Learning from YouTube (September 7, 2007)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This 2007 blog post, my first on the class LFYT, caught me like a deer in the headlights as my class confronted its earliest stages of media attention. At this stage, I was primarily concerned with the relations between the public nature of the course (via YouTube, blog, and now this publication) and pedagogy.
James McAdams asks, "Private/Public: How do we draw the line between the uses of the Web that are appropriate and meaningful for private citizens and those that transcend public interests or acceptable standards of behavior?"[cit]

Critical pedagogy "has traditionally referred to educational theory and teaching and learning practices that are designed to raise learners' critical consciousness regarding oppressive social conditions. In addition to its focus on personal liberation through the development of critical consciousness, critical pedagogy also has a more collective political component, in that critical consciousness is positioned as the necessary first step of a larger collective political struggle to challenge and transform oppressive social conditions and to create a more egalitarian society."[cit]
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More videos related to the content of this page
I am teaching an experimental class on/about YouTube this semester.

After two class sessions I realize this course is going to be really fun and super hard, challenging me as a professor in new ways that I am unaccustomed to.

Let's start with the press, the numbers, and the public nature of the course (all related).

After the first course, I was interviewed for an article about the course for "Issues in Higher Education," which came out before the second class at which there was then two journalists and a photographer attending.

This, added to the fact that we tape and put on YouTube each class, and that I quickly learned that people actually were watching these classes, led me to be self-conscious to a degree I am usually not when I teach. Typically, over an hour of teaching you hit some high notes, make a few blunders, and otherwise get through. You're human, and only the undergraduates in the room are your witnesses.

During our second class, the issues got serious and complex quickly, primarily concerning the ubiquitous representations of race and racism on YouTube and in our class (and this discussion is good) but I was self-conscious about how my colleagues would view the way I failed to hit gold in the live processing of these complex ideas.

The self-consciousness slowed down my thinking, and so on and so forth. Now the class is about, among other things, issues of privacy and access in higher education. And while I'm committed to what it means to open access to my class, it now seems clear to me that this also limits my teaching (and perhaps my students' learning, as they are equally self-conscious).

Numbers (hits to the page keep doubling) also add a weird and unwieldy stress to my teaching, and the course. Ever multiplying views are informative about the logic of YouTube but ultimately invasive, as is simply managing the outside communication that this brings (emails, letters, requests), easily expanding the demands on me from my thirty enrolled students to anyone who is interested.

I am also concerned that the experimental nature of the class (largely student led and limited to YouTube for all coursework—assignments and research) is going to make our work much harder, and my chances of failing much larger. I was excited to see that in the second class, and with only the most superficial of assignments, the students were already touching on many of the BIG IDEAS about YouTube and digital culture: its postmodern reliance on humor, celebrity, and referentiality to mainstream culture; its democratic function as soap box for the talent/opinions/expression of regular people; its mind-numbing, time-wasting superficiality; the raucous and unruly nature of the conversations it produces.

My challenge will be to work with the class to hone, focus, and systematize such conversations given that we cannot refer to other scholarly works, and given that I have ceded a certain amount of real control to the students. How will I guide the conversation in ways scholarly and rigorous given that our frame and guide is not?

Frankly, I'm not certain, now that we're doing it, that there's enough to do or know about YouTube (given YouTube as the tight structure for gaining such knowledge) to sustain a college course. While I've succeeded in developing a structure that models the content we study, I am not certain we need fifteen weeks to figure this out.