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Sunday, September 28 • 11:21 - 11:40
"Informal Educational Content on YouTube as a Portal to Authentic Learning"

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Background: YouTube is an online video-sharing platform, a locus of participatory culture (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robison, 2009), and is often identified as a social media website (e.g., Pauwels & Hellriegel, 2011). Contained within YouTube is a vast collection of content created by individuals who are not accredited teachers and do not use YouTube as a tool in any sort of formal educational context, but who have a goal to educate their viewers.

Authors have argued that the spaces that form around sites of participatory media represent valuable and fruitful learning environments (e.g., Gee, 2004; Jenkins et al., 2009). Informal educational spaces surrounding participatory media offer a unique perspective for educational researchers to understand what motivates students to engage with educational content without being prompted by a formal educator. As a YouTube viewer since 2007, I have watched communities such as the Nerdfighters (see Kligler-Vilenchik, 2013) form. The teenage members of these communities seemingly value intellect and education so much that not only do they watch educational content independently, but are moved to actively participate in some way (e.g., going to conventions or meet-ups, joining a book club with their favourite YouTubers, starting humanitarian groups, creating art, etc.).

There are extremely few examples in the literature where scholars employ humanities-based methodologies to pose questions around what trends in informal, user-generated educational content mean for the future of education when compared to a more traditional educational model, and this area is therefore rife with the potential for academic inquiry.

Objective: The paper aims to demonstrate that the informal learning that takes place in the communities surrounding certain educational/entertaining YouTube videos (e.g., within the Nerdfighter community) qualifies as what scholars (e.g., Jonassen and Strobel, 2006) call meaningful/authentic/engaged learning, and provides an opportunity for a kind of education that could only take place outside the constraints of a typical classroom.

Methods: Drawing from various constructivist literatures, including informal learning, situated cognition, and digital game based learning, the paper first situates informal educational YouTube content as a community of practice comprised of engaged learners. Criteria of meaningful/authentic/engage learning (e.g., the learning must be autonomous, self-directed, problem-based, etc.) are listed and discussed. The framework of meaningful/authentic/engaged learning is then mapped onto the space of informal educational YouTube content in order to demonstrate how the latter fits the criteria of the former. Nolan and McBride (2014)’s paper about digital game based learning and informal learning provides the template for this examination.

Results & Conclusions: The paper demonstrates that informal educational content on YouTube has the potential to engage young people in authentic and meaningful education. In their 2014 paper, Nolan and McBride argue: The internal, virtual and physical location of children's digital learning and play is a critical, yet under-researched, phenomena” (pp. 19-20). Informal educational content on YouTube deserves serious consideration as a community of practice from educational researchers, and it is my hope that this paper will help to illuminate the topic and pave the way for more in-depth study.

Gee, J.P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York NY: Routledge.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. (2009). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Jonassen, D., & Strobel, J. (2006). Modeling for meaningful learning. In D. Hung & M. S. Khine (Eds.), Engaged learning with emerging technologies (pp. 1–27). Dordrecht: Springer.

Kligler-Vilenchik, N. (2013). “Decreasing World Suck”: Fan communities, mechanisms of translation, and participatory politics. A case study report working paper, University of Southern California.

Nolan, J. & McBride, M. (2014). Beyond gamification: reconceptualizing game-based learning in early childhood environments. Information, Communication & Society, 17(5), 594-608.

Pauwels, L. & Hellriegel, P. (2011). A Critical Cultural Reading of YouTube. In I. Management Association (Ed.), Virtual Communities: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 2116-2133). Hershey, PA.


Julia Lowe

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
I'm a fourth-year PhD student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. I'm interested in communities of learners that form around informal educational content created for online spaces (eg., fans of non-professional educators on YouTube).

Sunday September 28, 2014 11:21 - 11:40
TRS 1-129 Ted Rogers School of Management

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