement and eagerness to use it can overshadow the careful pedagogical decisions we need to make as educators.

While I acknowledge that some Australian Schools are blocked from directly accessing YouTube, many educators and students are accessing YouTube from home or other non-school access points and are still bringing these materials into classroom experiences. While similar concepts exist through Vimeo and TeacherTube (designed for educators), my experience is that YouTube's use is quite wide. I need to acknowledge how much I love technology and the possibilities it offers to the literacy classroom. However, it is my intention to challenge the decisions we make about which resources we introduce to our students through the lens of pedagogical appropriateness.

To this point, I wish to share some considerations of classroom use of YouTube as I highlight specific aspects we need to be mindful as educators.

Purpose for using the clip

Most YouTube videos can be shared with a class under section 28 of the Copyright Act. Information about this Act can be found: au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca1968133/s28.html

Such streaming may be directly from the YouTube website, or through a link to a YouTube video embedded on another website.

Section 28 allows educators and students to play YouTube videos in class where it is:

* in the course of education and not for profit; and

* the people in the audience or class are giving or receiving instruction, or are directly connected with the place where instruction is given.

While we need to be aware of the permission we have to share resources, as educators we also need to be acutely mindful of how the actual content within the video clip supports our pedagogical beliefs and what it is that we are aiming to achieve through its use within a teaching and learning experience. Ultimately, we need to be concerned with the quality of learning that any clip facilitates and the extent to which their use reflects the intent of the lesson:

* Is the input relevant, authentic, accessible and yet rich?

* Is the input cognitively appropriate?

* What kinds of interaction are promoted?

* What degree of support is provided?

* Is it stimulating for the learners?

* How does the resource fit with other resources and strategies I may also use?

Locating the resource

Within YouTube, users can search for any subject and locate videos in response to their search terms. Many educators, with every good intention, are spending considerable amounts of time sourcing materials for classroom use.

By way of example, I entered the search term 'fairy tales' into:

* Google where I received 2.07 million hits (Figure 1)


This example shows the enormous volume of results using a genre that would appear in many classrooms. Such results require time to sift through and make pedagogically informed choices about what is shared. It seems reasonable to conclude that educators who choose to enact a search like this may indeed be showing multiple versions of the one 'story', this may be brilliant or it may be completely inappropriate for the age group viewing it (due to quality, content). The question then becomes:

* What guidelines are provided to ensure that educators access video texts that are age appropriate and within the classification guidelines?

This presents significant issues around copyright and legalities associated with using such media texts.

* Google video search where we received 61.1 million hits (Figure 2)


* You Tube search which revealed 220 000 results (Figure 3)


Classification of the resource

As educators, we know that to watch a movie, even an excerpt, classified PG or above, parental permission needs to be obtained. YouTube can take us into dangerous territory with such an enormous range of video material available with very little indication as to classification.

Information about government classification of many titles can be found: http://www.classification.

If you consider the diversity of 'fairy tale' clips obtained through using the same search term in three different environments (as shown in Figures 1, 2 and 3), the need for careful discernment becomes clearly evident. Amongst the resources revealed in the search were some wonderful clips appropriate for child learners, but there were also illegal hand held recordings of movies in a movie theatre, adult specific content, fractured tales with questionable interpretations and amateur home movies. In the most there was little to no indication about who created the clip, what version of the movie or text this clip is taken from or inspired by, nor any indication of classification rating. It appears that 'rules' for media in DVD or Video forms are disregarded when it comes to Internet clips.

Content within the resource

If we were to read a book to our class we would ensure we were familiar with its content. We need to do the same with media clips obtained through sources such as You Tube. It is important that we are aware of what is being shown, but also how the multimodalities come to play within the clip: What message does the music send? Who are the actors? What props are used? Remembering that You Tube is predominately an adult created environment, we need to ensure that the choices we make are cognitively appropriate. We need to be confident that our students will have the maturity and ability to analyse and deconstruct the complexities visual and aural demands of the text and the content within.

As literacy educators we know the value of teaching from a whole text to isolate a specific 'part' to focus on and then return to the whole. When we view a single clip, we need to acknowledge that it is taken out of the context of the whole movie or scenario that we are viewing.

Comments about YouTube and literacy teaching

Educators and students alike should interrogate the potential of media clips obtained through digital environments such as You Tube. In considering the use of You Tube generated media clips, we should bear in mind:

* How the media clip fits with the aims, outcomes and objectives of the proposed learning experience. Ask yourself,

* Why am I using this material?

* What connections can I make between the resource and curriculum expectations? Life experiences of my students?

* Connections between the media clip and learning theory. Ask yourself,

* What would the 'experts' in learning theory say about the resource and appropriateness (e.g. age, cognitive) for my learners?

* What would a teaching colleague say about my selection?

* Connections between the media clip and student learning needs. Ask yourself,

* How will my students engage with the resource?

* How does it support identified learning needs?

* What would the parents of my students think about this resource?

* Specific pedagogical practices needed to support the use of the media clip during the literacy teaching and learning experience. Ask yourself,

* What information, skills and strategies do the students need to engage with the content within the clip?

* What explicit modelling and scaffolding of the necessary knowledge, skills and strategies do I need to offer?

* How will they be able to analyse, interpret, synthesise and evaluate the input provided by the clip?

The range of media clips available to support language teaching through avenues such as You Tube (and Vimeo and TeacherTube) will continue to change and expand. Undoubtedly this offers enormous potential to our learning experiences as we bring perspectives into our classrooms not previously afforded. What is critical though, is that as educators we think through the choices we make and have a clear pedagogical rationale for the use of any materials within teaching and learning experiences.


Allington, R.L. (2006). What really matters for struggling readers: Designing research-based programs. Boston:


Jewitt, C. (2003). Multimodality, literacy and computer-mediated learning. Assessment in education, 10(1), 83-102. Kervin, L.K. & Derewianka, B.M. (2011). New technologies to support language learning. In B. Tomlinson (Eds.), Materials Development in Language Teaching (pp. 328-351). Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press.

Warschauer, M. (2004). Technology and writing. In C. Davidson & J. Cummins (Eds.), Handbook of English language teaching. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer.

Lisa Kervin is an Associate Professor in Language and Literacy in the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Wollongong. She is currently the NSW State Director for ALEA, and is a keynote speaker at the ALEA National Conference in Darwin, July 2014.
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Author:Kervin, Lisa
Publication:Practically Primary
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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