Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Using YouTube in School

I remember putting a story problem on the board a couple of years ago. It was one of those complicated Algebra problems dealing with manufacturing a product. You know the kind...linear programming! I had used an example on the board dealing with glass blowing. A glass blower could make one kind of vase in 15 minutes and a second kind of vase in 20 minutes, but he could only make a certain number of both kinds of vases in one day. He sold the first type of vase for $12 each and the second kind for $18 each. The problem asks you to find the number of vases he should make of each type each day in order to maximize his profit.

I went through the whole problem with the class. We used the information in the problem to write a system of inequalities. We graphed them and looked for points of intersection. We analyzed the points of intersection to find maximum profit. The students were feverishly taking notes and making an effort to understand it all.

When I finished the example, I asked, "Are there any questions?" One student in the middle of the room quietly raised his hand. I was expecting a question about defining the variables or writing the system of inequalities or graphing the system or writing the function that represents the profit. Yes, he quietly raised his hand and asked, "What's a glass blower?"

I realized he had no idea what I had been talking about for the past hour. And I had no idea how many students were in the same boat. Of course, right then, the bell rang and class was over.

The next day, we were going to go through another example, but I wanted to show them what a glass blower was. We gathered around the one computer in my room, I typed in http://www.youtube.com/ and ... nothing! YouTube was blocked in my school. I had never tried to access it from school before and after several tries, finally had to tell the students to search for it on their own computers when they got home. I briefly explained what a glass blower was and we went on to the next example.

This is one time when YouTube could have been quite valuable in the classroom. In other subject areas, YouTube could be amazing. I do understand why it was blocked. There are so many, many videos that are inappropriate, but there are also those that have redeeming value for the classroom. That redeeming value could be used by teachers and students. Teachers can include videos that relate to classroom topics. These videos can be put into presentation software or embedded into blogs. Students can be given assignments to create their own videos to post on YouTube or into their own blogs. The ideas are endless.

Below is a YouTube information video. It gives directions for using videos from YouTube when your school blocks the website. I wish I had known about this a couple of years ago. I might mention that there is another website called TeacherTube that includes video, photos, documents, and audio. (http://www.teachertube.com/)


  1. Great post with a nice compelling story to illustrate your point. Well done. Can I suggest something? Okay, here goes: I think this post deserves a part 2. And that one is a how-to on circumventing the ban on youtube so other educators can go make full use of this great tool for learning. A lot of users will find this kind of information very helpful.

  2. I was also thinking a part 2 might be a wise thing to do. The video explains it pretty well, but I think more explanation would help. Thanks, Jan, for the suggetion.