Tuesday, February 17, 2009

And Why No YouTube in Schools?

Si (my partner, Seymour Simon) and I spoke at the Wisconsin State Reading Association last week, on the topic of Digital Literacy. We were describing his blog, SeymourScience.com, on which he provides a variety of teacher support materials for the use of his books in the classroom, including Discussion Guides, Science Projects, and video. A former science teacher, Si acts as a video curator, selecting clips that are exciting and compelling for kids, as well as scientifically accurate. He often sources these videos from YouTube, such as this recording of a mountain gorilla family, presented as supplemental material for his Smithsonian/Collins book GORILLAS.

Multiple teachers at the conference told us that they cannot use these links, as YouTube is blocked in their schools. That is ridiculous. Surely school administrators could supply teachers with passwords, that would allow them to "unlock" YouTube for educational purposes. It is free, and full of captivating video.

Dr. James Gee, a leading proponent of videogames as educational tools, created this scene as an intro to one of his books: Rip Van Winkle wakes up in the early 21st Century, and is totally confused. He is frightened by automobiles and disturbed to see people seemingly talking to themselves (on bluetooth cell phone headsets). Then, he sees a familiar and comforting sight - a schoolhouse. He rushes in, and sure enough, it is just as he remembered it. Teachers lecturing from the front of the room, students yawning as they laboriously take notes by hand, textbooks with familiar, 20th century images.....

Is this really where we want our schools to be? There is significant funding earmarked for "Education" in the stimulus bill that President Obama signed today. We can only hope that some of it will be for teacher (and administrator) training in and access to the media that children find most compelling.

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