1/13/19

YouTube for Learning?

Anyone who is around me for more than 5 minutes hears about my favorite educational book The New Pillars of Modern Teaching. The ideas in Gayle Allen's book truly transformed how I think about teaching and learning. (See this post for an overview.) So this reflection started as ponderings about YouTube, but as with most everything in my educational world, it's going to circle back to the New Pillars.

Last year, I read great advice for conference-going, which was to attend a session that was outside your comfort zone or area of interest. Find something that might push your thinking. For that reason, on the last day and the final session of ISTE 18, I found the session Teacher Reflection and Professional Growth Through Vlogging. The session description sounded interesting (except for the video part) but I didn't recognize the presenters' names. I ran into a former colleague in this session, and based on his enthusiasm (and the response in the room!) I learned that the presenters were "celebrities" in the TeacherTuber world! I had no idea that just like blogs, Twitter, and Instagram, there is an entire community of educators that share and support each other on YouTube. Check out CJ Reynolds' and Darin Nakakihara's channels to see their vlogs. Their presentation was dynamic and inspiring, and they spoke with enthusiasm about their community of learners and how they used video to learn, grow, reflect, and share.




As wonderful as their presentation was, I have not spent any additional time exploring YouTube and TeacherTubers. I am not interested (right now) in joining that community of learners. BUT because of my understanding of the New Pillars, I realize that's OK...that type of medium is not my learning preference. I also realize that vlogging might be a favorite platform for some of my session participants, so how can I provide more video as an option? Just like students in our classrooms, our preferences are not going to be the same as our students, so how can we accommodate for those differences? How can we design learning experiences that meet the needs of more of our learners?


In The New Pillars of Modern Teaching, Dr. Allen provides a brief self-assessment for us to determine our own learning preferences. She asks us to reflect on a favorite learning experience and break down the experience in terms of the four elements of powerful learning design: time, place, medium, and socialness.

  • Time: How much time did the experience take? Was it a short burst of time or a semester?
  • Place: Where did the learning occur? Face-to-face? In a university? Online? Synchronous?
  • Medium: What platforms were used? Audio, video, online, face-to-face?
  • Socialness: How much interaction occurred? Was it face-to-face or virtual?
I've reflected on my favorite learning experiences multiple times, and for our online book study, we ask participants to create a graphic to explain their preferences, so here's one of mine.


Now that I deeply understand my learning preferences, I know to look for learning opportunities that meet my needs as a learner. And because I realize my preferences differ from most others, I strive to include multiple elements in my sessions. I'm always looking for more ways to provide more choice, though! And for classroom teachers, what does this look like for classrooms where the curriculum is so tight and we have so many other spinning plates?

A couple of years ago, we interviewed Dr. Allen for our podcast, and here's a short clip of a suggestion from her.

In the book, Dr. Allen recognizes that teachers lack time to be able to do it all, and she frequently reminds us to start small. With learning design, she suggests to choose one of the four elements (like medium) and make a few tweaks. Her example above was part of a discussion about curation, but the idea applies to both of the pillars.

Understanding these elements of powerful learning design also align with the ISTE Educator standard of Designer. At first glance, The New Pillars doesn't look like a technology book, but if we are going to succeed in implementing the three pillars, technology must be part of the picture. This standard and indicator ask us to use technology to design experiences that take all of those learner preferences into consideration.




If interested, here's our entire episode with Dr. Allen.



So if a vlog and a YouTube community is not your cup of tea, I'm certain it is for someone you know. (Have any of your students declared they wanted to become a YouTuber? That's a thing!) Maybe you're extremely social and believe collaborative groups are the way to go, but is that true for all of your students or session participants? (oops!)

Have you reflected on your learning preferences? Do you use those preferences to design your own learning experiences? Would the learning preference self-assessment help your students or those you coach?

Reflecting on learning preferences and learning design...and always learning.
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