Teaching with YouTube

Apparently I’m in the 20% of YouTube’s 1.3 billion users who don’t watch it regularly. But I am among the 50 million who upload content to it. Since 2010 I’ve produced just five videos, whose collective 84 minutes is a drop in the ocean compared to the 300 hours of video uploaded each minute. It would take you 60,000 years to watch YouTube’s entire back catalogue.

You’d better get started! Here’s a humble suggestion: my channel has this narrated slideshow on the Elizabethan stage, which gets about 270 views per year. (Woo!) Back in 2010 I was teaching courses on Shakespeare and other playwrights of his era, so I used this recording rather than repeat myself. None of those courses had an enrolment even close to 270.

My successful experiment was inspired by the innovator and provocateur Cathy Davidson, who later said that “If educators can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be.” She’s right. If all we do in the classroom is repeat what we’ve said before, we’re doing our job wrong; we ought to do what we can only do when we gather people in a room. So my students and I work through problems and questions together, informed by our shared knowledge — thanks to their assigned viewing, I should say — of Elizabethan theatre.

This term, I’ve made three more videos that should apply to wider audiences: students trying to figure out how to read and write about literature like a professor.

Why? Whether or not they’re English majors, students struggle to understand just what’s expected of them in English courses. I recently read Literary Learning, and I’m teaching with Digging into Literature: two books that help English professors identify and teach the essential skills of our discipline: reading texts, and quoting them in essays.

Those are the topics of my second and third videos; the first is on avoiding grammatical mistakes, because we could all use a refresher course in writing correctly.

You can find all three videos on my channel — and if you’re keen, linger to learn a little about Shakespeare’s theatre.

A journey of 60,000 years begins with an 84-minute step.

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