Disclaimer: We realize that not all families have the privilege of internet access. If that is the case, we encourage those students to join and visit the WELL, where we have a full computer lab open to students every day of the week. We can even show you some of our favorite edutainment YouTube channels!
The internet can be a weird place, and in many ways, popular video sharing website YouTube is an accurate reflection of that eccentricity. As of May 2019, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that number has likely climbed since then. YouTube is home to video bloggers of varying talent levels, viral cat videos, music videos of every genre imaginable, and plenty of other 21st century internet flimflam. Nonetheless, in one corner of its massive video catalogue lies a resource that every student should be utilizing: edutainment.
For students of all ages struggling with the limitations of the school day and needing more than 1-on-1 tutoring is able to provide, YouTube can be a saving grace. Most will acknowledge that people absorb information differently, meaning that a teaching approach working for one student may not work so well for another. Explanations of difficult subjects, especially in high school, must come from different angles, using varied examples and analogies, for an entire classroom to grasp the content. The reality is that classrooms are usually run by a single teacher, and single teachers typically only have time to explain things a few different ways. Tutors, like those at the WELL, can be wonderful supplements to those classroom efforts, offering different perspectives on those hard-to-grasp topics. Yet, a tutor is also limited by time, and it’s altogether possible that a student will continue to struggle even after seeking help. This is where the heroics of YouTube edutainment enter the story.
For some of our most frequently requested tutoring subjects, like Chemistry, there exist carefully crafted videos with comment sections featuring exclamations like, “I was ready to quit AP chemistry two weeks in until I found you! Thank you!” That comment is from a video explaining atomic mass, posted on a channel called Science with Tyler DeWitt, which features videos on everything from ionic bonds to calculating density. Another fantastic example is the channel Professor Dave Explains, in which a very personable, somewhat silly professor takes frustrating science topics like mitosis, and makes them digestible for high school students. Likewise, the channel Crash Course produces explanatory and enjoyable videos in all of the major subjects, including US History, English Literature, and Math. There are innumerable examples of other channels just like ones above, free and ready to be utilized by students. Importantly, these videos are not the boring, outdated VHS/DVDs that teachers used to put on when classroom exhaustion set in—they are well produced, clearly orated, and dare I say, sometimes fun.
If an integral part of learning is finding the explanation that makes sense to you, then YouTube’s endless number of explanations for any given subject should be an integral part of every student’s 21st century learning. In my view, making YouTube a regular part of completing homework and studying classroom materials will fill in the natural gaps left by classroom learning—as long as they don’t get distracted by all those cat videos.