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There is no denying that we are living in a digital age, and that applies to adults as well as kids. Students are increasingly exposed to digital technology as part of every facet of their lives, which means that educators must decide whether to embrace or shy away from that fact. Educators are slowly but surely harnessing the power of digital resources like YouTube, changing the landscape of the classroom.

In 2015, YouTube launched YouTube Kids, a version of the video hosting site designed for children. The site is becoming an increasingly popular resource for educators, with many teachers embracing the technology as a valuable tool to enhance student learning. In fact, the Indiana Department of Education recently began testing out a new model called the "flipped classroom", in which students watch videos at home and time in class traditionally spent on lectures is used for students to complete assignments with the help of the teacher. Educators who have embraced this new model say that it allows students to work at their own pace and get individual help on assignments. The model is not without its critics. Some educators say that replacing in-class teaching with YouTube videos is akin to relying solely on a textbook or movies to teach. 

Regardless of which side of the argument educators fall on, there is little doubt that this new model of teaching requires the right teacher. Even teachers who embrace the flipped classroom agree that it is not ideal for every teacher or every student. For the flipped classroom to be effective, teachers must not rely solely on content delivered via YouTube; the material must be supplemented by effective assignments and discussions in class. Students must also have access to the internet, which may pose a problem for underprivileged students. Other have expressed concerns over content. While YouTube Kids purports to block material that is not suitable for children, some videos that are not appropriate for younger audiences remain. Ultimately, educators must use YouTube responsibly and ensure that students are accessing safe, appropriate material that enhances, rather than hinders, their educational experience.

Research suggests that students are embracing the digital learning model as well. 
A recent study found that 78% of students access course materials with a digital device, with 61% of students responding that more interactive homework helps them learn the material better. 
Other studies found similar results; a Pearson study conducted in 2018 found that 60% of people aged fourteen to twenty-three prefer learning through digital platforms like YouTube, and 55% of respondents reported that YouTube was a part of their educational experience. Perhaps students are simply embracing a technology they are already familiar and comfortable with as valuable learning tools.

Digital technology is also changing the way that teachers engage with each other. Platforms like YouTube Kids makes it easier to quickly upload and share resources with each other. Teachers can locate effective videos and quickly share them with other educators. Similarly, instructors can upload their own lectures and share them freely with each other.

On-Demand Education
Many educators are opting for a middle ground between completely digitized lectures and traditional lecturing, using YouTube content to supplement lessons. Some teachers deliver traditional classroom lectures or instruction but record them and upload the video to YouTube so that students can access them later. This kind of on-demand model allows students to re-visit a lecture at their leisure to review any material they may be unclear about. Perhaps counter-intuitively, students often miss key concepts because they are too busy taking thorough notes. Knowing that lectures are available for review later influences students to take note only of major points, freeing up their attention and making them more likely to engage with the content of the lecture. Students can also learn at their own pace, without feeling pressured to keep up with peers who may connect to the material more quickly in class.

Digital resources like YouTube Kids are providing students with opportunities to take greater control over their own learning. Teachers can guide students towards videos and channels that speak to their unique interests and use the content available on YouTube to tailor their lessons to their individual students. If a student has a keen interest in music, for example, the instructor can find content that fits into the lesson plan while exciting the student.

For educators who are not as comfortable creating and uploading their own content, YouTube offers a treasure trove of educational videos that can be used to supplement lessons. Many nationally-renowned museums and educational institutions operate their own YouTube channels with educational content. TED talks by influential leaders in many different industries are available for free online and can be valuable supplements or tools to spur classroom discussions.
The end result is that teachers have access to a wide range of resources that might not otherwise be available to them without the internet.

Teachers who don’t want to use YouTube as a major component of their course might find it useful in other ways. Short clips from documentaries or educational programming can provide useful visual context for lessons. The BBC and other broadcasters routinely upload content to YouTube. It might also serve as a reward for students. Rewarding a class for a week’s worth of good behavior with a fun and educational YouTube video might serve as a useful and effective tool. 

There’s no question that nearly every facet of our lives is becoming more and more digital. The good news is that students have grown up with the technology that is being used to change the way education is delivered. Our students understand the technology, and they feel comfortable using it to supplement or aid their education. Of course, the use of technology like YouTube Kids in the classroom requires responsible execution. Nobody is advocating for complete reliance on digital technology as a pedagogical model. But with thoughtful use, digital technology can be a powerful tool to enhance student learning and provide more engaging, dynamic learning opportunities.

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