Friday, February 27, 2009

How to fix YouTube

Please raise your hand if you are alive. Thank you! Ok, now keep your hands up if you have heard of YouTube. (All hand remain up)
YouTube is excellent! No, it stinks! No, it is excellent! YouTube is a tool. YouTube is like hundreds thousands 10,0000 other sites, ony it isn't. Every tool in the world can be used for harm or good. We have heard it when people ask if fire is evil, are guns evil, is power, or electricity, or giant destructo disintegrator beams? Ok, maybe that last one really is evil.

YouTube is a site where you can get millions of clips. Some are good some are bad. We don't need to fight YouTube, we need to fix it. We need to fix it for educators. We need to fix it for schools. The trend has been: Some of the things on the site may be offensive to some of our community therefore we should block all of the site for all users. This has been the case with all internet filtering. It is potentially a very good policy. I don't believe in tramplinng on the views of any group. That includes the majority. If the majority don't find it offensive and do find it useful why is the tail wagging the dog?

What YouTube needs consists of 2 things:
  • Strict Safe Search
  • Community content rating
Ok, the first one. Google images has a great strict safe search option. I have even been brave enough to search "Online Teens" with it on and the only thing I got up on the first page was a A girl in a bathing suit. No offensive stuff. I got the image that I needed for my Internet Safety course and ammunition I needed for this post. Why doesn't YouTube have this option? Why can't I get results that have been tagged as 'clean'? That leads us to the second thing needed to fix YouTube.

Community Content Rating is the idea that the members of the community rate the different videos based on the content. YouTube already has flagging. I can flag any video as 'grown-up' or innapropriate. I don't say 'adult' because that term has come to mean pornographic. YouTube actually already has and enforces well a no nudity policy. I applaud that! But inappropriate can mean so many things. Is it potty humor? Is it violent? Is it girls in bikinis? Is it men without shirts? What is inappropriate about it? The other thing is when a video is flagged as inappropriate it isn't removed you just have to be signed in to see it. What we really need to make it work is a pattern like This site rates movies with three scores. One each for :
  • Sex & Nudity
  • Violence & Gore
  • Profanity
Friday the 13th gets a 9.9.10. While Wall-E gets a 1.2.1

I love this pattern and use the site all the time to make choices about movies with my kids. If YouTube did this I would suggest a 4th category. Drugs & Alcohol. So now, instead of flagging videos as 'inappropriate ' We as community could flag them for each area of potential controversy. Then when we enter our searches we could also request only videos at or below a certain rating. In fact, it would be ideal if the related videos, promoted videos and advertising were also kept at the content level we request.

Do we need to ban YouTube? No. But it does need to be fixed.

BTW here's one cool video so it's not all bad!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Comment on Ed Tech's post

Dean Shareski recently blogged about another attempt to Ban teachers from Social Networking sites.  I have voiced my opinion on this before, but I decided to post my response to his post here:

When I see policy making like this I always wonder what prompts it. Most of the time this kind of policy is reactionary. Something has gotten out of hand, has led to something inappropriate, or just plain given some administrator the heebie jeebies. I blame the technophobia on one thing.

We have done too good of a job regarding public awareness of internet safety concerns.

It seems that all internet and online interactions and conversation is considered somehow more sinister than face to face interaction. When policy like this is enacted it works. It keeps the honest, diligent and respectful teachers from using online resources to connect to their kids. The adults who are already edgy and willing to flout convention and the rules are by default the only ones left for young people to interact with online. When are we going to be able to take back the territory. Sure, ban Facebook and leave the students to the wolves, or create sensible policies and structures that allow people to make the healthy and useful connections that the internet enables. Online interactions are not by their nature any more sinister than face to face interactions. A predator who wants to harm students has many tools open to them. I admit that because of the pseudo-anonymity of the web it can be easier to reach a casualness and level of comfort that would not necessarily develop in face to face interactions with students, but online is not always sinister.

Policy that bans online communication seems simpler on the surface. Some online interactions can be bad so let’s ban all of them, seems to be the philosophy, but again. Who are students interacting with if all the wholesome teachers in their lives are banned?
I guess, I am tilting at windmills, but if I lived in the same community where I taught (which I didn't) I would have seen kids at the mall, at the movies, out at restaurants, and the stores.  Probably, I would have seen them at community events, and even church.  I chose to commute 3o minutes to where I taught so I only occasionally saw students outside of the classroom.  However, if I bump into them on Facebook, myspace, Messenger, AOL, or any other place, what makes that inherently risky?  My opinion is nothing.  If my profile in those places is such that it doesn't portray me doing anything illegal or outside of the standards of my community why the concern.  I suppose it is just that.  Some teachers do post things that at least part of the community has concerns about.  

I have also commented on this before.  Administrators don't like to be surprised.  The last thing a Principal wants to hear is from a parent is: "Last night my daughter was IM'ing with Mr. .... and I am not so sure...."  

The reality is our society is changing.  We are learning a new set of etiquette, social norms, manners and yes...even rules regarding what is and isn't appropriate.    It's going to be a little weird at first.  We may bump into things that make us uncomfortable and we will have to forge policies that actually make sense, but banning online interactions doesn't seem to be a good choice.  There should be a structure for teachers who want to be available online to do just that.  Moodle, or other courseware.  A standard protocol for how and what service to use for IM.  Even a policy regarding texting.  Transparency for administrators and parents has to be key in the policy.  No one wants to find out that someone has been influencing their child unduly and without any accountability.    Well the specifics seem to be fodder for another post.

I read a prediction recently and one that I hope doesn't come to fruition.  The prediction was that the future of the web and communication technologies would lead to greater transparency of individuals lives but not greater tolerance or forgiveness.  I hope that doesn't happen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What YouTube needs to be useful in the classroom

I was one of the late adopters to YouTube. But having once started I have to admit it is actually a great resource. One of the shortcomings of it is its popularity. It went from obscure to supreme in such a relatively short time that the initial and continuing educational reaction to it has been one far beyond reticence to almost revulsion.

Most teachers that I know consider YouTube a nuisance at best and potentially criminally evil at worst. There is so much good and usefully educational material there now that it really has become time for educators to take back territory.

But how when the site still has so much crud? Crud that people like and want to view and I personally think they have a right, but....crud right!?! I mean do I really want learners watching the video of the guy getting scissors stuck in his arm 11 times during class. Or what about Aicha which burned through the school like an Australian Bushfire a couple of years back. Or the more current Numa Numa

Well, in a future post I want to discuss what would make YouTube better, but part of that is also making the content better. We as educators need to put more useful, relevant, and appropriate content on YouTube. We also need to find and use the content with other educators and with administrators, and legislators so they can see the value of using it in the classroom. President Obama used it in his campaign, there must be something to it.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Posted in Response to Remote Access

I bumped into the Remote Access blog a few days ago and some stuff hit my reader that I found useful. I commented and am reposting it here:
Oh, how I wish I could have shown this post and Classroom Architect to my CTE Director a year ago. Last Christmas I was told I would get new computers and did I have any ideas for redoing my room. Yes, I want to leave it the way it is! Well there were various reasons we couldn't leave it, mainly I was getting 5 more computers than I had before, but I was teaching design and it was frustrating to have to abandon the principle that "form follows function" I did appreciate very much the thought our CTE Director put into the new design as well as our Tech folks, but ultimately we should have probably spent more time on our design.

You are absolutely right about the fact that the design, form and spaces of the classroom encourage or discourage certain behaviors and learning. Well designed spaces contribute to well designed learning.

Learning spaces should be designed in collaboration with experts and users. Students, Teachers and designers should work together to create spaces that actually work. The fundamental design principle of form follows function should be followed. Why isn't it? How have constraints in your classroom limited what and how you teach?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I have amend one of my previous posts. In response to another blog I wrote that I get frustrated when people want step by step instructions for what is essentially an immersive process. One of the participants in a training I was doing, apparently actually read my blog and then said to me "Well, I know you don't like to do things step by step but I need some help" I got the impression that this participant was rather offended by my apparent lack of empathy.

I do have a lot of empathy, and I do recognize it is difficult for many people to just jump in and do. I recently had to build some Google Earth Tours which I had never done and so I went to one of my colleagues for some help. I guess where the challenge lies is not in giving people step by step instructions or showing them how to do it, but rather navigating the online environment is more like jazz that classical. Jazz is not only more flexible and spontaneous but has to be. I watch some people who want to memorize the steps to get the results, but that simply doesn't work. I wish that it did, but when people ask me: "How do I insert a picture" My answer is always and always has to be: "Well it depends"

So much of stuff about using computers is contextual. It is almost impossible to give out a step by step set of instructions and build deep understanding about how to really use a computer. It is the difference between a technical perfect classical performance and a truly inspiring Jazz improv

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Isolation of Educators

I posted a few weeks ago about the Isolation of Adolescence and it got me thinking about the Isolation of Education. A recent post on Remote Access talked about the nature of networks in teaching. Are Ideas Contagious diagrams the potential of relationships in learning. The concept is great, but I worry that the reality doesn't get there.

I have been a guest in different educational venues and I hear "We can't access that site here" We protect our kids so much, and protect our systems from kids so much that we prevent educators from effectively doing their jobs. I know there is not only the possibility of abuse when social networking sites are accessible at school, but the reality of it. People waste time kidnap'n each other or check their lil'green patches, but they also interact with each other.

Last week I needed a quick answer to a question, one I undoubtedly could have found online or in the helps, but I was training and I wanted to keep my mobility up. Out came the cell phone, up went the tweet for help. @gardenglen came to the rescue and within 10 seconds I had the answer from an experienced Audacity User on how to remove static and clicks from a section of audio.

When I was still in the classroom, my fear of fallout from other teachers, administrators, parents and even students kept me off the social networking scene, off of blogs, off of youtube, and blinkered when it came to the true potential of my own learning and development and what I could catalyze in my students fellow learners. I went into my classroom, and I used all the resources contained in my own personal skill set and experience and I was a good teacher. I could have been so much better, but I was isolated. I never really collaborated with the teachers around me in my school, I never really collaborated with job-a-like teachers, I fell short of where I could have been. What regrets.

I see now the power that Personal Learning Networks could have created for me, and for my students. I see now the power that Social Networking could have created in my classroom. Tools. They are all tools. The isolation could have given way to genuine relationships that supported me and my students in their pursuit of learning. Some still wouldn't have learned, some will always choose the easy path, but so many will come with us. We need to open the doors of our classrooms, and invite in the our friends to help us to collaborate with us, to teach us and to learn from us. Open the doors.

Welcome to Jorgie Learning

I really am learning and this blog is maintained both as a record of some of what I am doing as well as a place for me to train and teach others about creating an online presence. So please don't mind the dust. We aren't remodeling we are learning!

Visit some of my other blogs or the other blogs I find mildly entertaining for a more polished feel.