YouTube as a Tool for Collaborative Learning

‘‘More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. ’’ (http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html). Youtube is the most popular website for sharing videos online and is part of students’ Web 2.0 habits.  Why not take advantage of that opportunity for educational purposes?

YouTube gives students freedom of speech and allows them to influence or impact viewers who come from everywhere in the world with the creation of a video. However, there is an ambiguity. ‘‘Because of YouTube’s ad hoc epistemological structure, the site is much more likely to reinforce stereotypes than to encourage critical thinking appropriate to the classroom’’ (http://learningthroughdigitalmedia.net/youtube-pedagogy-finding-communities-of-practice-in-a-distributed-learning-world).  For instance, YouTube follows the principle of popularity, so the most watched content does not reflect necessarily educational purposes. It is controlled by mass culture, which reinforces stereotypes and norms of the virtual community. As a teacher, it is absolutely crucial to be aware of the rhetoric of community norms, because they are selective of the content that will appear as significant and YouTube is not designed primarily for displaying academic content.

Youtube stays a very useful tool to put online lessons or tutorials. It enables students and teachers to create short videos about specific aspects of their course such as problem solving or grammar. Students benefit from this opportunity to learn or to study independently and outside of the traditional classroom context. For example, this original and pertinent tutorial gives the viewer the freedom to choose what content he wants to explore by clicking on the person directly in the video, which creates a personalized and meaningful learning output ‘‘(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrsdLou4IeU#t=12)’’. This is very pertinent, because students provide opportunities for learning and practicing class material to other students who are not necessarily enrolled in the same school. Meaningful tutorials intended to other students reinforce the principle of collaborative learning Web 2.0. In fact, the collaborative approach emphasized by the Québec  Ministry of Education increases through the use of social and sharing networks like YouTube.

‘‘The concept of social learning is the creation of understanding through interaction. Social learning focuses on the ‘how’ rather than the ‘what’ of education and emphasizes the need for students to be able to participate in study groups and the interchange of knowledge’’ (http://www.academia.edu/906679/USING_YOUTUBE_AS_AN_INNOVATIVE_TOOL_FOR_COLLABORATIVE_LEARNING_AT_UNDERGRADUATE_LEVEL_IN_TERTIARY_EDUCATION). YouTube therefore provides the explanation of the ”how” through the academic tutorials that are reinforced by meaningful social interaction. For instance, the Net Generation is considered social, experimental and team-oriented, which reflects a need to experiment learning by doing with the help of social support. Socialization with YouTube is primarily done by sharing videos, but also by leaving comments underneath the videos. It is not mandatory to create an account in order to watch the content of YouTube. However, it is necessary in order to comment or to like and dislike content. In a classroom context, students can discuss the work done by their peers, or simply post and debate about any significant topic by creating personal profiles on YouTube. In addition, the teacher can select different educational videos related to the same topic and regroup them on a Play List in order to organize the educational material.

At King’s College and Rowan University, the ‘‘Youtube Project’’ was a real success with the students.  Teachers emphasized that ‘‘Learners need to be actively engaged in processing information, to transfer it from short-term memory to long-term memory, and recall of information is facilitated when the learned material is encoded in some way’’ (http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/TLC/article/view/1110/1094). Consequently, YouTube becomes a very useful tool to emphasize long-term memory with the collaborative task of creating a video and making it public. Students who work together in this project are motivated by the same goal of sharing their particular point of view on a topic addressed in the classroom. YouTube becomes a tool to enhance collaborative learning with the video task, which develops creativity, awareness and confidence among students. They become alert citizens with a footprint to share to the world.

Moreover, Youtube is new pedagogical tool for teachers to explore because ‘‘Using YouTube videos allows for authentic material to be used in L2 courses, in order to work on signal decoding and meaning-building’’(http://ictrev.ecml.at/Portals/1/documents/Using_YouTube_in_class.pdf).  In an English classroom context, the development of the target language is essential. When showing videos that are only in L2, students can benefit from that opportunity to improve their communicative competence by listening to the right pronunciation of words in the video. Students appreciate to learn content through the lens of a camera, because they are used to watch television and to have access to a computer in their personal lifestyle. In addition, videos are a lot more interactive and dynamic than the explanation of the teacher alone, which represents a new meaningful learning style. However, to be able to use YouTube in a classroom, schools must have internet connection, speakers, and LCD projectors. This depends upon the factor of budget, and differs from one school to another. When a teacher uses YouTube, he must be conscious about the possibility of having problems with Internet connection, speakers or the projector itself. This is why teachers need to always have a plan B if they intend to use YouTube for educational purposes, and should test it beforehand.

In conclusion, even if personal profiles created on YouTube become icons for publicity campaigns to recognize what are viewers’ interests, YouTube is still a powerful tool for education. For instance, students can share tutorials and videos that they created for a particular educational task. In this perspective, YouTube becomes a tool for students to be present and to have an influence on a worldwide virtual scale. It also enhances collaborative learning both virtually and in a school context, because they work in teams to accomplish the task of creating a video project and they comment or discuss other videos made by their peers on YouTube directly. Teachers provide appealing and authentic audiovisual material when showing videos that are relevant to the course. All in all, the teacher must expect students to get easily distracted because of the predominance of entertainment and popularity on YouTube and it is his responsibility to keep them on track.

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