Build Literacy With YouTube Annotation Planners

I don't know what the deal is with kids these days. They don't want to make videos and do drawings online where they can put what they make into a virtual context.

Okay. Maybe that's a tall order, and maybe were not there, yet. That's why I decided to meet my senior pop culture students where they were – a mix of paper and online research. Participation went from a few nods and groans over the making-a-video choice to 100 percent in favor of a paper-based annotation planner.

Since YouTube holds so many opportunities to build literacy, I focused the activity on the annotation feature. It's in the comments and links of a video that I thought my students would find practice in analyzing point of view by pretending that they are writing annotations for the videos they chose. It was a great way to let students choose lesson content and guide the discussion. 

youtube, educational technology, google docs

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My seniors did excellent work. The topic choices ranged from 1950's sexist TV commercials to job training videos. The annotations focused on main ideas and comments on issues that make us think twice these days. For example, one commercial from the '50s implied that wives should aspire to make great coffee for their husbands. We had plenty to discuss.

Before the Millennial Amateurs

When I was a senior in high school, we had a group project with the option of making a video. It was 1998, and the average household didn't have the video and audio recording equipment it does today. But we made it work, and I was given the directing and editing tasks.

I wanted music on the video, but my procrastination was acting up. It was the night before, so all I could think to do was have video camera audio on the right and the music audio on the left. I used RCA cables to run audio from a CD player and video/audio from the camera to a VCR. I was no stranger to no-budget multi-track recording, so this concept immediately came to mind.

Our English teacher loved it. The different songs we chose worked well in our pulp play of favorite characters and random scenes of stuff we teenagers thought worked great to transition the mood and support the tone. We got an A.

I told this story because I have struggled as a teacher to motivate students to make videos. Now that each student has video cameras, audio recorders, editing apps, and collaboration apps in their pockets, they don't experience the novelty like we did. It's as if making a video to show what you can do is too common place.

Focusing Expectations

Although I don't believe in forcing my students to do activities that would make them unnecessarily anxious, I understand that they are kids and can't see all of the opportunities in the context of adulthood. That's why it's a teacher's and parent's job to encourage them, and sometimes require them, to pursue opportunities regardless of the resistance.

My approach to learning is to understand why the learner is resisting. In the case of making videos, I realize that there are a lot of reasons. Perhaps students don't practice making videos of themselves. Maybe they don't see the value in listening to what they sound like or look like when they speak.

I can see them improving their literacies by making videos and doing more with them, but I also recognize the need to take it one step at a time and support the diversity of learners in my classroom.

The Activity

This post came from an idea for a performance task assessment that uses the concept of video annotation. The goal was to allow students to use YouTube to make decisions related to the production of a video. It also gave them practice using skills like evaluation, clarification, and comparison, to name a few. By design, the activity reinforced the importance of planning.

google docs, youtube, digital literacy