Look at these pictures of my students – they are all on YouTube, but they are…researching? Can that be right?
Yep, that’s right – these students were researching famous Astronomers for our Historical Scientists Project. And these students were researching for their virtual desert field trip project during our Desert Science Unit.
In my mixed age class of 2nd – 5th graders (Year 3 – Year 6), my students often used YouTube as a research tool. I always required a “mixture of sources” including some you have to read and some you can watch, but I found that there were some distinct advantages to my students to being able to use video as a research tool.
1. My younger students, and lower readers, were able to find much more information, making them much more successful in Science and Social Studies.
2. My students developed very good note taking skills while they were using videos to research. When they were reading, they tended to copy down the exact words on the screen or in the book, but with videos they had no other choice than to put the information in their own words.
3. Students were exposed to lots of ads and distractions. While this may not seem like a good thing, they quickly learned how to get rid of the ads and distraction and focus on the task at hand, so that by our second project, they worked like those distractions weren’t even there – this my friends is a life skill in our current digital era.
4. YouTube is like Google – it is a search engine, and search engines can be quite difficult for kids, who often think of them as question answering devices. While I generally start my students out with suggested videos, they were also allowed to use search and became very good at picking out great key words and finding synonyms for less common words, as well as looking at a video critically to see if it was entertainment or informational.
As with any type of research, you need to start out teaching students HOW to use video as a research tool, but pausing, taking notes, finding just the right video etc. Here are some great YouTube Channels that you might want to consider using with your students:
Crash Course – 10 to 15 minute videos on tons of Science and Social Studies topics
Make Me Genius – 3 to 8 minute videos designed for kids on tons of Science topics
TED Education – 5 – 20 minute videos designed for kids on tons of Science and Social Studies topics
I know that many schools ban YouTube, if your school is one of those, check out these Alternatives to YouTube with educational videos. Either way, I ask you to consider video as a research methodology for your students this year.