Learn English with YouTube?

Now I know that many large ABE/ESL programs are part of school districts that block YouTube and other streaming video sites, but what if--bear with me a second here--what if YouTube could actually be educationally useful? I know, I know, schools have all sorts of issues with YouTube--mainly that it eats up bandwidth and contains inappropriate content--but are those issues holding teachers and students back from accessing a potentially powerful learning tool?

The reason I bring this subject up is that I was recently introduced to a website called ESLVideo.com which uses YouTube videos to teach English as a Second Language. Teachers who use the site can choose videos and embed them in interactive quizzes that test students on their comprehension of the video.

Here's an example from the ESLVideos website:

So... YouTube videos for English learners... pretty powerful stuff, no?

But many ABE/ESL teachers won't be able to use this in their classrooms or computer labs, because of school district policies that block streaming video.

As more and more audio, video and photographic media are distributed via the Web, is it possible that ABE/ESL programs are contributing to, rather than working to erode, the digital divide between middle-class mainstream society and more marginalized ABE/ESL students? When we block Facebook, YouTube, chatrooms, etc. (and yes, I know they are blocked for good reasons) in our schools, are we in effect saying "these new technologies are not for you"... since many students only have Web access at school?

It's not a question I have an answer for, but it's one that I think deserves discussion. "Open access" vs. "educational use only" issues have haunted the field of educational technology as long as there has been an educational technology field! But the stakes get higher and higher as our society becomes ever more reliant on technology for meeting everyday needs. Give it some thought and post your answer in a comment!

Blog Category: