Teaching about YouTube in the English Classroom

Last year, my school board unblocked YouTube so that we now have access to it in the classroom. What a Godsend that has been, especially if you teach Media!  My Media class did a unit on YouTube itself and it is a fascinating subject but one that defies easy definition.  I used as my source  Watching YouTube by Michael Strangelove.  Strangelove is a professor at UOttawa and the book gives the reader many things to think about.  Here is a summary of some of the facts from the book.  I used this with my class as a discussion point.

Private moments becoming public on YouTube

-50% of the blogs on YouTube are written by children or youths who reveal an astonishing amount of personal info. through their blogs

 -Family themed videos abound from the affectionate and positive to the highly negative which cover such subjects as drunkenness, fighting, sibling rivalry etc. For example, a video in which a boy films his mother yelling at his sister for seeing a guy she met on MySpace has been viewed over a million times with comments that are highly negative.

 -Sexuality is explored by children and teens.  Sometimes, words like rape are inserted in the title just to attract viewers.  Most of these topics are normally relegated to private life.

 –         people are transferring a private moment ( such as a family fight ) into a permanent public memory

–         the fact that the record is permanent means that some people may never get an opportunity to have a second chance, a new start  etc.

–         not only are employers viewing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to research employees but individuals are researching possible partners in the same way.

 –        What is the effect of millions of viewings on our perceptions of an individual or on their perceptions of themselves?

– Social critics view the use of YouTube as a massive experiment in the construction of identity on the part of children

One of the interesting things that Strangelove does in the book is put the videos in categories and there are hundreds of these because YouTube creates instant copycats.  Here are some of these groupings:

http://youtu.be/P6dUCOS1bM0  A whole series of copycat videos on “Chocolate Rain”

http://youtu.be/xWBv522Eevg  a series of videos that take the same scene from the movie Downfall and add hilarious sub-titles.

http://youtu.be/i7QVbJnSPQE  The debate about God is endless on YouTube

http://youtu.be/vp-fAUTE4Qg  A vlog-one of the many video blogs that can be found.  People showing what they have bought also fits into this category

http://youtu.be/YjVKYzy4ek8  This is Fred who has his own YouTube channel.  He is a teenager who takes the persona of this little boy, Fred.  This episode has had 46 million views.  The whole series could be watched and studied because they are clever and insightful

http://youtu.be/Su1YLAjty-U  Flash mob proposal.  Flash mobs are extremely popular and they have brought proposals to new heights.  My favorite flash mob is this Polish version of One Day More from Les Miserables. ( I just love Les Mis)

There are many disturbing video trends as well.  One of these is the ProAna movement which is about anorexics discussing how they are going to lose more weight and showing their skeletal bodies.  These seem to have been removed recently by YouTube, probably because they got a lot of complaints.

My students and I spent quite a few hours watching a lot of YouTube and discussing the many issues that can arise from such public exposure of our everyday lives.  In the end, they all made their own YouTube video, either as a parody or a vlog.  They uploaded them and we watched them in class.

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