What is it?

YouTube’s strapline, ‘Broadcast Yourself’ neatly captures the site’s early aspirations to be a place for people to share their own video material for the enjoyment of others. However, since its creation in 2005, it’s grown to include:

  • personal and political video blogs
  • instructional videos
  • film and television: clips and full programmes
  • music videos, and
  • live sporting events.

And YouTube’s popularity continues to grow. In January 2009 alone, internet users in the USA viewed 14.8 billion on-line videos. Worldwide, YouTube has over 100 million viewers, and it’s estimated that 20 hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute. In March 2008, YouTube’s bandwidth costs were estimated at approximately $1 million a day. (Statistics courtesy of

What does it look like?

Arguably the only important element of the YouTube home page is the search box; the rest comprises advertisements for commercially produced programmes, popular videos and material the site feels you may find interesting based on your previous browsing history.

As you begin to type your search term, you will be given a dynamically changing list of options to choose from, helping you to narrow your search quickly and find just what you’re looking for – or discover something new…YT2

YouTube allows you to do see things differently. For example, imagine a presentation on Web 2.0 technology using overhead-projector PowerPoint slides – then click on the picture to the right:

You can then:

Where in the learner’s journey are you likely to come across it?

YouTube’s video resources can seem infinite; they cover a staggering variety of topics. Here’s just a taste of what both teachers and learners might use to develop their approach and understanding.



Teaching and learning

Learner support


Reviewing learners’ progress


How can teachers, trainers & learners use it?

YouTube has been described as ‘part of the pedagogical DNA for the 21st Century’. In the ‘beginning’, teachers passed on knowledge to learners. This developed into a discovery model, where teachers created an experiential learning environment in which learners discovered new knowledge and understanding. But with new 21st-Century tools such as forums, the formal teaching relationship is no longer viewed as the sole source of new learning.

YouTube is radically altering the conditions of learning – the what, where, when, and how we have access to information. Learners no longer need to wait for the scheme of work to dictate their learning journey, they can take control at any time. They might want to:

The list feels almost endless. But therein lies the problems. It’s very easy to become distracted by the infinite pathways through the resources – and the appropriateness and accuracy of the content can by no means be guaranteed. For this reason, teachers may find it beneficial to search out, verify an

d save the video resources that will be most useful to their learners, using them as required in lessons and/or uploading them to their intranet for viewing at any time.

What impact can it have on learning?

Blended learning

If part of great learning is a fast-track journey to understanding and the burying of this in long-term memory, then video cannot be/is not being ignored as a primary tool. But far from usurping the role of the teacher, a short video can be used skilfully as a visual anchor and memory trigger for a rich and diverse approach to a particular topic. This might include presentation, research, goal-oriented experiential learning, discovery learning, collaborative learning, etc. etc. For instance, a project on wiki technology may include:

Presentation: Introduction and overview
Research: What is a wiki and what resources do I need to create one? (For this you might start with Wiktionary or Wikipedia.)
Goal-oriented experiential learning: Develop a wiki
Discovery learning: What are the benefits of a wiki and what opportunities are now becoming available?
Collaborative learning: Complete a joint project using a wiki
Reflection Blog about your findings and your new understanding…

Now imagine that you are the learner and that you don’t know much about wikis. Watch this very short, low-tech video, then re-read the above and see what difference it has made to the learning journey ahead of you. (Watched nearly 2,000,000 times.)

At its best it will… (where appropriate – help for judging good or better)

At its best, YouTube will provoke teachers to think differently about their approach. The lesson may be a colourful cocktail of engaging experiences that the learners never forget. Learners may feel that they have been entertained as they learn and may be particularly pleased that they can re-watch the chosen video as many times as they wish: on the intranet, internet, or even on their mobile phones – reinforcing the memory anchors, again and again. Learners will be discerning consumers, able to differentiate the quality and trustworthiness of content.

At its worst it will… (where appropriate – help for judging satisfactory or worse)

At its worst, YouTube may be used as a substitute for a well-crafted learning experience. Video material may be inappropriate, questionable, un-vetted or over-used. Learners may not have develop

ed an antenna for validity and may believe everything they watch.

What are the safeguarding implications?

The main safeguarding risk from YouTube is the viewing of inappropriate content.

The YouTube Community Guidelines say the right things: you must be over the age of 13 to use the site; no pornography; no abuse or gratuitous violence; no copyright infringements; no hate speech; zero tolerance of predatory behaviour; etc. But with no way of enforcing the 13-years rule and with 20 hours of new material uploaded every minute, YouTube relies on users to self regulate and report guideline infringements. Click on the ‘Staying Safe’ image to hear it direct from YouTube.

YouTube has, however, recently launched a new safety feature (beginning of 2010), but it’s by no means fool proof.

A second level of risk is associated with learners uploading their own content. Obviously they should avoid including any contact details and it may be advisable to use a pseudonym. Viewers are able to leave comments after watching the videos and it is possible for these comments to become conversations, opening up opportunities for grooming. Due to the anonymity of viewers, comments can also be particularly abusive.

Find out more

For which CIF evaluative statements could it generate evidence?

A1        How well do learners achieve and enjoy their learning?

A1a.1   learners attain their learning goals, including qualifications and challenging targets

A1a.4    learners attend and participate as required.

A1b.2   learners enjoy learning and make progress relative to their prior attainment and potential

B1        How effectively do teaching, training and assessment support learning and development?

B1.2     interesting and appropriate teaching and learning methods and resources inspire and challenge all learners and enable them to extend their knowledge, skills and understanding

B1.3     technology is used effectively to promote and support learning, where appropriate

B1.4     staff have appropriate skills and expertise to provide good quality teaching, learning, assessment and information and support services for each learner


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