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YouTube lessons

CHOOSE THE SUBJECT Know all that you want to about it through YouTube

With the growing reach and popularity of the Internet, YouTube has much to offer learners. Besides a mind-boggling range of topics, tutoring is on a one-to-one basis. And it’s for free, writes GEETA PADMANABHAN

A techie group told me about The Khan Academy. “Check out the Salman Khan YouTube lessons,” they said. “This Salman engages students across time-zones without ever appearing on the screen.” I logged on. has impressive stats. Some 77,331,379 lessons delivered, a library of over 2,400 videos covering everything from arithmetic and physics to finance, and history, with 180 practice exercises. There are brain teasers, tips on the credit crisis. GMAT problems? Check. IIT JEE? Check. Plate tectonics? Check. It’s a growing collection of very popular free lessons.
Khan Academy

With an impeccable Harvard and MIT educational background, Khan developed his tutoring hobby when a younger cousin was having trouble with sixth-grade math. It was a hit, requests grew, and tired of repeating the explanations for family and friends, he created videos and posted them on YouTube. These morphed into Khan Academy, a one-man show of videos posted from his bedroom.

Each clip lasts a digestible 10+ minutes. His disembodied voice (he never appears on camera) thinks aloud and writes the equations and arguments in differently-coloured script. “It feels like someone’s over your shoulder talking in your ear, as opposed to someone at the blackboard who is distant from you,” said Khan, once a “California hedge-fund manager by day and math geek by night,” but a full-time YouTube lesson-developer now.

Khan’s “voice-in-the-head” style of teaching may be a big draw, but the medium itself has many built-in pluses. It’s an attractive concept: short lessons that can be played over and over with P-in-P. A clever teacher can use YouTube lessons to advantage, starting from getting the students to listen. She can put together a playlist of YouTube videos on a single subject for continuous viewing, create quiz videos for instant feedback, make a “test review” video that students can study the night before the big test, and embed quizzes on a class blog or site so students can watch a video and complete the quiz at the same time. She can assign watching/creating videos as homework, giving herself the much-needed time to spark discussions in class. Completed assignments/discussions can be uploaded on the class YouTube channel, for future reference. YouTubers can implement something teachers have long recognised — there are many ways to explain a topic and there is more than one way to test student understanding. Imagine logging on to four different videos, all explaining the concept of number patterns in different ways. It is 1:1 tutoring.

Unlimited content, all free ( Some of the lessons are downright substandard, but you wouldn’t want to miss lectures from MIT, UC Berkeley and, of course, Khan Academy on differential calculus, quantum physics and introduction to Computer Science. Lectures from world-known teachers are accessible anywhere, anytime. For English usage, expressions and grammar, you’d certainly want to listen to Jennifer at JenniferESL. She gets my vote.
Some minuses

With more Internet users and broadband, YouTube and other video-clip (Google Video, Vimeo) lessons will become popular. But don’t discount the downside. Sound quality is sometimes poor, pronunciation and slang could put you off. Choose your videos well, and encourage teachers to create content that is tailored to your particular student community. There’ll be a big “thank you” from rural students when they discover the English learning possibilities on YouTube.

But the very reach of these free YouTube lessons should get us thinking. “Any video clip that shows “how” stuff works is usually better than just plain text,” said Datla V Reddy, GM @ KU Education Digital India, a U.S.-based company focussed on K-12 Curriculum Development, Learning Management Systems and Teaching Services. “It ensures that students get to see it visually, allows for better understanding and recall.” Some of them, like those from Khan Academy have achieved cult status, but should they be the sole way of learning? “They might blunt holistic learning as videos are usually one-dimensional and not interactive. Also in an uncontrolled environment like YouTube, there is no control on the educational accuracy of the video uploaded and hence may lead to occasional wrong learning,” he warned.

For a video lesson:

* Decide on a particular topic that your class would enjoy.

* Find YouTube URLs for videos on the topic.

* If you do not have an Internet connection in class, go to Keepvid, download the video to your computer for use in the class.

* Introduce the video in class. Distribute a vocabulary hand-out. Make sure to include the URL of the YouTube video.

* Watch the videos together. In a computer lab, students can pair up and watch videos repeatedly. Students can then work on the quiz sheet in small groups or in pairs.

* For homework: In groups of four to five students, students should find a short video of their own to present to the class.


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