When it comes to online learning tools and approaches, everyone from teachers, parents, and students seem to have an opinion on what works and what doesn’t. Learning styles, pedagogical theories, social and mental wellbeing are not only considerations for a quality learning experience but have become fodder for ideological and political debate as remote learning becomes more present in our children’s education.

But, the use of multimedia and innovative tools has historically been in a teacher’s resource arsenal regardless of whether class is face to face or online. The goal being, to engage students in different ways and to make learning enjoyable. In fact, schools are often used as a testing ground for technology in its beta phase. So much so, that EdTech is an entire industry defined as, “the combination of IT tools and educational practices aimed at facilitating and enhancing learning.”

There are also pilot programs geared toward school districts and initiatives such as the Digital Promise to spur innovative schools. There is even a League of Innovative Schools, dedicated to studying ways in which tech is implemented in education. However, e-learning is also critical for the corporate world in terms of professional development and training. As a result, 98% of U.S. businesses say they plan to adopt EdTech in 2020 and by the end of 2022, the industry is projected to surpass $243B in revenue according to industry leaders.

Evolving Education Theory & Tech

Social media was once prohibited in the school environment because of the many negative correlations and nefarious activities impacting children such as cyber bullying. However, parents and educators have found ways to utilize social media in a more productive way to build on intuitive learning and positive social bonds. YouTube is the predominant social media platform being utilized in education because of the easily accessible and vast video library; 500 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute including videos from the National Archives and Library of Congress.

YouTube has been increasingly gaining momentum because of its instructive nature. A 2018 Pew Research survey found that 51 percent of YouTube users use YouTube videos to learn new things and 67% of millennials agree that they can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn. In 2018, videos with “how to” in their titles generated 4.5 trillion hours of viewing on the YouTube. And while many of these things are DIY projects around the home, niche schools and learning platforms software companies are taking advantage by offering their own brand of tutorial for students of all ages via YouTube.

However, public school districts and universities are also embracing YouTube for educational purposes. In fact, a 2018 report by Pearson Education found that the majority of Generation Z students view YouTube as much more important to their education than their assigned textbooks. YouTube has become part of the curriculum for numerous disciplines, especially in the sciences. For example, YouTube was found to be the preferred source of medical students preparing for surgery. Video lends itself to microlearning, an approach within the e-learning industry where learning materials are broken into small digestible parts. Consuming information through video has been well documented as a beneficial medium for quickly transferring knowledge.

In K-12 education, the flipped classroom is derived from turning the traditional instructional model on its head and this method of teaching has grown in popularity. In a flipped classroom, the student learns the overarching concepts at home when they would traditionally be completing homework. Then, once back in the classroom, they practice these newfound skills with the teacher present and available for further guidance. Thus, flipping homework and classwork. In a flipped classroom, utilizing videos such as though available on YouTube or uploaded by teachers to YouTube is an important way for students to absorb information and principles when at home.

The concept of digital citizenship has become an essential topic for schools to address through media literacy courses and curriculum because of the growing use of tech by students in general. Digital citizenship is defined as, “a concept which helps teachers, technology leaders and parents to understand what students/children/technology users should know to use technology appropriately.” According to the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) digital citizenship helps create thoughtful, empathetic digital citizens who wrestle with the important ethical questions at the intersection of technology and humanity. ISTE recommends:

  • Using technology to make your community better.
  • Engaging respectfully online with people who have different beliefs than you.
  • Using technology to make your voice heard by public leaders and to shape public policy.
  • Determining the validity of online sources of information.

Google’s G-Suite for Education has made it possible to not only collaborate but to also make these and other evolving learning approaches more accessible and affordable than ever. This includes the YouTube application, which is also taking digital citizenship more seriously and removing inappropriate ads that target children.

Using YouTube in the Classroom

YouTube has over 1.9 billion logged in monthly users and a large chunk of those users are students. YouTube EDU has been created as a sub-section of YouTube that provides access to more than 500,000 educational videos. These videos are grouped for “primary and secondary education, university, and lifelong learning with categories reflecting academic disciplines” according to YouTube. Teachers are also provided with a platform for professional development. YouTube Teachers is a how-to site that shows teachers how to implement YouTube into the classroom.

In addition, in the last few months, Google and YouTube have launched new resource pages to help teachers and families continue to educate students if they are home from school. Google’s page, called Teach From Anywhere, offers recommendations on how teachers can teach remotely using Google products while YouTube’s resource, Learn@Home, highlights educational YouTube channels that students can watch at home. The page categorizes the channels by age group.

YouTube has become so popular among educators that the term “EduTubers,” refers to new online influencers in education. However, some critics warn that wading through the vast number of YouTube videos as well as determining which videos are accurate and applicable will be cumbersome for both teachers and students.

Assessing YouTube in the Classroom

There are numerous frameworks used to evaluate technology used in the classroom. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) is one of those frameworks that boils down to technology, pedagogy, and content as Andrea Wilson details in her research. When utilizing video in the classroom Wilson’s review of literature highlights these best practices:

  • Video should not be passive and have a purpose.
  • Video should be played in short segments with time for students to ask questions about what they’ve viewed.
  • Video can help to develop note taking skills.
  • Pausing the video can encourage students to predict what might happen and recall information from the video.
  • The video must be introduced, and expectations laid out prior to starting the video. There should be a correlating activity.

Summing up

Using video platforms such as YouTube should be done so in a strategic way. Simply assigning videos to watch is not beneficial in the classroom. Also, researchers found that YouTube pitfalls teachers face include being cautious when selecting materials to ensure they are credible, accurate. and meaningfully support their curriculum.


By Dana Hackley
PHD in Communications Media and Instructional Technology.
She is a Public Relations Specialist for Jackson Kelley PLLC where she creates, manages, and executes the firm’s communications strategy across multiple office locations. In addition, she works as an online Academic Coach through Instructional Connections LLC assisting with Communications undergraduate and graduate courses.



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