The growth of "distance education" offerings, also called online education, has been dramatic over the past few years. "Online education has experienced tremendous growth" as colleges and universities -- and private companies that offer training services -- convert "face-to-face classes to online courses" (Revere, et al., 2011, p. 114). Writing in the Quarterly Review of Distance Education, the authors review the advantages of learning online, especially for adults and for students employed full time that cannot attend classes. Also, the authors note that online courses can be boring and even tedious when existing Web-based technologies are not put to use (Revere, 117).
"Because communication within online text-based systems does not always flow as naturally as in face-to-face settings," there is a need to embrace technologies to make the class work more interesting and vital (Revere, 120). The authors mention a number of suites and applications (the "Wimba Collaboration Suite," "PowWowNow," and "Skype") that are used by online educators; Revere also noted that for instructors and students wishing to "create online content" both "YouTube" and "TeacherTube" provide "an easy to use interface" (121).
YouTube Video Clips on Course Content
Janni Aragon is an instructor of political science and women's studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, and she admits she is a "media junkie" so using ICTs in her classes was no great leap of faith. She in fact notifies students of assignments on Blackboard and Facebook -- and also brings "interesting items to share" on those applications -- because she knows by doing that she can "grab the students' attention" (Aragon, 2007, p. 45).
What Aragon finds particularly enlightening is the fact that students "…regularly send me YouTube video clips related to course content" (45). Many of these YouTube videos are "humorous," she explains, but some "…have been particularly thoughtful and germane to our readings and course materials" (45). An example of a YouTube video she recently received in her email account was a parody by Alanis Morisette of the Black Eyed Peas' song, "My Humps"; that "sparked an insightful discussion" relative to the way in which female sexuality is portrayed in popular culture, specifically in "hip-hop music" (45).
YouTube in a Medical School Educational Environment
An article in the peer-reviewed journal Perspectives in Biology and Medicine points to the advantages and the pitfalls of posting student-produced videos on YouTube -- in medical school. Anyone applying for admission to medical school understands the need for decorum and structure, the kind of respect and dignity that a future doctor should comply with. Meanwhile, in order to shake things up, a group of first-year medical students got together and produced a humorous, satirical video that was a "parody of the anatomy lab experience," set to the background sounds of a hip hop tune (Farnan, et al., 2008, p. 518).
The video depicted those first-year medical students "…dancing in the anatomy lab and lying inside of body bags, plastic skeletons traversing the hallways" (Farnan, 518). In addition, the video showed students drinking what was supposed to be blood (it was actually chocolate) from plastic skulls used in the lab. The medical school was specifically identified in the video, along with the school's emblems, and initially colleagues "enthusiastically" approved of the skit, which the students wanted to post on YouTube.
The student director approached a member of the school's administration for permission to post the video and "oral permission" was obtained, Farnan explains (518). A faculty member also viewed the video and made suggestions as far as editing out some of the more provocative moments in the production, including a portion that seemed to show the students engaged in cannibalism (they were actually eating beef jerky).
Inevitably, someone saw the video that vigorously disapproved of it; a senior medical student showed the video to the dean of the school, and the video was summarily removed. When the faculty met to discuss the issue, and to formalize a "digital media policy for the university," faculty members were "…struck by what they found": 25,000 hits and four and a half stars after a short run on YouTube (Farnan, 520). Some of the posts -- interactivity is one of the strengths of YouTube -- by potential future students surprised the members. "I'm so glad I applied to this medical school. Brilliant!" was one example of the positive posts. That said, there were alumni and senior clinical faculty that responded with "shock and disgust" (Farnan, 520).
The use of humor in medical training is known to serve a purpose -- for the "psychological well-being" of the trainees, who are asked to remain in a "long period of adolescence during which they are asked to show adult competence" (Farnan, 521). And even though the students were just trying to break out of the solemn, serious mode that medical school demands, the Internet represents a threat to professionalism, Farnan continues, because the humor they created "may reach an unintended audience" -- and in fact, it did (521).
It would be worthwhile to require high school and university faculty members and administrators to attend seminars during which competent professionals can demonstrate the value of YouTube and other digital, interactive media for student use. The technology revolution is not slowing down, hence schools and alert instructors should get on board before the train leaves the station and still newer technologies come into the picture.
When Asian-American students understand Shakespearian plays well enough to adapt the themes to their cultural perspectives, and post them on YouTube, it is a positive for the American educational milieu. And when teachers use YouTube in order to allow students to participate in the democratic system -- and have their own avenue for expression -- which in effect is helping them to eschew the corporate and politically dominate culture, that is a good thing. Moreover, the use of ICTs in pedagogic environments is a very positive use of technology. Certainly YouTube and other ICTs dovetail seamlessly with the reality that young people are very technology-savvy and they are ready and eager to engage in learning -- in particular when they are comfortable with the tools of learning supplied by progressive teachers and professors. A Works Cited
Aragon, Janni. (2007). Technologies and Pedagogy: How YouTubing, Social Networking, and Other Web Sources complement the Classroom. Feminist Collections, 28(4), 45.
Chmielewski, Dawn C. (2012). YouTube's Robert Kyncl charts Internet video's meteoric rise.
Los Angeles Times Business. Retrieved January 12, 2012, from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com.
Farnan, Jeanne M., Paro, John A.M., Higa, Jennifer, Edelson, Jay, and Arora, Vineet M.
(2008), The YouTube Generation: Implications for Medical Professionalism. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51(4), 517-524.