A website that has become a part of life for many people will now be available in Tyler public schools.
Tyler ISD last week opened access to YouTube, a website where people watch and share videos about almost anything.
The site includes video clips of historic events, sports games, television shows, movies, and music, along with original content created by its users.
Categories include comedy, entertainment, film and animation, gaming, how-to, style and more.
But it also has a bevy of educational videos that can supplement instruction in any subject.
“YouTube has (a lot of) instructionally focused things that you can engage your student and move on,” Ramey Elementary School librarian Candy DuBose said. “It would never be the focus, but it would be an introduction or the engagement where you get the kids focused on what you’re going to be doing that day.”
“For a long time, (there was not) a lot of educational value in YouTube,” Orbaugh said.
If teachers wanted to access the site, they could make a request and the district could unblock it.
However, that process often was time consuming and difficult and by the time the district would approve the request, the teacher often didn’t need the access anymore.
Teachers and/or students also could find ways around the block such as using their SMART phones, but widespread use on district computers was not allowed.
“It was just getting to be a real hassle,” Orbaugh said. “It was time, in our minds, to change our stance on YouTube.”
One of the reasons for the change was because of the amount and kind of educational content being posted on the website.
Because TISD blocked the YouTube site, students couldn’t access the tutorials.
“Now it’s not just affecting teachers,” said Kim Tunnell, TISD’s executive director of curriculum and instruction. “It’s affecting our students as well. So that was kind of the catalyst.”
Ms. Tunnell said many of the schools districts they contacted when making this decision were surprised TISD still blocked the site. She said the district has been conservative and protective of its students by blocking YouTube and other social media websites and this is a first step in opening that access.
Although the district’s purpose is to increase access to educational videos, Orbaugh said, “Anything on the Internet can be risky.”
“A standard search that’s completely legitimate and no problem can render results that are inappropriate. And that can happen anywhere at any time,” he said.
Orbaugh said with videos there really is not an effective method or technology to filter them. He said although filters do a decent job with text, images and videos are a different story.
That’s why the district is training teachers. They already have talked to them and emphasized the importance of previewing in its entirety all material they plan to present to a class.
Ms. Tunnell said this is just another thing that teachers will have to monitor as they oversee their classroom. She said they’ve always monitored computer usage and this will be one more part of that.
In addition, the district introduced a responsible use policy. Orbaugh said the goal of this policy is to set positive expectations for staff and students so that they can rise to those expectations rather than give them a list of “thou shall nots.”
“It’s really about changing the conversation, changing the tone, setting high expectations and expecting people to measure up to it,” Orbaugh said.
He said in the event that students and/or teachers intentionally use the technology in an inappropriate manner, the district will handle it in accordance with student and employee conduct policies.
Kris Ann Bennett, a Ramey Elementary School math intervention teacher, said she thinks the change is a good one.
“We are professionals and we want what is best for our students and there are some very good educational videos out there on YouTube,” she said. “Now just like any resources there’s also some garbage. As professionals I believe that our teachers in TISD are going to be prudent with their use of YouTube.”
Ms. DuBose said the addition of YouTube is wonderful, but it’s a technology that teachers must preview before they use.
“As long as teachers are doing what they need to do, I think it’s going to be great for the district,” she said. “It’s a great teaching tool for the right program.”