YouTube and Education (Week 10)

Over the course of my blog so far I have explored how technology has expanded the classroom, from noticeably changing the physical geography of the classroom to taking the classroom environment and attempting to replicate it digitally through MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. The difference between this and my other posts is that in both previously discussed conceptions of the “classroom of the future,” interaction between the student and the teacher was still central to the existence of both mediums. Online classroom still maintain some level of teacher-student interaction, through both text and Skype-like video services. In the “classroom of the future” the teacher still facilitates the discussion, even if the lecture alone is no longer the central focus.

But what happens when the teacher isn’t a professional at all, just someone with information they feel compelled to share? The first ever YouTube video, the somewhat infamous “Me at the zoo,” was the most basic form of this phenomenon in my opinion. Just someone with information about something and a desire to disseminate that information to as wide of an audience as possible. If you look at the principles of a MOOC, which are outlined in the graphic from my previous post, and compare it to the objectives of YouTube video there are a number of broad parallels that can be made between the two. Open [i.e. free] content, the creation of learning communities united by common interests, open registration, and a self-paced approach are all hallmarks of both YouTube and online courses. They are also the standards for the conception of the “classroom of the future” I discussed in my first few posts; the creation of an open intellectual environment where information is disseminated freely.

The development of an education community on YouTube is the product of  much precedent. The first time I heard of YouTube was in a Newsweek article from 2007 I had been assigned for my 7th grade English class. We had to debate the major contention of the article; whether or not YouTube was a passing fad or a new social media staple. Most of the class concurred with the article, which contested that YouTube was a mere flash in the pan. I didn’t know what to think. Hell, I didn’t even have a MySpace at that point. Seven years later, however, and that cluelessness has been replaced with a complete YouTube obsession.

YouTube was revolutionary in that it was the first platform designed exclusively for sharing video. Until that point video hosting was too expensive and homemade video quality was sub-par at best. What started as a video sharing site for clips of Janet Jackson at the Superbowl and other people’s pets has become a host for all kinds of corporate and amateur content, including educational content. Certain channels and individual YouTubers gain cult-like followings for everything from makeup tutorials to book reviews to chemistry 101. Wikipedia even has a list of YouTube personalities. The concept of fame in the digital age has never been more relative.

Two of my favorite YouTubers John and Hank Green, otherwise known by the channel name the VlogBrothers, were perhaps the first to rally a community of fans around their creative endeavors. The difference being that the Green brothers used their internet fame to crowd fund charity projects and to organize events like VidCon and the Open Education Conference. Their side channel CrashCourse offers instructional videos on chemistry, biology, psychology, history and literature.

crash course

What I like about CrashCourse is that it doesn’t claim to be a substitute for a classroom education, but rather offers itself as a useful tool or accessory to classroom learning. I can imagine a high school student typing into a search engine “what is photosynthesis?” or “To Kill a Mockingbird summary” and being directed to a CrashCourse video. CrashCourse and other educational YouTube channels represent a change in the way we access secondary education. Instead of being the recipients of topical information obtained through an online encyclopedia article or a lecture, educational YouTube videos are designed to make the viewer feel as if they are part of the conversation.

Not to devalue the importance of reading, of course. The ability to read critically is still an essential skill, but the question has become, “read what?”




Week 9: Sound Project Proposal

I grew up listening to talk radio. Every car ride two or from every ballet lesson, martial arts practice, family dinner at my cousins’ in southern Illinois was accessorized by NPR. I was also a natural storyteller with a gift for description and pacing. I understood how to thread a narrative intuitively, before even really being taught about beginning, middle and end. I dove into fiction of all kinds like a glutton for words. Books and stories were my haven.

What have always struck me the most, however, are personal narratives. My favorite public radio segments are the ones that allow me glimpses into other people’s lives and experiences. However, it’s not just the stories themselves but the way the teller chooses to convey them. How do you go about revealing something deeply personal while also making it digestible for a larger audience?

I thought it only natural to choose to use my sound project to tell a story, much as I began my first blog post by sharing an experience in order to introduce the reader to my focal topic. I want to use my personal experiences with technology, education and information in order to support my argument for why information and information technology is so important to the future of education and to the nature of information gathering.

I had considered doing interviews with library technicians or professors here at Miami, but I wasn’t sure I wanted more than one voice in my project. I know that multiple narrators and multiple narratives are what made “Reading Stories” so compelling. In order to convey why it is so difficult to narrate a story, Rosenthal almost necessarily had to include multiple narrators for the sake of comparison. As my creative writing teachers would always preach, “Show, don’t tell.”

The difficult part is going to be “showing” using my voice as well as my writing, especially if I choose to only use my words and my experiences. I’m hoping to approach the script like a good piece of opinion journalism. First, the personal narrative that appeals to the pathos as well as serves to introduce the topic. Then I have to include evidence, both quantitative and qualitative. The qualitative will come from interviews I’ve read from education officials, members of the OET, students, and teachers etc. mixed with my own conclusions about why information technology is so relevant to the future of education. The quantitative will come from data I’ve collected during my research about things like the cost of installing a national broadband network for all public schools. Finally, I have to summarize my topic by again conveying its importance. I want to accompany each factual point with a thread from my own personal narrative about my experience with research, education and technology.

Week 8: Sonic Literacy

How do the authors define sonic literacy

Comstock and Hocks first define sonic literacy as “the ability to identify, define, situate, construct, manipulate, and communicate our personal and cultural soundscapes.” They go on to describe sonic literacy in more technical terms, “as a critical process of listening to and creating embodied knowledge, of understanding our soundscapes as cultural artifacts, of achieving resonance with particular audiences, and of developing the technological literacies involved in recording, amplifying, layering, and mixing sound.”

What do Comstock and Hocks mean by critical sonic literacy

According to Comstock and Hocks, “recognizing both resonances and dissonances as cultural and individual are key to what we consider critical sonic literacy.” It is the “act of focusing on a particular sound” in the “pop video” of modern daily life. In order to critically analyze sound the listener has to create a negative space in order to truly isolate different sounds, like a deep bass or the sound of a particular instrument.

What is analytical literacy?

Analytical literacy is “where one begins to notice sound as structure that includes rhythm, as well as content.” Such sonic structures are created by modern audio mixing techniques that digitally replicate, or mirror, the reality of a certain sound. Analytical literacy is the ability to recognize that frame or structure that holds the mirror or lens to reality, and therefore makes the listener more acutely aware of it. 

The article uses the example of the modern tape recorder, introduced in North America the 1940s. It was apparently referred to as a “sound mirror” in that it “reflects an image of sound to the listener.” In plain terms, it is not the sound itself as we would hear it originally produced in real time. Rather a recording is a representation or a reflection of that original sound that bares its own critical reading; analytical literacy.

What is at least one possible benefit they argue results from doing sound projects? 

Doing sound projects and practicing sonic literacy facilitates better print writing. According to Comstock, writing for narration has made her more aware of tone and pacing. Understanding of one’s own voice can only improve the quality and realism of a narrative. 

They argue that “it’s still rare to hear an adult female voice over in an American feature film” What do you make of this assertion and section?

The assertion is, of course, a true one. When one imagines a stereotypical movie preview, the voice we automatically hear in our heads intoning “In a world” or “One man to save them all” is male. In fact it’s deeply baritone, authoritative and resonant. We seem to equate a male voice with authority. Even in films about women and marketed toward women, such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “Romeo and Juliet,” the voice over is male. In the “Pride and Prejudice” trailer the voice over sounded almost condescending, as if belittling the concerns of the characters in Jane Austen’s most familiar work. The article describes male voices as “dominating” and I would have to agree. Especially in trailers for softer, lighter films the voice of the powerful male narrator is the main focus and the voices of women and children seem muffled by comparison.



In-Class Writing About Sonic Literacy

One of my primary questions from last night’s reading assignment, “Voice in the Cultural Soundscape,” was why sonic literacy is not emphasized more in both primary and secondary education. Musical and technical production are bonafide fields of study. Students create media projects with voice overs, host student radio and create podcasts and YouTube videos. So what constitutes one as a hobby and the other as a kind of literacy worthy of academic study? How is creating a voice over narrative for a YouTube video different than narrating a documentary, for example, if both are serious, thoughtful, passionate and fact-based projects? What makes one person a “voice artist” and another an amateur with a microphone?

I felt the article never really addressed this question. It discussed sonic literacy from an academic point of view but literacy of all kinds isn’t purely academic or intellectual.