Is YouTube the Innovative Engine Our Education System is Not?


flickr photo shared by Clintus McGintus under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I was listening to George Couros on a hangout for IMMOOC, and he was telling the story (if I remember it right) of a high school student building a car, and when George asked how the young builder how he learned to do build a car, the student replied … on YouTube.

My class was waiting for dismissal on the first days of school and in the back of the room, a student pulled out a yo-yo and started to do acrobatic yo-yo-ing tricks. Where did he learn some of his more complicated moves? On YouTube.

A student once brought in video of friends skateboarding, flying across the air off ramps and other objects at the local skateboard park. The camera angles and the music and theatrical editing of the video had me asking the student, where did you learn how to shoot movies and edit like that? On Youtube.

My son wanted to hack and mod Minecraft. Where did he go to learn more about how to do that? On YouTube.

A student is very interested in anime. I mean, obsessed with the Japanese art-form. Where did they go to learn how to draw? On YouTube.

I had a plumbing issue. I am not mechanical. But this seemed fixable, and I didn’t want to pay our plumber $100 a hour for so simple a job. Where did I go to teach myself how to fix the plumbing? On YouTube.

And on and on and on … right?

Remember when schools universally blocked YouTube from student access? I hope those days are fading away. The more I talk with young people, and watch my own sons interact with the world, and reflect on how I learn new things, the more it becomes clear that YouTube has become the largest classroom in the world.

People of all sorts, in all parts of the world, are willingly sharing their expertise and creating narrow communities (what Chris Anderson called “The Long Tail” of marketing in the business world but which might have applications in thinking about students’ interests) and niche interests, and people are finding those communities more readily than ever before. Videos are a key component. Showing what you know. Sharing what you know. Learning from each other. Sure, there’s still a lot of flotsam and jetsam on YouTube (some of it wonderfully distracting) but more and more, there is amazing teaching and learning going on.

Check out Gary Haye’s Social Media Counter, and zoom in on the hours of YouTube video being uploaded in any given time. It’s staggering. In a 60 second period in which I was watching, there was nearly 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube.

And those of us (you, me) who share their knowledge and expertise to our students in this venue are the teachers. Not necessarily us, the classroom teachers in the school building. Us, the world at large.

We openly share our knowledge with others, by pointing the camera at ourselves and saying, this is how I do it. You can, too. We learn by clicking pause, rewinding, watching again and again and again. We comment (sometimes, not so nicely, alas), and follow our “teachers” for the next video. We join communities of others with our interests, and discover new things and share what new thing we have invented or discovered or found out how to do.

Now, this is both an idealistic view of the YouTube world, and yet, the reality, too. Ask any kid. They’ll tell you. As Google seeks to monetize more and more aspects of YouTube, this might all shift to something different. For now, if you want to learn something, you don’t necessarily ask your teacher. You search YouTube.

The question is: how do we use that awareness and understanding to help our students in their own learning? I don’t think teachers and schools are obsolete, or that they even need a complete revamping. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe we don’t need change, though. The discussions in the IMOOC may give us a chance to envision the future of school, and make strides to get there.

But what if we could do a better job of teaching:

  • Search Engine Queries (and Search Engine Differences … Not Everything Starts and Ends with Google)
  • How Algorithyms Shape Our Internet Experience (and How to Navigate Technological Bias)
  • Media Editing Techniques
  • Curation of Digital Content
  • How to Build an Audience
  • How to Ensure a Positive Digital Footprint
  • (Dare I say it) How to Make a Living off YouTube

I’m off to search YouTube for more ideas …

Peace (searching …),

#IMMOOC: Listening In from the Sidelines

Missing the M

I’m taking part in the extended online discussions of The Innovator’s Mindset, which facilitators George Couros (who wrote the book) and Katie Martin are calling the IMOOC but I think of it as massive book talk across platforms. Which is perfectly fine with me, as long teaching practice and student learning remains at the center of discussions.

On Saturday, they held their first Google Hangout, but it was just George and Katie and the publisher of the book, Dave Burgess (also know in some circles for his own book, Teach Like a Pirate.) Since I missed the hangout, I popped the video into Vialogues (built for video commenting) in order to closely listen to the conversation and make comments. I invited others in the IMMOOC to join in … but only Terry Elliott jumped on board with me (for now.)

IMOOC Hangout in Vialogues

You are invited, too.

The hangout was OK. I got to hear and see George and Katie, which gives another depth to our social media interactions. I wasn’t all that keyed up about the start, which felt more like a marketing intro for the book publishing company of George’s book (I get it — Dave is an educator who built an independent publishing company for other ‘innovative’ educators — but when Dave is George’s publisher, it feels slightly off-putting to feature your publisher in a Google Hangout for what is billed as an open education environment about learning).

While Katie slipped into Jargon Talk for a bit (an affliction of many of us educators who find ourselves in similar circles), mostly Geroge and Katie had an interesting conversation as they tried to provide some context for what they mean by ‘innovation’ in education. I enjoyed the last part, where they answer questions from the community (but I also think, why didn’t they invite those people with questions into the Hangout directly and give them voice? Is there a chat room that I missed?)

What I am finding interesting, too, is that so many of the participants are principals and superintendents and curriculum coordinators … and many were outside of my comfortable circles. I am appreciating the invitation to dip into those conversations, which I find intriguing as a classroom teacher (there are others, of course, but mostly, the participants seem to be in positions of decision-making authority at their schools).

Thus, a conversation like this happens, as it did on Twitter last night (it went beyond this little bit, extending into a conversation about perceptions of innovative practice).

Peace (slipping in from the margin),


#IMMOOC: Quotes and Notes at the Start

I’ve started reading George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset for the IMMOOC, and I am reading it on the Kindle app. I prefer to read books offline, on paper, so I am wondering about the experience of highlighting and making notes in the Amazon cloud. If you know me, it is not worry about the digital. I’m all about that. But I still think the reading experience losing something when the book is on a screen.

I still prefer to thumb through sticky noted pages and highlighted sections. But I have been highlighting quotes and then adding notes to The Innovator’s Mindset. The same idea, but not the same. For me, anyway. I miss my paper sticky notes. But I do enjoy reading the collections of what others have highlighted and made notes about via their Kindle reading experience.

Here are some passages and lines and quotes that have started to jump out at me from George’s book, and I’ve included my notes as reflection points. Interestingly, I highlighted in the Kindle app (on my iPad) and then had to go into the Amazon/Kindle site of the book to make my notes. I must be missing something inside the app.

Quote: Buzzwords crowd the educational reform movement like buzzards circling a decaying carcass. Many have become enamored with—and lost to—a culture of clichés and a penchant for platitudes. Perhaps no word is a better example of this than innovation. Its frequent use and misuse has led to the loss of much of its power. However, a true spirit of innovation is exactly what our educational system needs to crush complacency, stomp the status quo, and forge a path into a future that is perpetually in flux. 

My Note: The problem with buzzwords is that they lose their meaning. Think of how the word “optics” is now part of the political lexicon. It’s meaningless talk. So, digging into the term “innovation” here will be helpful, particularly if there are examples to back up how George defines it.

Quote: A tool that could change education for the better—a laptop, tablet, or interactive white board—too often ends up becoming the equivalent of a thousand-dollar pencil.

My Note: I am thinking of Interactive Whiteboards that become little more than large passive screens. Our school invested heavily in them and only a few through the building are using many of the interactive features. Some teachers don’t even turn them on. These are expensive pencils. The key is to figure out how to harness the possibilities for student interaction and student creativity.

Quote: We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.

My Note: True. I wonder how best to determine that? I’m not suggesting we do a Standardized Curiosity Test (although I am sure Pearson would be all lined up for that contract). But I wonder how to gauge the growth of curiosity over an extended period of time.

Quote: … if we want “innovative students,” we will need “innovative educators.”

My Note: So true, and so difficult at times, and yet, if the school system/administrators set the stage, I bet a whole bunch of teachers are ready to take that step forward. If the message from above is — keep to the script — most teachers won’t vary all that much. They fear for their job. They worry about evaluations. Sending the message — take a chance — shifts everything. Maybe that’s how the audience of this book might be pivotal.

I have made my highlights and notes “public” on the Kindle system, if that interests you. (OK — not sure if that is the right link or not. Good luck).

Peace (bubbling up),

#IMMOOC: Go and Find Out

flickr photo shared by masondan under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Thanks to Sheri Edwards, I am hopping back into another MOOC. This time, it is the IMOOC (or Innovator Mindset MOOC), and I am curious. It is co-facilitated by Katie Martin, whom I don’t know, and George Couros, whose name is well known to me but with whom I have not interacted (as far as my addled brain can remember) before this weekend.

Already, I find myself wondering about the term “innovation” and what that looks like in the classroom. I know, I still have to read George’s book — The Innovator’s Mindset — I’ve just started it. Sometimes, we get so bombarded by terms that they lose their meaning. Disruption. Innovation. Change. Action Research. Inquiry-based Learning.

So I am happy to dig into the term and the ideas with others in the MOOC, and see what there is to be seen below the surface. And I see, after reading just the start of the book, that this is a central question that George hones in on.

Defining Innovation #immooc

For myself, I see innovation in my classroom has a slow-moving thing. It evolves over time, not in some sudden herky-jerky motion. And stand-deliver professional development is not going to cut it, either. We educators have to dive in, experience it, react and reflect, and wonder about it. We have to live it ourselves before we ask our students to live it. Or, we have to pay attention to the lives of our students, and innovate from there. This is the heart of the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) experience.

The reason for the slow bubbling is that I need time to reflect on changes that I bring into my classroom. I need to react, and wonder, and tinker. When I think of the term, innovation, I often think to technology that causes the world to reconsider what has come behind us and wonder what is coming ahead. I also know that innovative ideas do not have to revolve around technology but tech is the first thing that comes to mind these days. Perhaps we need to uncouple those terms from each other, in order to broaden out our understanding.

And, despite my conceptual thinking of instant disruption, innovation is not often all that sudden. Not that dramatic. Maybe it is really is more about a slow revolution. What does that look like in my classroom?

I think back to a picture book project with my sixth graders that has evolved into something completely different over time through innovative practice, brought on by curiosity and a shifting landscape of platforms. Our picture book project began in my first year of teaching (15 years ago), with colored pencils and paper, and a stapler as the binder. We shared with each other.

Then, about four years later, we moved to Powerpoint, to create slideshows that were really picture books (slides were pages), and we wove in science and math themes as part of the storytelling devices. We shared with each other, and younger grades in our school, and families.

Finally, about five years ago, we shifted to creating and publishing science-based video games, keeping our focus on literacies and science, but using the lure of video game design to hook students as creators and makers of digital content for an authentic audience. We shared with each other, other students in our school, families and to the larger game-playing world (in Gamestar Mechanic).

Notice how this shift took many, many years to make. Part of it was technology — could I have had students designing and publishing video games early on? I don’t think so. The technology wasn’t available for what I needed to do, and for the entry points needed for my sixth graders.

And I wasn’t ready for it, either. I needed to immerse myself into gaming, and think through what it might look like in the classroom. I had to make my own video games, and then envision the learning moments. (See our website where we shared resources on video game design and tracked our first year of the project)

I wonder: what’s next with this idea? Where do I go from here? And, as important, do I? Should I even innovate further? I’m nowhere ready for it, but Augmented Reality might be a logical innovative step forward (or perhaps it is just another false excitement) for our science-based storytelling. Could we make Google Cardboard goggles and create some interactive science/storytelling experience? How in the world would I even approach it, though? I don’t know. Not yet.

That’s one of the interesting elements of being an educator. We go and find out. And then we innovate.

Rikki Tikki: Go and Find Out

Peace (dipping in),