Youtube is For More Than Funny Cats?

It has dawned on me that I have been out of college for about seven and half months now.  In that time a lot has happened but one thing I find myself, perhaps surprisingly, missing is learning.  Sure, I still learn from my daily experiences but what I mean is that I miss some form of formal education.  And still to that end, it’s not that I miss going to lectures, taking tests, or “doing” homework.  Rather, what I miss is the discussion.  I’ve always learned best through discussion as opposed to audio-visually. I miss the challenge and the clash of ideas and philosophies that an educational institution can, should, and typically fosters.

Dean Elmore leading a regular sized discussion.  I already checked, I'm not in this photo.

Dean Elmore leading a regular sized discussion. I already checked, I’m not in this photo.

During my time at Boston University had this absolutely fantastic weekly program called “Coffee and Conversation with the Dean” during which our Dean of Students, Kenneth Elmore, would lead an open forum discussion about any number of subjects from current events to the idea of love to race relations to whatever was on his mind.  This meeting of sometimes close to 200 minds lent itself to the extracurricular education of some the BU’s brightest and most ambitious.  Some regulars from Coffee and Convo even write for this blog now so yeah, legitimacy. I learned more about the human condition, differing perspectives on the everyday world, and history’s immediate and less noticeable implications on the world today than I did in any classroom.  Also, there was free coffee and cookies!

But now I’m out of college, so what do I do?  Sure I read plenty and keep up-to-date on world affairs but I find that those critical discussions are harder to come by.  It’s not so much that there aren’t smart people in the “real world” (though they are less concentrated) but that people simply have other things on their minds, like bills and, ug, children.  So where can I find some magical dean-esque man to present me with discussion ideas or teach me about random stuff I’ve always been moderately curious about?

Turns out my newest teachers are on, when you stop to think about it, one of the most obvious places to find information.  No, not the library.  It’s Youtube! Yes, Youtube, the same place I watch Community bloopers and movie trailers.  Two channels I’ve been real into lately are “PBS Idea Channel” and “VSauce.”

PBS Idea Channel, hosted by Mike Rugnetta, fills my Coffee and Convo needs, providing me with great commentary, progressive ideas, and an outlet for ideas for further discussion with my own friends. The host is funny and energetic and use popular media and culture as jumping off points for much deeper ideas. It also teaches me a fair amount of social theory like what third wave feminism is.  I, much to my own regrettable ignorance, didn’t even know feminism had specific waves.  Now I can tell you what each waves entailed in some capacity.  Idea Channel has a fantastic video about a point I’m going to make in two paragraphs that I’ll link to HERE.

On the other hand, VSauce teaches me immense amount of scientific information in a laid back and fun fashion.  The primary VSauce (there are three) channel has attempted to answer many questions I think we’ve all had like “Is Your Red my Red?” and “What is Déjà vu?” I’ve learned about Also VSauce host Michael Stevens grew up like 20 minutes south of my hometown, once again proving Kansas can be moderately cool (aside from Topeka).

Michael Stevens (left) and Mike Rugnetta (right)

Michael Stevens (left) and Mike Rugnetta (right)

We’re all aware that Youtube has an obscene amount of educational material, especially with Youtube EDU, on it but it has only just dawned on me that it could be used for educational discussions beyond watching lectures from MIT or teaching me about jellyfish.  Youtube has the potential, if certain videos are properly assembled, to become a school away from school.  I’d love to be able to have an educational Pandora Radio-like feature on Youtube where I put in that I want to learn about “The Civil Rights Movement” and it comes back with a playlist of twenty videos that give me the fullest and most objective view of what happened during that movement in a historical, social, and psychological sense.  Youtube could in theory take the numerous ideas in countless books, boil them down into more easily digestible lessons, and give them to me like a friend telling a story rather than an academic writing a book.  That said, I’d want addition reading suggested because reading is mui importante.

To quote Mr. Rugnetta, “what do you guys think” about Youtube as an educational tool? Do you use it to learn actively or do you just passively watch something you stumble upon that may pique your interest? What, if any, are the limitations of Youtube as a teaching tool and how could it be improved upon? Am I blatantly missing some piece of very obvious info? Let us know in the comments and in the words of Mr. Stevens, “And as always, thanks for [reading]!”


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