YouTube: To Block or Not to Block Shouldn’t Even Be a Question

Five years ago, I remember walking the crowded aisles of the TCEA Convention & Expo when an instructional technology coordinator at one of our school districts stopped me dead in my tracks. “I wish you could find a way to give our teachers access to YouTube,” she said. “If you could do that, my teachers would all kiss you!”

With more than 60,000 students and several thousand teachers at the district, I had more than enough incentive to solve this problem. I immediately talked to our development team about how we could make this happen and, shortly after, came up with what is now GaggleTube.

Years later, I still strongly believe in GaggleTube. From my own experiences as a parent, I know that if kids want to learn anything, they can just go to YouTube and, voila, find out how to tie a tie, sew ballet shoes, anything.

Today, it’s pretty much a guarantee that somebody’s recorded a video on YouTube to explain whatever a student is looking for. There’s also so much entertainment benefit from YouTube and all sorts of ways to challenge one’s perspective. If a news event happens, there’s information about it on YouTube almost instantly, which can be used as a great way to engage students. Teachers want and need the relevant and immediate content that YouTube has to offer.

All that being said, YouTube can be a huge distraction with some horribly inappropriate content that shouldn’t been viewed in a school setting, or anywhere for that matter.

The challenge is to find a balance between getting rid of the worst content, but also having accountability that keeps student using YouTube appropriately. And no teacher should have to spend a whole day, or a precious free class period, browsing for the right videos on YouTube to use in a class.

GaggleTube allows for safe and fast searching of YouTube videos even when a district blocks YouTube. Each school can have its own settings, even on a per use basis, so restrictions can be set on how many videos a student views every day. Student can search all of YouTube―except, of course, the inappropriate content―or just what a teacher has approved. Either way, GaggleTube logs everything.

Four-plus years since launching GaggleTube, I shake my head when I hear conversations or even debates about whether or not a district should block direct access to YouTube. While you shouldn’t allow carte blanche access, you no longer have to block YouTube within school walls.

Teachers can also upload videos and tag them for better organization so students and other educators can discover them easier. Not only can students watch video inside the classroom, but they also can share them with the rest of a class, school or the world. The result is learning and collaboration that is so important for the development of young minds.