YouTube is a huge source of free entertainment and information. You can subscribe to educational channels, watch videos to complement your child’s classroom learning, and you might even like to use it to upload your own family’s video material. Here’s what you need to know.
three points of caution
- While searching YouTube can further your child’s education, please be aware that YouTube’s content is totally unverified. Anybody could post a video that claims to teach how to make a rocket out of a plastic bottle, baking soda and vinegar … it doesn’t mean that the information will be accurate. Teach your child to assess the source of the video (the Khan Academy will be a good source, PunkRockXXX may not be).
- The second point is that YouTube contains uncensored material you may not be comfortable having your child discover. This may include inappropriate content, disturbing images and swearing. Remind your child that Internet safety rules are valid for all aspects of online viewing, including YouTube.
- The final point is that YouTube uses up bandwidth, which in turn eats up your monthly Internet allowance. Every time you play a video (and even when you replay it), the pixels travel into your computer and your Internet usage increases.
Useful YouTube channels
- Hooplakidz offers animated nursery rhymes and stories for children between the ages of 2–8.
- Space Lab is the channel to watch for space and science facts.
- Animal Planet TV plays video clips and movies about life in the animal kingdom.
- Khan Academy endeavours to offer free classroom education to everybody. They provide a library of over 3,000 videos about topics such as arithmetic, physics, finance and history.
- Check out the cool videos on www.youtube.com/education, such as How do aeroplanes fly? and Why do venomous animals live in warm climates?
A home-schooling mum:
YouTube is a highlight of our day. We can spend an amazing morning in the garden watching a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis, practise maths by baking biscuits, then look up something on YouTube for 5 minutes. When someone asks what we’ve done today, my child will inevitably reply: “Watched YouTube!”
A working mum:
Whenever my son wants to know something technical, like how an ink-jet printer works inside, I have one answer: “Look on YouTube.”
You know that SAFETY ON/OFF feature YouTube has at the bottom of the screen? They describe it as: Safety Mode is an opt-in setting that helps screen out potentially objectionable content that you may prefer not to see or don’t want others in your family to stumble across while enjoying YouTube. They do admit it’s not 100% reliable, and they’re right. (Also, what they don’t tell you is that your children know how to turn Safety Mode off anyway.)
There’s no setup and you don’t need to have a YouTube account in order to view other people’s public domain videos. Simply go to www.youtube.com and start typing your search, anything from a music video (eg, Katy Perry Wide Awake) to a skill (How to tie knots with rope). YouTube will typically complete the search for you and then show you the most likely matches.
To make browsing easier, YouTube is divided into thematic channels, such as music, gaming, sports. In fact, every account holder has their own YouTube channel, so it’s easy to search and watch videos uploaded by your friends.
using YouTube to learn
Because more and more people realise that multi-sensory learning (using your eyes, ears and hands) yields good outcomes, watching videos as a supplement to the day’s classroom lesson is gaining popularity. Sometimes, an educational video can be like having a field trip without leaving the room: you can visit the inside of the Chelsea Sugar Refinery on YouTube; you can watch how people in Canada make maple syrup; and you can have an encounter with a Bengal tiger.
There are three main options when it comes to finding learning contents on YouTube:
- You can simply plug your topic into the YouTube search field (eg, Adding fractions with different denominators).
- You can browse through your favourite education channels.
- Or you can go straight to YouTube EDU (www.youtube.com/education). YouTube EDU is a collection of over 700,000 educational videos selected by a team of teachers on every topic from Astrophysics to Zoology. You can find short lessons to supplement your school learning, courses from the world’s leading universities, as well as interviews with global thought leaders.
uploading your own videos
Sooner or later, you may like to upload your own videos: it may be a presentation for a school project, or a clip from a class trip to the zoo. To do that, you will need your own YouTube account. As with any online account, it’s up to you how much anonymity you want to preserve and whether your account name will be your surname or BestMum111.
Once you’ve created your YouTube account, you’re allowed to share videos. By default, any video you upload will be Public and visible to anybody who searches YouTube, unless you change the video’s privacy settings. You can choose to have your video Private (this means you specify the user names of the people allowed to watch the video – they will need to have a YouTube account) or Unlisted (this means that only people who know the link of the video will be able to watch it, and they won’t need a YouTube account).
managing your account
With your YouTube account, you automatically receive your own channel (your home page) and a YouTube inbox, so that other YouTube account holders can send you private messages. You can also subscribe to channels that interest you, and be kept up-to-date with the latest videos they have posted.
When you have your own videos in the public domain, people can leave comments below them. YouTube gives you the option to view the comments before they are made public, delete them or even disable comments on a particular video.
Yvonne Eve Walus is an education specialist, a senior consultant to Creative Learning Systems in Auckland, and a mother of two primary school children.