I'm ready for my close-up, Professor DeMille...

Here's an academic dare for you: would you put your course up on YouTube? According to this article from Inside Higher Education at least one professor is willing to give it shot, having created a class that will, at least for the first half, be filmed and posted on YouTube. You can check it out here.

There are some interesting ideas raised by this type of course. YouTube is certainly a growing part of our culture, though we might be over-emphasizing just how big a part it is. Last term I spent a considerable amount of time talking with my students about Lonelygirl15 and the drama surrounding her YouTube videos (not sure what this is? Here's the first Lonelygirl15 video - you can watch the rest from there). Taken in by articles in the New York Times and other major news sources about the popularity of LonelyGirl15, I entered my class confident in the assumption that my students were rushing back to their dorm rooms to see what the latest YouTube offerings were.

Not a single student out of 70 had heard of Lonelygirl15, and as is only possible in the mathematics of student apathy, even fewer actually cared. But I pressed on, confident that we were exploring something they'd find useful to know about. But as the term went on, I had to ask myself was I just one more professor (with an admitted desire to study technology) sucked in by a gimmick?

Recently I was asked by so members of my institution to explain why I don't use Blackboard. I had a whole host of reasons, most of which boil down to Blackboard's ability to make everyone who uses it lazier. There's an appropriate way to use that technology, but me posting my lecture notes doesn't seem to be it. Too many students come to rely on that as a means of keeping up with everythng, and hence, they can't or won't keep up with anything themselves.

With technologies like YouTube, the question is a different one: is this technology so important that it should warrant the focus we sometimes give it? As a professor, I'm often tempted to run wherever my interests lead. Sometimes that's a good thing; sometimes not. I'll be curious to see how the YouTube course goes, and I'm sure I'll be posting about it again.


3 Responses to “I'm ready for my close-up, Professor DeMille...”
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ash said...

yeah, i have some similar misgivings about YouTube. i think "popularity" is frequently confused with cultural significance or influence. i wondered about this when the CNN-YouTube presidential debare was being discussed this summer. i thought (and still think), "yeah, great--in theory..." but if you spend any time looking at the level of discourse within the YouTube "community" (another term i think gets frequently misapplied to new technologies), it's not--IMHO--all that enlightened or useful or relevant. i think YouTube is great, but if you ask me, there is too much believing the hype going on when people (esp. journalists) try to assess its actual usefulness vs. its "promise."

September 6, 2007 at 11:37 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

You've hit a lot of points I've been thinking about lately. Part of it is no doubt the desire to find a new job driving the desire to do a bit more research, but I also completed a book review recently and struck a sentence about how often the study of technology relies on trotting out straw-men versions of old theoretical constructs.

Your questioning of how "community" gets used is a great example of this. In the review I ultimately decided to strike a line about how it was only a matter of time before someone trotted out Benedict Anderson to let us know that with technology X we were creating a nation defined by machine use, but it seemed a long reach for a joke.

Now, though, I think some sort of provocation in the right place might be worth considering.

September 6, 2007 at 1:01 PM
amelie said...

This YouTube course has "future faculty publication" written all over it.

September 6, 2007 at 5:54 PM