YouTube, ITube, WeAllTube

In ‘An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube’, a team of students from Kansas State University and their professor, Michael Wesch, provide viewers with an emic account of the video-sharing site. In this, the students and professor joined their online culture of study by uploading their own videos to YouTube. It is impressive and captivating to watch the clips of their videos as they figure out the unique experience of talking to everyone and no one at the same time, and as they relate their experience to those of others.

After watching the KSU video and their use of YouTube as a field site, I am curious how this website could be used in the composition classroom. From a class of our’s recently, we know that students use YouTube for a variety of projects. These projects typically involve a remix of some kind; often, a piece of literature is transformed by a student or group of students in some way. Anyone searching can find a myriad of these videos, tackling a variety of books and readings. However, if you search YouTube for various key terms (composition, writing, classroom, revising, essays, etc.), you will not see videos of students referring to their own writings, but only videos of students repurposing someone else’s writing. So, in a writing classroom that focusses on the student’s writing and their process, where does YouTube come in?

Instead, your search of these terms will likely uncover a legion of educators sharing different strategies and instructing online. In fact, there are many different videos where teachers are teaching other teachers to teach using YouTube (how meta is that?). Indeed, we have taken it so far as to write about the ways we are using videos in the classroom. Admittedly, the instructional video route is a good racket. I watch them, I search for them, and sometimes, they are even helpful. However, very little is happening by way of writing-centric student activity on YouTube.

If you look through educational blogs, you can see a few different ways in which teachers are currently using YouTube in their own classrooms. With a large focus on watching videos for informational purposes and as a way of providing alternative examples of different topics, the way we are currently using YouTube in the classroom seems to offer the same ethos problem that an early post discusses. Sure, YouTube is flashy and fun, but if we are just plopping it in the classroom to replace video strips, are we really providing students with new ways to interact with new media?

The KSU video offers a key moment where I think we as instructors could begin to consider new ways of incorporating YouTube into the writing classroom. As the KSU video grew in popularity, Wesch looked to how their video had circulated through the internet. After being tagged on a user-generated site, moving through the blogosphere, and showing up across the web, their video hit number one. My question, for instructors near and far, is how do we use this idea of user-generated and circulated content to get students to consider the complicated audience-awareness/presentation of self and performance that YouTube so brilliantly highlights? And, how do we incorporate YouTube in a way that showcases both process and awareness in a student’s personal writing while still considering the overall ethos of new media?

If there are any interested or informed parties, please share your thoughts. In fact, you could even post a video about it.

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4 comments on “YouTube, ITube, WeAllTube

  1. Sorry for that stupid dash above. I clicked the wrong button and couldn’t erase it.

    In preparing my own blog, I found a student video that had a pretty good example of ethos, pathos and logos in visual rhetoric. Found it on YouTube of all places. True its a student video, but its not bad. It at least approaches visual imagery from a composition base. We, and I mean the established documentarians of the world like National Geographic and The History Channel and PBS have brought science, history and physics alive for us. Perhaps it is up to us, and by us I mean the young rhetoricians and composition instructors that we are, to create these visual rhetorics on visual imagery and go meta.

  2. Your question is one that we all have asked: how?! Everything sounds good, but how do we incorporate it? I think the first step is to understand the medium of YouTube – what it does that other mediums cannot, what is unique about it. Once that is isolated (maybe it’s using videos, commenting on videos, sharing videos) we can use it to comment back on itself. I don’t think just making a video is part of what YouTube is about. Instead, making a video, getting it shared and commented on, seems to be the goal. I don’t know – this is a question I keep asking myself: How do we incorporate this into the classroom without it being both gimmicky and/or pointless.

    • I agree, Hayley. We need to understand what YouTube can bring to classroom. I think our classroom discussion and activity-generating time did shed some light on it. There were some really fun and intriguing ideas that involved student-generated material on YouTube. But now the question almost seems to be: Does the time spent on the production of such a project really lend to the goals of the writing classroom?

      Maybe the questions are just never ending!

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