Bastrop ISD is piloting a savvy 21st Century social media learning program, YouTube EDU, to enhance the educational experience.
The initiative will run through the end of this school year, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
On April 15, the district announced that students in grades K-12 could access the education-specific version of the popular media streaming site YouTube. The Statesman also noted that students grade 9-12 would also “be able to view Twitter and Facebook posts from faculty members through the pilot program, providing teachers with an additional channel of communication with their students.”
Donald Williams, Bastrop ISD Executive Director of Community Services & Communications told Breitbart Texas that the intention is to make the program permanent. He said, “Overall, we have received lots of positive feedback. Teachers are excited to have an additional tool to use in the classroom.”
The role of technology in the classroom is the marvel of modern times in how it informs, entertains and brings a lesson to life. However, it also raises concerns over internet safety and privacy issues, especially when YouTube EDU notes on their website that once activated by a school, students “at any grade level” are able to access the content.
Breitbart Texas spoke with YouTube spokeswoman Zayna Aston to learn more about social media safeguards and also, about the content. Aston defined the program as “a platform of education channel content providers in the US and worldwide” that includes 130 colleges and universities. She stated that YouTube EDU services an international, and not only an American, audience. Their global partners also drive their content offerings.
On the website, YouTube EDU highlights that they are teacher-friendly, aligning with common educational standards; however, since Texas rejected the Common Core standards Breitbart Texas asked Aston about Common Core content integration into YouTube EDU.
She told Breitbart Texas, “we’ve also worked with a group of teachers to put together playlists of partner videos that align with the Common Core standards. So far we’ve curated over 300 playlists that are broken out by subject–Math, Science, Social Studies and English Language Arts–and by age. All of these playlists are viewable through YouTube for Schools and can be accessed at YouTube.com/teachers.”
Some of the Common Core content offerings are Steve Spangler Science, Khan Academy, Edutopia, Share My Lesson, Hooked on Science, and Common Sense Media. Anyone can pull down the New York State Common Core math modules through grade 8.
Bastrop ISD’s Williams told Breitbart Texas that “Khan Academy is being used frequently as part of some new additions to our middle school math curriculum.”
The district is not currently tracking what education channels teachers and students are using, Williams said. He also indicated he was aware that once the district turned on the social media service, students could access the K-12 channels.
That is 850,000 channels created by more than 1,000 partners from around the world, the YouTube spokeswoman noted. Among them are content provider Listen & Read Along. They offered American History, Part 229 – Bush 1st Term: Enron, No Child Left Behind and Part 231 – Bush – Katrina – Iraq Surge – Mortgage Mess. The cyber-boxed set crescendoed in Part 232 where blaming Bush gave way to the Great Recession, a sudden segue into the history of slavery in America, the women’s suffrage movement and a stopover with Hillary Clinton that ended with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Meanwhile, the President Obama read-along collection included the rosier titled “Give America a Raise,” “Raise the Minimum Wage,” and “Restoring Opportunity for All.” That was just in February.
Listen & Read’s English Language Learner (ELL), the dual-purposed “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning” was a teachable viewing moment to better one’s English fluency while brushing up on life threatening hazardous gases.
Other primary and secondary grade level offerings included The History Channel, PBS, and the Smithsonian Channel. There is also FORA.TV, makers of: Freakonomics: What Prostitutes Can Teach about Economics and Office Sex: Just Part of Being Human?
TED-ed has two interesting advisors. The first is Sal Khan. His Khan Academy received a $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010. The second is Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Gates Foundation doled out $150 million in grants to push the Common Core.
According to YouTube spokeswoman, YouTube for Schools houses YouTube EDU and they invite teachers to join the global classroom. Interestingly, the only content they claim to limit is access to non-educational content. They mean the stuff on the regular YouTube.
This is not the regular YouTube. This is a place where digital citizenry defines a culture where all good cyber-citizens are digitally literate, uphold digital health and wellness, have a digital footprint and travel with a digital passport.
All it takes to be a part of the 21st Century EDU-party is to come BYOD (bring your own device). That device is a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. The YouTube EDU tutorial “What is Digital Citizenship?,” informed students that back in 2010, the U.S. Department of Education declared that students must be “active, creative, knowledgeable, and ethical participants in our globally networked society.”
The video also cited the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), claiming that in April 2011, the AAP called for “digital literacy for both students and their parents” in a clinical report. A trip to the pediatrician isn’t just about a “well child” visit anymore.
Interestingly, Bastrop ISD is not the only digital citizen district in Texas. Katy ISD is up texting it forward at all grade levels. According to a post by Katy ISD digital learning coordinator Jay Sonnenburg on the YouTubeEDU Common Classroom, community for the common sense educators’ page, he touted the district’s requisite Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) digital citizenship policy.
“Our thought was,” he blogged, “that we would be able to take a whole-community approach and teach more than 60,000 students from grades K-12 important lessons about safety, responsibility, and community using Common Sense Media’s resources, all in one week.
All admirable goals except that Common Sense Media’s K-12 Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum is aligned, most notably to the corresponding K-12 Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards, according to their own website. This would mean that Common Core is coming into Texas classrooms through aligned content.
Likely, Bastrop and Katy ISDs are not alone. Williams told Breitbart Texas, “we were aware of a number districts throughout Texas implementing YouTube EDU.”
Social media in the classroom is catching on in the Lone Star state. Interestingly, the Statesman reported that in a 2013 survey conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson, 41 percent of the approximate 8,000-teacher survey field cited a use of social media in a professional context, to mixed reviews.
“The results describing the effectiveness of social media as an educational tool presented a bit of a paradox,” the report stated.
“On the one hand, 59 percent of faculty members agreed that the interactive nature of online and mobile technologies create better learning environments. Conversely, 56 percent of the teachers surveyed also agreed that online and mobile technologies are more distracting than helpful to students for academic work,” according to the Babson and Pearson joint findings.
It is the same multi-national conglomerate that has branched out into K-12 ADHD diagnostics and job applicant assessments as Breitbart Texas has reported. This is not exactly an independent, objective study.
Worse, Pearson’s Social Media for Teaching and Learning annual survey states that they are in an “ongoing collaboration with thought leaders from such organizations as the Babson Survey Research Group.”
Back at Bastrop ISD, Williams reported generally good reviews on the piloted social media program, so far. “We have had some issues where teachers found YouTube content that they were unable to share with students because it had not yet been approved by YouTube EDU.”
He noted that the district is working to “develop a process to expedite student access in cases like this.” However, it seems that the only watchdog guarding the content gate is YouTube EDU, according to Williams. He told Breitbart Texas that YouTube EDU screens material to “assure educationally appropriate and relevant content” and not Bastrop ISD.
How this social media program works out for Bastrop and any other ISD remains to be seen but social media is not the issue. YouTube EDU and the technological 21st Century learning is not the issue either. Although for Texas and those other states who rejected or are working on dumping the federal mandate, a platform piled cyber-sky high with well-intentioned digital districts may well inadvertently be bringing with it the Common Core BYOD.
Common Core, this is the issue.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom