Tuesday, April 21, 2009

YouTube EDU--Where is the Good Stuff?

This useful post over at the estimable AHA Today blog highlights a resource that sounds far more useful than it actually is: YouTube - EDU Directory. The EDU Directory brings together all of the programs and channels posted to YouTube from universities. Great, right?

Well, maybe. The content is a mixed bag. A look through the thumbnails and titles of the videos on the EDU landing page tell the story. Most are either sporting events, promotional videos, or videos of public talks or round tables (few of them featuring historians).

And try finding anything. I went to the Brandeis University channel because I listened to a good podcasted lecture from David Hackett Fischer this morning. Brandeis has 67 videos online at YouTube, but their page offers no sorting or guide. Most of the video are not lectures at all but Brandeis promotional pieces and recordings of public talks and concerts around campus. All well and good, but disappointing for the history fan dreaming of finding a full semester of Fischer's lectures. You can search, but the YouTube search function is a blunt instrument, with no advanced search capabilities. So I searched for "history" and found 4 videos--all PR videos from Brandeis. A search for "Fischer" came up with nothing.

The whole EDU portal is like that--there may be some great content (and AHA Today found some) but it is buried beneath the near-random pile of stuff that is YouTube. YouTube would work a lot better if channel owners could provide some categorization, or if it allowed user tagging.

Bottom Line: No matter how good some of the content, YouTube is not currently a good archive for history materials.


Kelly in Kansas said...

YouTube is like the rest of the internet - it takes some good search strategies (I'm still learning those!), some persistence, some tenacity, and some plain old luck. Your point about tagging is a good start and maybe even a project for students in a digital history class . . .

In teaching 20th century US history, I have found some amazing media material on YouTube. Jack Kerouac reading his work is only one example.

Short clips of various historical vents are also quite useful - especially when there is isn't time to have students of any age watch a 45-minute segment on a topic. In other words, the needles in the haystack are sometimes golden!

Elisabeth Grant said...

You make some very valid points about the search limitations and lack of history lectures on YouTube EDU. Hopefully this very good idea, to separate educational videos from other videos, will be better executed in the future.

As it stands now, it may actually be better to search all of YouTube, rather than just the EDU section, for videos to use in the history classroom.

Jonathan Rees has actually compiled a number of good videos he's found, and has written a Perspectives article on Teaching with YouTube. See his collection of videos and a link to his article here: http://moreorlessbunk.wordpress.com/teaching-with-youtube-posts/

Larry Cebula said...

Kelly: True, and I should have made it more clear that there is a ton of good stuff on YouTube--if you can find it. But really every useful clip on YouTube that I have ever found has been because 1) I followed a specific link to that content or 2) I did a focused search for something very specific. You can find good stuff for "Kerouac" but it is way more difficult for "American Revolution."

Elisabeth: Thanks for the link (and for the good work you do at AHA Today!). The link does sort of illustrate my point to Kelly, that you need someone to sort YouTube for you.

With YouTube now owned by Google I cannot understand why the search feature is so terrible. If we could only use a "not" search parameter, or tag videos, it would be so much better.

Bill said...

Larry, how about "tagging" videos with the "favorites" option in YouTube and/or delicious tags?

While agreeing entirely about the search challenge on YouTube, I have had good luck on more specific topics than, say, the American Revolution as a whole. For example, during a break in a survey class which was that day looking at Berkeley in the Sixties, it suddenly occurred to me to do a quick search on names such as "Mario Savio." Five minutes later, I had expanded my lesson plan by including a clip of Savio's fabulous speech: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious...." Wow!

Katrina said...

I find that itunes U is much better than youtube for finding relevant lectures and podcasts.

Larry Cebula said...

Katrina: That is a good tip. i need to explore iTunes U and post about it. Do you have some favorites there that you would like to share?

Katrina said...

Hi Larry - I like the fact that iTunes U has a 'history' category that is easy to browse.
I'm also a fan of the 'Making History' podcast (you can find that on itunes too). I like the New Books in History blog and podcast, but for some reason that doesn't seem to integrate with itunes. I'm lazy and like to just hit refresh in itunes and listen to new episodes of the things I've subscribed to, without having to check for updates elsewhere.