Google has launched a YouTube for Schools service to make educationally relevant videos available for use in school. It's a great idea, but for it to actually be used in schools, the authorities will have to modify their filters to allow teachers to access at least this portion of YouTube.
Most schools have some type of filters in place designed to block pornography and other inappropriate material, and it's common for these filters to also block social media, including all of Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
It's not that kids are staying away from social media just because they can't use it at school. They're using it at home, at friends' houses and -- via their mobile devices -- anywhere they happen to be. Their non-school hours are filled with use of technology and social media. Maybe schools ought to put a sign at the front gate that reads, "You are now leaving the 21st century."
Completely blocking domains like Facebook.com or YouTube.com denies kids access to some incredibly useful material. There are thousands of Facebook pages dedicated to a wide variety of subjects that can be used in schools. If you search for "Facebook education," you'll find links to numerous ways that Facebook and other social media can help teachers supplement their existing materials. One article that comes up in that search, "100 Ways You Should be Using Facebook in Your Classroom" lists some incredibly useful projects like encouraging kids to follow news feeds relevant to course material, share book reviews, practice a foreign language, create their own news source, keep up with politicians, post class notes, brainstorm and lots more.
Even more than Facebook, Google's YouTube can be an incredibly useful resource in school. Sure, there are plenty of inappropriate videos on the user-supplied service. But there is also a wealth of resources from a very wide variety of sources, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, UC Berkeley, PBS, TEDTalks and the amazing educational videos from Kahn Academy, which are used in schools throughout the world. You can find some of this material -- along with tips on how to use YouTube in the classroom -- at
Because many schools simply ban YouTube, these incredible resources are not available for use in the classroom. Kids can watch them at home or on the way to school via the mobile devices, but not on school computers. Preventing distractions such as videos of cats dancing on a piano or keeping kids from age-inappropriate videos in school makes sense, but not at the expense of preventing kids and teachers from accessing a vast library of educationally sound videos.
As part of the launch of "
", Google is encouraging schools to open up their filters so that teachers can access
. Hopefully school administrators will see the value in this and find ways to unblock at least this portion of YouTube.