By STEVEN NALLEY
When Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway announced that teachers could use YouTube in their lessons more freely, teachers at the SSD’s teacher convocation Aug. 3 broke into applause.
Now that school has started, teachers are still applauding the move.
SSD teachers are using their new YouTube privileges to bring new relevance and illustration to their lessons in a format familiar to the millennial generation.
Holloway said YouTube is open to every teacher from Starkville High School to Sudduth Elementary School. He said he is impressed with the creativity teachers have already exhibited in just the past two weeks.
“I think it’s fantastic that they can engage students and keep them engaged,” Holloway said. “At the high school, they’re also using YouTube for kids to make announcements for different things.”
As school district superintendent in Bulloch County, Ga., Holloway said he knew a math teacher who recorded his lessons on YouTube for students. That way, he said, students who needed review or missed lessons on sick days could watch the lessons after the fact.
“In one year’s time, he had 6,000 hits of students viewing his lessons,” Holloway said. “There were (other) teachers in Georgia (who recorded YouTube lectures, and) the homework was to view the video before the lesson. The class became more (centered around) teachers working with
students individually. So, instead of homework, you’d have home-pre-work.”
Holloway said he hopes to implement this YouTube homework system soon, along with a few other technology-based initiatives.
“I think that’s where the nation is headed in terms of technology and schools,” Holloway said. “Also, I don’t know how quickly we can provide this, but a lot of schools have a program called ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (where students can use their own computers or other devices to access web class content.) The hold-up with doing that is most of the access does not go through the school Web filter, so kids could get inappropriate stuff, but I expect inside of a year, we’ll have some classes that allow (‘Bring Your Own Device.’)”
Formerly, Holloway said, YouTube was blocked on SSD Web browsers except for a specified education section, and teachers had to get special permission to use other videos on the site. Now, teachers have full site access by default, something SHS media adviser R.J. Morgan said is indispensable.
“My media courses are, of course, seeing huge benefits already. We’re now able to film our ‘My Morning Jacket’ news program and upload it directly to YouTube. This makes important information about our school easily accessible to parents, teachers and students 24 hours a day in a format that’s engaging and widely used.”
Morgan said YouTube also allows his journalism class to not only discuss great moments in journalism history, but also see the moments for themselves and listen to journalists talk about their craft. Like Wikipedia, Google and Twitter, he said, YouTube aggregates society’s collective knowledge and information, making it a valuable resource.
“And just like Google, Twitter, or Wikipedia, not every item posted is useful, accurate or appropriate, but the vast majority are,” Morgan said. “Thanks to this new access, we in the classroom are able to help guide students through content they can already access from their homes and teach them to be discerning lifelong learners.”
Holloway said YouTube use is a privilege that can be revoked if the site is used inappropriately. YouTube may no longer go through the SSD’s Web filter, he said, but the SSD is still monitoring Web histories on campus browsers.
“If we come across some inappropriate use, we’re going to address it,” Holloway said. “Most of that, though, is categorical in nature.”
Another SHS teacher, Ginger Tedder, said YouTube has enhanced her economics classes. For example, she said she used a YouTube clip from “The Hudsucker Proxy” about the production and distribution of the hula hoop to illustrate the concept of supply and demand to students.
“They really understood it better with this visual representation,” Tedder said. “This is just the beginning of the great enrichments available through YouTube.”
Tedder said she has already incorporated YouTube into her future lesson plans, and she is grateful for the opportunities YouTube affords.
“I have been able to plan enrichments to my lessons through clips from John Stossel, ABC News, Shark Tank and mainstream movies that relate economic principles in fun, creative ways for my seniors,” Tedder said.
Morgan said several other teachers have benefited from YouTube access as well, exploring possibilities and developing new lesson plans.
“In history, students can see the cattle drives of post-Civil War westward expansion,” Morgan said. “In English, they learned short story terms through an educational rap video, and in anatomy and physiology, they can watch actual surgeries taking place.”
Morgan said he is grateful for the decision to unblock YouTube because it shows vision and leadership. It allows Starkville schools to join a nationwide effort to adapt pedagogical methods to an ever-changing world, he said.
“YouTube by itself is not a lesson plan, but it is a key tool in making our own lessons more relevant to students’ lives,” Morgan said. “Sometimes good things go unnoticed, but this one should not.”