There has been a vast collection of educational video material on YouTube for years now, mostly under the YouTube EDU brand but even on TeacherTube as well as the open YouTube. However all these suffer from ads in the margins, irrelevant (and irreverant) comments and other distractions. Now Google has cleaned up the act with a new service YouTube for Schools that filters out the distractions and only allows the educational content to shine through. The idea is that schools and colleges can sign up, create an account and then fill their own channel with the material they want to use.
This is a strategic move by Google to help YouTube become accepted in schools that have so far blocked the service completely. YouTube for Schools allows schools to in effect censor what YouTube content students can access in school and teachers can create playlists and select from all the educational content without seeing the wilder side. An article on the Open Culture blog quotes a YouTube representative:
“We’ve been hearing from teachers that they want to use the vast array of educational videos on YouTube in their classroom, but are concerned that students will be distracted by the latest music video or a video of a cute cat, or a video that might not be appropriate for students,” writes YouTube Product Manager Brian Truong. “While schools that completely restrict access to YouTube may solve this distraction concern, they also limit access to hundreds of thousands of educational videos on YouTube that can help bring photosynthesis to life, or show what life was like in ancient Greece.”
A welcome initiative though the downside is that the students can probably access the full distraction of YouTube on their own devices anyway. Also, somewhere along the line we still need to discuss issues like attention, distraction, source criticism and information retrieval so that they can find the good resources for themselves despite the distractions. We need to be careful of the line between benevolent protection and censorship.