Dec. 10, 2007, midnight | By Josie Callahan | 14 years, 11 months ago

Teachers bring lessons to the screen with YouTube video clips

Fighting off the "Z"s during first period is a challenge many students have sought to master over the years. If a good breakfast won't help, then a cup of Starbucks coffee must. But for students in Robert Gibb's first period, staying awake is not a problem. No heads are on their desks in this Modern World History class, as every eye is glued to the projector screen where a Roman battle scene rages. After several minutes, the YouTube clip concludes and Gibb continues lecturing his students, who are now eager, awake and experiencing a rejuvenated interest in the Roman Empire.

Gibb is one of several Blair teachers who have discovered YouTube to be a useful resource for curriculum-related video clips, which they often incorporate into lesson plans. Founded in February 2005, YouTube is an international web-wide leader in online video and a resource for users to watch and share videos. In July 2006, YouTube announced showing 100 million videos per day, and the website currently accounts for 60 percent of all videos watched online, according to a BBC news report. Keeping in touch with the times, several teachers currently use YouTube videos and other forms of media as a supplement to their lessons, creating an interactive, innovative atmosphere in the classroom.

Photo: World History teacher Robert Gibb keeps his class alive with a power-point presentation during a lecture. Photo courtesy of Josie Callahan.


For Gibb, who uses PowerPoint presentations during his lectures, the advent of YouTube provided an accessible and innovative method to help students understand historical events. "The great thing about YouTube is if you can describe it, you can find what you want," Gibb says of searching the video database. "Even though the quality isn't always great, its easier to show a five minute clip than to try to work the VHS."

Gibb believes that in subjects such as Modern World History, there are certain events that no amount of description will do justice. Rather, students must visually experience the event to fully grasp and appreciate its significance. Turning to YouTube to solve this problem, Gibb showed his class a dramatic scene from the Reformation movie "Luther," where Martin Luther nails the 95 theses to the Church door. "The class was really impressed," Gibb says. "It was a memorable lesson because on the test, most students got the questions pertaining to the movie right, because they learned it visually." This technique is appealing to teachers in several departments who agree than in some scenarios, students need to see and hear for themselves rather than be told, to fully comprehend.

AP Spanish teacher Dora Gonzalez has recently explored the videos on YouTube to show her class cultural differences to supplement her lessons. For a listening comprehension activity, Gonzalez showed a Spanish clip of "Romeo and Juliet" and instructed her students to fill in the blanks on a worksheet with the dialogue. Although the activity was a fun deviation from normal lessons, Gonzalez said it was especially challenging and worthwhile for the kids, as it exposed them to different Spanish accents. "They couldn't keep up!" she says with a grin.

In sight, in mind

According to English Department Chair Vickie Adamson, students benefit from exposure to a variety of media forms in the classroom that cater to different learning styles. "Visualizing is the most important component to literacy," she says.

Adamson believes that incorporating power-point presentations and video segments into lessons is beneficial for students, who find it easier to stay engaged and become more mentally and emotionally involved in the subject matter. Adamson, who often introduces new novels to her classes with a power-point or movie clip, encourages her students to view the subject matter critically, rather than "absorb [the material] as passive receptors." She often recommends teachers in the English department to incorporate video clips into their lessons because it helps students "see the world and make connections between events and the present."

Stefanie Weldon, Media Literacy Academy Chair agrees with Adamson and Gibb as she says that when trying to connect with teenagers, "showing is always better than telling." Although she was initially skeptical of YouTube usage in the classroom because of its reputation as an unprofessional entertainment site, she says, "It has since graduated to legitimacy, and is a good way to find relevant clips quickly."

Students in Gibb's World History class agree that the material he shows is relevant and often conveys the lessons when words cannot. "Especially in a subject like history, you sometimes you need to see it to get it," says junior Moyatu Ebba. "It makes class more interesting and keeps students awake."
As they are cluing into this new teaching technique, teachers recognize that though the advantages are numerous, personal judgement is always a deciding factor in the clips they show.

Techy teachers

Teachers agree that like other media supplements, YouTube videos for the classroom must be selected with discretion. Gibb and Gonzalez make a habit of viewing every clip they want to show in class ahead of time to make sure the content fits within MCPS guidelines. "[YouTube] is a good tool if used wisely," Gonzales says.

Although the clips can be a fun and memorable supplement to classes, Adamson says that they should be just that – a supplement, and should not do the teaching for the teacher. "After seeing part of a video, students often ask to see the whole thing," she says. Although she is glad when clips spark students' interest, Adamson recommends that they follow up outside of class.

As students find themselves browsing online for a good laugh, they should be warned – teachers have entered this previously untapped realm. As Weldon says with a smirk, "When teachers use YouTube during class, it creates the grand illusion that we're cool."

Josie Callahan. Josie Callahan is particularly opinionated despite her small appearance. She loves everything Irish and her life is consumed by her one true love- Irish Dancing- which suits her just fine. She also adores British accents, performing, theatre, tiaras, and sparkly dresses. Josie is particularly excited … More »

Show comments


No comments.

Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.