What is YouTube?

User generated content site in which users upload their own video for personal and public use. It was launched in December, 2005 by founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim. Anyone with access to the Internet can view the videos that are on YouTube. In order to upload videos, or post comments in response to videos, YouTube requires that you create an account. This is a relatively easy process that is free and asks for a minimal amount of personal information. An email address is required. When a user sets up a YouTube account, she creates a username which she uses each time she uploads a video.

youtube_logo.jpg YouTube is often used for educational purposes because of the vast number of videos that are available and that cover all areas of the curriculum. The videos can provide a visual aid for students, such as for a science lesson. YouTube videos can promote critical thinking, such as those demonstrating various mathematical concepts or those designed to get students to question issues in the political realm. Many of the videos showing musical acts are used for the educational purpose of modeling. And there are many videos that depict psychological phenomenon and can be used to illustrate these to students.

Learning Theories that Guide the Use of YouTube

  • Cognitivism. Builds on what learner already knows.
  • Communities of Practice. Students learn, in part, by engaging in activities within their community. Peer collaboration required.
  • Generated Learning The primary concept of the generative model is that the learner is actively involved in the learning process.
  • Discovery Learning YouTube promotes discovering learning since it provided an excellent venue which students can use while exploring their inquiries.
  • Situated Learning This theory proposes that learning occurs unintentionally and is naturally embedded within activities, context, and culture.

The Benefits of Using YouTube

YouTube provides video on demand. One can look up a subject using the search tool and immediately discover whether or not there are videos listed under that subject.


With the rise of the use of technology in the classroom, educators are making more use of videos as a media for instructional purposes. Videos on virtually any subject can be accessed on YouTube through browsing and searching. YouTube provides the means for students to access a variety of videos that will provide scaffolding for their learning or content that will promote critical thinking. It is also a mean by which students can create and share videos demonstrating their own academic or artistic accomplishments, as the following video demonstrates:

The Challenges of Using YouTube

While it is easy to set up an account on YouTube, it can be difficult to navigate the system once on it, especially for novices. For those looking for particular videos that suit their purpose, the task can be a challenge because of the overwhelming number of videos to choose from. If a person has a specific video in mind, the search process can be time consuming unless he knows the exact name of the video or the website address.

One of the caveats of YouTube, especially true if the video is being selected for educational purposes, is that the videos should be carefully screened for appropriateness of content and applicability of purpose

One of the challenges faced by some users of YouTube is that the videos do not load properly. For some users, the videos will hesitate to play, and then stop and start again. For those whose videos do not play at all, the explanation may be that the computer is not equipped with the most recent version of Flash Player.

YouTube has face a significant number of lawsuits in the recent past for copyright infringement. They have been sued by various groups for making available unauthorized video clips. Such groups include the LA News Service, ViaCom, various music publishers, and even sports teams, such as the British Rugby League.

Special Guidance for Using YouTube

First and foremost, it is important to check the source of the video. Because YouTube is user driven, anyone can upload content. Be sure your source is reliable and legit. Do not upload movies that are copyrighted. This is a violation of their policies and these will most likely these will be rejected.

Special guidelines should be observed when searching for videos. Try to be as specific as possible and put in the most essential information in order to find exactly what you are looking for. If you put in too much or too little information, your search can be frustrating. If you are not finding what you are looking for, drop a key word or two off at a time to see if you will produce better results or add a key word. For example, if a user wants to watch Arthur Rubenstein performing a Beethoven concerto on the piano, it would be ineffective to type in Beethoven; she would get hundreds of thousands of results. It would be equally ineffective to type in too much information, such as "Arthur Rubenstein Beethoven concerto piano." If the wording is too specific, the search will not pick anything up. If the user were to type in “Rubenstein Beethoven,” she would likely find what she is looking for.

Be sure to watch the whole thing through- even if you think you have seen a video before or know what is being shown- sometimes people will create shadow accounts and upload video they spike somewhere in the middle with inappropriate material as a prank.

Research on YouTube

Since YouTube has only been in existence since December 2005, not a great deal of research has been generated on it yet. Some research is being conducted on the potential of YouTube in the area of education. In this article titled, //Video, Education, and Open Content: Notes Toward a New Research and Action Agenda// , author Peter Kaufman writes about the potential use of YouTube and other Internet video sites have for the future of education. He observes that the audio and video digitalization, such as YouTube, has spread around the world and has had an impact in educational institutions. Increasingly, scholars, in envisioning a new era of learning possibilities, have begun to discuss building a “global digital library” in order to provide educators access to video media for instructional purposes.

YouTube has frequently been a venue in which users have either encouraged the need for research in a specific area, or have promoted their own research, as the following two sites show:

Dissertation Research on YouTube This student's dissertation, De Rerum Natura, was on plant life.

The following site shows an individual make a plea for further research in the area of cancer:
Promote Cancer Research

The use of YouTube in areas such as literacy show the potential for research in this area:
Trier, James. Media Literacy: "Cool" Engagements with YouTube. Adolescent & Adult Literacy.
This is the second part of a series in which the instructor engages his students by having them find videos from YouTube that support their readings.

YouTube Lesson Ideas

US Government lesson:

Watch the CNN/ YouTube Democrat and Republican presidential debates and keep score. In your opinion....

  1. List a few questions that were ignored by the candidates.
  2. Pick one candidate of either party. Based on their remarks, please describe their take on the war in Iraq. Do you agree or disagree? BRIEFLY support your position. (no wrong answers on your opinion)
  3. Pick another candidate from the other party. Describe their position on the 2nd Amendment. Do you agree or disagree BRIEFLY support your position.(no wrong answers on your opinion)
  4. Who answered the most questions directly?
  5. Who do you think took the debate in either party? Why?
  6. Do you think that these debates are an effective way for American's to really get to know the candidates? Why/ why not (no wrong answers on your opinion)?

Psychology lesson:

Watch the following YouTube video and record the answers to the questions below:

  1. How many colors changes did you notice?
  2. What does this video tell you about the influence of expectations?
  3. What does this say about peoples' capacity to pay attention?
  4. What does this say about their capacity to notice change?
  5. If you were a magician, how could you use the influence of expectations to change people?

History Lesson/ Black History:

Watch Dr. Martin Luther King's Speech "I have a dream."

Please write an essay describe how things have (or have not) changed in America for blacks since Dr. King's speech. Was his dream realized or "deferred?"

YouTube Links

Everything You Wanted to Know About YouTub