My online students are digital natives who are very comfortable communicating via e-mail, social media, YouTube, blogs, instant messages and forums. Knowing my audience, I believe YouTube has a place in our online classes. I don’t ask students to create videos and post (although I do know colleagues who do — requiring a camera, microphone and headphones in their online courses), but I do sprinkle several supplemental YouTube clips throughout my virtual and traditional courses.
I use YouTube as a resource and virtual text in order to enhance ideas and make connections. I use clips from audiobooks, tutoring videos, Ted Talks, music videos and news soundbites. Of course I have to sift and search through a vast video repository in order to find short videos that make sense and watch from beginning to end before deciding to add it to our online course materials. For example, in my English 1102 online composition course, I insert YouTube clips from other community college professors who talk about creating a topic, identifying a thesis statement and expanding word choice. Seeing and hearing another source often reinforces the concepts we are covering. In my English 0482 developmental reading class one of my favorite YouTubers is Thomas Frank. He created College Info Geek and produces a series of videos on study habits, critical reading and advice on becoming the best college student ever.
The short clips appeal to my students not only for entertainment value, but more importantly to increase awareness of their contemporary rhetorical communities. Cynthia Selfe argues, “It is important to remain in step with the ways in which students, workers and citizens are communicating, the changing nature of the texts these people produce, and the way in which such texts are now being used around the world.” YouTube offers ways to talk about these changes in the classroom, segue into writing assignments and lessen the gap between teacher and student.
In the YouTube video, “A Vision of Students Today,” the professor of an undergraduate writing class surveyed his students and found that each one reads 2,300 web pages and 1,281 Facebook profiles a year on average, but only 8 books (Wesch). Considering these proportions, it is clear that part of our responsibility as 21st century teachers is to equip students with the knowledge to be active critics of web-based communication mediums, just as we do with hard copy texts.
Selfe, Cynthia. Multimodal Composition: Resources for Teachers. New Jersey: Hampton Press, 2007. Print.
Wesch, Michael. “A Vision of Students Today.” YouTube. Web. 19 May 2009.