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Please Share This Post with Administrators Who Block YouTube

Posted by on in Education Technology
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In 2009, I attended the wedding of a good friend who wanted to wear a bow tie to the ceremony. He was opposed to wearing a clip-on but could not tie a bow tie. He told me he learned to tie it by watching YouTube. That resourceful friend is the first example in my memory of someone using YouTube to learn something new.

Today, it is well understood that YouTube is a great platform for learning. The iconic Crash Course channel has more than five million subscribers and teaches multiple subjects. TED-Ed makes high-quality short animated videos about many topicsThe Great War posts weekly videos about what happened in World War I exactly a hundred years ago in addition to many single-subject special episodes. By the time the channel is complete, it will be a massive open online course (MOOC) that gives learners an exhaustively deep understanding of World War I. Much like my friend learned how to tie a bow tie on YouTube, my wife and I learn how to make delicious meals from the Edgy Veg. One last example to drive this home - a family taught themselves how to build their own home by watching YouTube!

So Who Goes To This Website That Teaches People So Much?

The middle school, high school, and college students we teach don't just like YouTube - they are addicted to it. One study found 85% of Americans aged 13 to 24 regularly watch it and two-thirds of them say they "can't live without it." You can read the full report which puts average YouTube viewership for 13 to 24 year-olds at 6.2 hours a week, for yourself.

Why Does This Matter?

This matters because many school districts are still blocking YouTube, cutting students off from a great resource and missing an important opportunity to engage them. As Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton said, "If you want to reach kids today, you need to be in the digital realm." Teachers should take heed of that advice and put their lessons on YouTube. As teachers try blended learning, taking YouTube away from students is certain to hamper those efforts. 

I design digital breakouts to engage students in content through gamification. Sometimes I use EdPuzzle to add interactivity to YouTube videos in these breakouts. I often receive disheartening emails from teachers who want to use my breakouts with their students but can't because their district blocks YouTube. This is just one example of how students miss out when their district blocks YouTube.

It's Not All or Nothing

Districts do not need to open every video on YouTube to students. In my district, teachers can unblock YouTube videos for their students with the click of a button:


While students don't need Phil Collins videos unblocked, they deserve to have their teachers empowered to share and use the wealth of educational content on YouTube.  

It is 2017. Let's make school relevant to our students by incorporating YouTube in our efforts to reach them. Thank you for reading and considering this argument. If you would like to discuss this issue further, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney

Thank you, Canva, the tool I used to make the image for this post. 



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Tom Mullaney is a Digital Learning Integration Designer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Tom's education experience includes Special Education, Social Studies, and educational technology coaching in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer. Tom hosts the Sustainable Teaching Podcast and contributes to the BamRadio Network EdWords blog. Use his TED-Ed lesson to teach your students about the French Revolution. Contact him on Twitter, @TomEMullaney or via e-mail, mistermullaney@gmail.com.

  • Guest
    Kelli Tuesday, 17 January 2017

    My special needs son watches videos on science, insects, animals etc... and learns a lot from them. Normally he has a hard time retaining information but he can tell me things hes learning without prompting after watching them. He also will repeat watching some and he actually enjoys this. He was non verbal at 4-5 years old now he is 9 and everything he does he explains as if he is recording for his own channel. This helps me teach him because I can listen and correct if he gets something wrong. Of course I have to make sure the videos he watches aren't troll channels or conspiracy theories. I do believe that he only speaks as well as he does because of listening to you tubers talking, pronouncing big words and using them in the correct context, and as with anything, music, radio, or television its important to monitor what he watches especially since his reality is not the same as ours and he can be influenced very easily.

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Wednesday, 18 January 2017

    Thank you for sharing that, Kelli. It is a great example of how YouTube can reach learners.

  • Guest
    Kelli Saturday, 21 January 2017

    Thank you Tom, I forgot to mention I homeschool my son, I have 6 children and have homeschooled 3. With the student to teacher ratio, I have found it easier on him with learning disabilities among other issues, I also think it unfair to expect a teacher with 30+ students to have the time for the one on one necessary for special needs children like him to learn, its also unfair to the other students trying to learn to have to deal with his behavior and disruptions when he gets frustrated and doesn't understand. I have found throwing in You Tube videos to be fun for him and a creative way for him to learn. It allows him to see different expressions, personalities, and cultures as well. He seams to get more from some of the channels and videos then he does from the books so when he is frustrated we break up the bookwork and studying with learning videos( typically about the subject we were doing) and his ability to focus seems to improve when the videos are done by creative channels instead of typical school type with one tone and serious facial expressions such as the ones I grew up with. Technology is the future, computers, internet etc.. I think its a mistake to ban, or shelter the children from it. You Tube is a great way to bring out creativity in a child, also helps with speech, and creating is great for the child's self esteem. several other areas.Its also a wonderful way for us to educate them on the do's and don'ts of internet safety, Otherwise how will they learn? By trusting a stranger telling them all the wrong things on the internet. I allow Tommy to make videos he likes, alone with videos based on what he is learning, of course i do not post them however I do upload them and let him watch them on the pc, this way he points out his own mistakes and flaws without feeling attacked or insulted. He also tries harder each time to act, and speak better how he thinks his audience would want to see, or what others would find interesting and entertaining.He also knows how to do searches on the internet (google search) and is learning what to trust and what he should not do. If I did ever allow videos to post I would disable comments so he wouldn't be impacted negatively by the rude comments or trolls who like to hurt people for no reason. I wish you and your students the best!! Keep on your target.

  • Guest
    Brandi Snow Wednesday, 18 January 2017

    What a great article!! I would like to know, how you are able to unblock particular videos for students. We are a GAFE district, and for this option, students have to be logged into their Google account to access the videos that are approved for their students. The problem, is that we have found when students are logged in, they are able to make their own channels that automatically have their first and last name. If you have a solution I would love to hear it!

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Thursday, 19 January 2017

    Brandi, thank you. I am not a GSuiteEDU admin so I do not know how it works on that end. Our students have their own YouTube accounts through G Suite. So far that has only been beneficial - students can see their history and make playlists.

  • Guest
    Brandi Snow Thursday, 19 January 2017

    We have found, students are then able to make their own channels which are their first and last names and posting videos of themselves to the public. We had to close it down because of COOPA and kids under 13. We would love for our teachers to "white list" videos, but haven't found a way to do so in a way that keeps our kids safe. Are your students about to make channels? What are you doing? Thanks!!

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Friday, 20 January 2017

    We do it just as I described in the post. Let's get past the cultures of don't and fear. This video reflects my thoughts on how we should approach our students in this and other educational matters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-bjOJzB7LY

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