Anyone who has read the articles I have posted on this site over the years will now how I feel about the filtering service that schools are subjected to when they go online. It's no secret that I think it's draconian and too rigid.
For years I have bemoaned the fact that we could not access YouTube videos in school that could help with pupils learning during a lesson, or a topic, and that the only way around was to log into the local authority portal, enter a staff username and password, and then be granted a few more access 'privaleges' (I hate that word. Makes us sound like we can't be trusted) including access to YouTube for a maximum of around 20 minutes.
It was a useless workaround. It partially worked on one machine hooked up to an IWB, broadcasting to the class, but was impossible to do on 30 laptops in a class when you wanted the kids to study a clip.
Finally, after much discussion, pleading, begging, and griping, I finally convinced the senior management at school to allow YouTube to be unblocked. Of course we set rules: it was for use *IN* lessons, it was *NOT* an invitation for pupils to go looking for their favourite funny clip, or music video, or other stuff they *might* do at home. We would limit their use to appropriate videos by setting up a channel.
The channel solution was (and is) perfect. From the school website, the pupils click the YouTube button and it takes them to our channel. That channel contains "playlists" of videos we have selected for them to see. Playlists that could help with projects (we have 'Kodu' and 'Scratch' programming videos currently), playlists for lessons (upper school have a playlist for their fable work coming up next term). We also provide links to other channels that are useful or safe for them - we've linked to the 2SimpleTV channel where they can see help videos for using their software, and the BBCEarth channel where they can watch nature programs.
What I also like about a channel, is that for a pupil to view a non-recommended / approved video they have to have deliberatly searched for it. There is no chance of 'accidentally' coming across it. To be viewing something they should not, they must have deliberately ignored our acceptable use policy. This makes sanctions for such behaviour clear cut.
We launched our school YouTube channel in Janaury, as part of our refocus on the use of web tools and Social Media (we also launched a Facebook page for parents, and promoted our Twitter, Vimeo, Flickr accounts, and Amazon wishlist to them too). The channel worked well. Staff began to request videos to be added to it for use in lessons, pupils in the computer club were using the programming videos at home to help them with their projects. It was a great example of how to encourage true anytime, anywhere, 24/7 learning.
...and then during half term I visited the channel and noticed something different;
Top of the right hand side. Notice it? It's... it's... it's an advert! They hadn't appeared on the page before, yet suddenly there they were. A whacking great advert catching your attention (especially the ones that play a video). An advert that the school, as the channel creator, had no control over. An advert that is visible to any visitor to the channel - like (for instance) our pupils.
I'm uncomfortable with that. I'm not happy recommending a service to parents / pupils that then pushes adverts to them. I don't like adverts. I try and avoid anything with adverts as much as I can.
Now I understand that YouTube is free, and it has to make it's money somewhere, but there has to be another solution. Whether that solution is similar to our Vimeo service - where we pay for the account - or whether Google (YouTubes owners) recognise the channel is for an educational establishment and disable ads on it I really don't care. I just don't want the risk of an unsuitable ad that the school has no control over, appearing on a page on a website we've recommended.
What I do mind is that there are adverts on there right now. I've voiced my concern. I've tried to get through to Google (which I might add seems to be impossible). I've spoken to others on Twitter who are looking into it, and I've contacted my boss to say that we may have to take down the channel for safety reasons.
It just seems such a shame, that after so long battling to get YouTube into school for educational reasons, we now have to have a discussion about removing easy access to relevant educational videos because of commercial greed. Ironic really after YouTube made such a big deal about the launch of YouTube edu recently, designed to be used in schools.
It really does seem that whenever we take one step forward, we then have to take another step back.
(There is an update to this issue here)