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Video for learning and engagement

By Sara Langworthy

Online video is ubiquitous for watching and sharing content – especially for young people. In fact, many youth are watching more free online video content (11.3 hours per week) than traditional TV (8.3 hours per week). A recent survey by Defy Media suggests that younger viewers find YouTube content more entertaining than traditional TV shows and they are more likely to view YouTube creators as role models than TV stars.

Beyond just watching, youth are engaging in worldwide communities by creating their own content (300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute). They are participating in discussions with others from across the world (YouTube is localized in 75 countries and available in 61 languages, and approximately 60% of a creators views come from outside their own country). Youth are also able to engage with their favorite creators and communities directly across platforms (via other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat).

And though many YouTube videos are not educational at all, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of educational channels on YouTube that teach viewers about anything from contemporary art to physics.

These educational creators have built huge communities (VSauce, a science educator on YouTube has over 9 million subscribers), while encouraging encourage youth to be open to learning, and teaching them that curiosity is cool. Teachers and professors are beginning to use content from these channels in their classrooms. CrashCourse, a channel providing series’ of videos on topics from world history to chemistry has millions of views from students studying for exams, or those who are just interested in learning new things.

But the way in which youth use YouTube also begs the question about how youth educators can engage young people in actively creating and building community. Instead of just using video as a way to communicate about a topic, how can it be used to engage people in active participation?

One unique model of this is The Art Assignment, a PBS digital studios production that teaches viewers about the world of art through interviews with contemporary artists. These artists share a little about their own work, and then challenge the viewers by giving them an “art assignment” to create their own work of art. Viewers then become active participants in creating art, and sharing it via social media with other viewers, the featured artists, and the channel hosts. Some viewer art is even featured on later episodes as responses to the assignment.

This model, and others like it, suggest that there are ways to use YouTube and online video in general, as a way to not only educate, but also engage youth in learning in a way they find enjoyable and meaningful.

Other video channels you might find interesting:
So the next time you hear someone slam YouTube, remember it’s more than cat videos. There are vibrant online communities full of youth and young adults eager to learn and participate actively. In fact, last week I attended the annual conference for people passionate about online video, along with over 18,000 other people, most of them under the age of 35.

Online video will only get bigger. In my view, it’s best to embrace it.  So, how can you use online video as an educational community building tool in your work with youth? Are you doing this already?

-- Sara Langworthy, former Extension educator, Children, Youth & Family Consortium, which is part of the Extension Center for Family Development

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