YouTube is an incredibly valuable resource; but finding the good stuff – and not getting sucked into a vortex of videos, can be tricky.
As much as possible I try to give Jack (6 yrs) and Sarah (4 yrs) real life experiences; a trip to the creek to study tadpoles, a walk around the neighbourhood to look at different styles of homes, a visit to a sub-station to investigate how electricity travels to our homes, but quite often there are experiences I can’t provide for them here – this is what YouTube does so well.
I know YouTube has a lot of video lessons from teachers on every subject under the sun, but I think the most effective way to use YouTube is not for the lessons, but rather for the shorter – 5 to 10 minute – segments which pique an interest or inspire further exploration.
I’ve learnt though that looking for a video when a question pops up can become a frustrating experience; especially when your child is eager to watch a video on a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis and all you can find are videos which are too complicated or not age appropriate.
How to Use YouTube Effectively for Inquiry-based Learning
So what can we do? Well you need to be prepared with a handful of videos which you know are suitable, not too long and will leave some questions unanswered for your child to explore further; for that you are going to need a YouTube account.
Once you’ve got a YouTube account, you will need to create a channel, this is where you will be able to save videos to watch later. Just like with television, if you don’t create a channel, you’ll have no where to put the videos. (Here’s a quick tutorial on creating a channel for your YouTube account)
Now you can create your playlists. This is where you can save all your related videos. Each time Jack & Sarah start a new inquiry, I create a new playlist. That way I have a selection of videos on hand which I have pre-watched and vetted for suitability.
How to Create a Playlist: Once you have found a suitable video, underneath the video (below the red subscribe button) you’ll see +Add To. Click that and scroll down to Create New Playlist. Your video will be added to your new playlist.
These playlists will show up on your YouTube homepage in the top menu under Playlists.
As an inquiry is unfolding, I like to spend a few minutes at night – or maybe an hour on the weekend – finding appropriate videos to add to the playlist. I like to look for videos which are:
- short – less than 15 minutes
- engaging – I look for ones without too much talking, preferring ones which are more visually engaging
- leave room for wonder – I also like to find videos which don’t necessarily answer all their questions, but rather leave room for Jack & Sarah to ask more questions. So I might show a video of a skyscraper being built in lapsed time but not one explaining how a building is constructed. I would like for them to find this out for themselves. Once they have hypothesised and tested their own theories, then we might look at how a building is made.
Set yourself up a YouTube account and get started making some playlists; it’s simple and a really great way to curate collections of interesting videos. Then next time your child asks what does Big Ben sounds like when it chimes?, or how does a volcano erupt?, you’ll have a some inspiring and engaging videos ready to go.