Sunday, February 17, 2013

Where Will Your Class Be Going With YouTube Today?

The students entering our classrooms are not the same as they were 20 years ago.  Therefore, our expectations of what our students are able to do and what they know should not be the same as they were back then.  In regards to educational technology, we are no longer living in the "Computer Age," to the surprise of many people.  We are now living in the "Digital Age," and according to others, the "Interactive Age."   All we have to do is click - and we're there.  Many teachers are considered to be digital immigrants, yet their students are considered to be digital natives.  The students are becoming more proficient with technology at a faster rate than the teachers are.  Technology needs to be integrated in education Most students have access to the Internet and mobile devices with Internet access at home.  Keeping our lessons restricted to the pages of the textbook just aren't going to "cut it."  Learning needs to involve the real world. Therefore, teachers need to provide “living avenues” to help their students interpret multiple perspectives or ideas that may exist.

Unfortunately, in many classrooms, the textbook remains, as it has since the beginning of the common school movement, the main source for knowledge. This form of passive learning needs to be revisited. Students need to experience rather than read and answer questions. One way to allow students to step outside this textbook world is to take them on field trips.   Unfortunately, regular field trips can amount to be a burden.  When adding up all of the permission slips, transportation costs, and admission to the event, it adds up to an awful amount of money.  With today's budgets, teachers need to be very creative.  So why not bring the learning to life and take the class on a virtual field trip?  With YouTube you can go anywhere in the world - all without leaving the walls in the classroom.

One of the keys to effective teaching is to make the learning relevant. We have the students ready to listen, but they don't quite know why they should. The students can see that we clearly care about the lesson content as we exhibit our high levels of enthusiasm, so they smile and go along but they still want to know "what they get out of it." And this is where the strong teacher captures his or her students -- the combination of a student who's been enticed into open-mindedness, the presentation/performance of an interesting lesson, and a direct answer to the question of why they should care -- and real learning starts to occur. This is what teachers work for, not power or prestige or personal gain, but for that moment of clarity when a student's mind opens just a little more, and takes in that new concept.  This is the concept or message that may seem unfamiliar to them - the message the teacher is trying to teach. In other words, the teacher needs to find a way to connect the new information to the students' lives.  The learning needs to be student centered and taking into account the students' interests. Using YouTube for virtual field trips can connect the students at a greater extent to the lesson content much more so than the textbook alone.  In addition, there is a much greater chance that students will extend their learning at home if the content is relevant to them.  Virtual field trips are exciting.  Since YouTube is free, the possibilities are endless.  Of course,  parental supervision is advised as anything can be posted on YouTube.

Virtual field trips tailored to every grade level are springing up all over the Internet. Trips range from the simple, such as a photo tour of a famous museum, to extremely detailed and high-tech field trips that offer video and audio segments to make the visit more interactive.  On top of that, one can add video conferencing with a representative from the site of the field trip, in order to provide a more interactive experience, in order to tailor the trip to needs of the class.  However simple or complex, virtual field trips can take your students to a completely new world -- and the trips are as close as your computer.  On a virtual field trip, you and your students can go just about anywhere on Earth - whether it's to a zoo, a farm, an aquarium, another country across the globe, or even into the solar system.  A couple of weeks ago, I took my class on a virtual field trip via YouTube to Yellowstone National Park to visit the famous geyser Old Faithful.   There is simply no better way that I could have brought the content to my students than to have them experience it via a virtual field trip with YouTube.  So where will your class be going with YouTube today?

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