YouTube has become a major component within the lives of those who spend time online and it is shocking to see how quickly that has happened. I feel that it is a resource, among other internet based resources, that can fit into any aspect of learning in some fashion.

Both Michael Wesch and Alec Couros provide a variety of excellent examples in their videos. This ranges from individual learning of very specific topics all the way to formal education. However, as Alec states, this integration of technology in education raises two quite serious questions:

If you can google it, why teach it?

If you can do this, why even have teachers?

On the self-guided instruction side of the spectrum you have learning that is directly focused around a certain skill or topic. What we are doing with our learning projects would illustrate this and learning to play the guitar or changing the oil in your car are specific examples. When we learn in this way, we definitely do acquire skills that will benefit us in some way. There is a wealth of information on the internet, free at that, that allows us to learn about pretty much any topic that we want to. So in this context there are many benefits to using technology when learning individually. This would include readily available resources, resource manipulation (multiple viewings of the same instruction, slowing down or pausing a process, breaking the process down), and learning at one’s own pace.

Also, there are significant risks related to individual learning using YouTube and similar online resources. One of them I spoke about in another post that I have recently written, Fancy Firewood. A lot of the time the resources used on the internet do not identify the learning curve that is involved with an in-depth topic and it is difficult to identify the complexity. The other problem is that because information and resources are so readily available online, being self taught doesn’t allow us to see what we don’t know. With no mechanism or guidance, like that of a teacher or mentor, to show us this, it becomes difficult to ensure that we are, in fact, getting the whole picture.

When looking at the other end of the spectrum, technology enhances the learning of those obtaining a formal education of some type. An example of this type of learning would be going to university to become a teacher,  an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor. This formal education includes learning which is broader and more complex. It typically includes multiple subjects, most of which need to be learned in much more depth. YouTube technology and other electronic resources effect this in a different way. The internet is no longer the main source of information, but becomes more of a tool that assists in the process of learning.

In order to accomplish this, there continues to be the need for a formal structure that includes teachers with the necessary knowledge supported by  curricula and testing methods. This ensures that the necessary minimum knowledge and skills have been communicated and learned. Finally, some form of certification needs to be issued so that the student can easily demonstrate they have met the required standards and the person hiring them can be confident that they have.

In the end, there is still and will always be a need for teachers and some form of education system because there will always be a requirement for a certain level of proficiency. Technology will continue to play an integral part of both the individual and formal aspects or learning.

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