Ever really watched a kid look something up online? Have you noticed the same trend I have? That to most kids, YouTube is on the same par as Google when looking something up?
For example, if I take students into a lab or check out iPads, and ask them to get some information about Elizabeth I, the behavior is about as you’s expect from adults. They type Elizabeth I into the Google search bar, and then read the first two posts, one of which will invariably be a wikipedia article. And this is all fine and good when it comes to kids looking to learn a fact.
But look at what happens when kids are not looking for facts but processes. When they need to know how to DO something, they look to YouTube first, and use it like a search engine. Ask students to come up with new ways to lace up shoes, and they will not search Google, as many adults would, but go straight to video. How to change oil in a car: YouTube. How to draw Spiderman? Yup, YouTube.
I think this is a relevant shift in the way young people use the internet. YouTube remains, for many adults, a place that has funny videos. Many of us still view it as largely about entertainment. Even teachers who use flipped videos and such may think of YouTube as an entertainment site that can be co-opted as a learning tool. The students, however, see if for what it really is: a repository of information. They understand that if you can wonder about it, someone has probably made a video about it. They understand that watching and listening is easier than reading about something, especially when the content is complex.
I am a very connected educator, and yet I have not fully embraced video as a primary means of addressing the world. I like to read to myself. Students today often do not. They want to see the video. I wonder if this is troubling or simply a sign of our ever changing times. What is encouraging is that students know how to learn how to do something on their own, and I think that’s pretty cool.