YouTube Conversations as Generative, Authentic Writing and Intellectual Discourse

It is summer time and I am indulging in some of the fabulous media I follow. One of these is the YouTube PBS Idea Channel.

I recently watched the episode, “How Accurate Should Movies Be?”  There was a great discussion in the comments about the question posed. It certainly inspired me to think about the question from the point of view of an elementary teacher. Also as a teacher, I was struck by the authentic and thought-provoking nature of the comment stream, where people are actively and independently part of a free debate, sharing the intriguing complexities of opinion and diversity of thought.  I began my own comment and worked to intertwine the comments of others, as I would want my students to do, as full and receptive participants.

This exercise made me think that it could be a generative way to inspire opinion writing and integration of the ideas of others into written argument, even for a Fifth Grader.  A high schooler could participate directly on YouTube, but some comments can be inappropriate for an elementary student, so I could gather a selection of varied comments (the reading of which would be a strong guided reading opportunity) and students could use these to help form their thinking and to be part of the conversation.

One of the things that the PBS Idea Channel does is address the comment stream of the previous episode at the end of each show. This reflection and responsiveness is an exemplar for responsible media creation, which students could review when posting their own media and include in a feedback loop structure.

The use of video as a spark to explore an idea, reminds me of another resource I am regularly inspired by, Ramsey Musallam. and his use of Cycles of Learning to teach, including thoughtful flipped classroom routine: Explore-Flip-Apply.  He has a Learning and Instruction blog worth following, as well as sets of Video Sparks on his Google Drive that he uses in his teaching. In his May 20, 2015 blog entry, This Year’s Tech Tool Box, Musallam shares an easy way to download videos from sites like YouTube and Vimeo using by just putting ss in the url of the video, for example: Take a look at his blog for more information and other great posts.

Back to “How Accurate Should Movies Be?” Take a look at this episode of the PBS Idea Channel and, if you have time, read the comment stream. Perhaps you may be inspired to comment with your own thoughts about how accurate movies should be -join the party!

Here is a copy of my comment:

Similar to the start of Deana McHardy’s comment, “I do think the media ought to be aware that they are catering to…”  I think decisions regarding the ethical responsibility for educational influence need to consider the targeted audience.  As an elementary teacher I feel that companies like Disney, Warner Brothers, DreamWorks, etc. have a community minded responsibility for the intellectual and social influence they have on children who are still developing their cognitive abilities. 

Although not completely accurate, entertainment for adults, can rely on the mature cognitive abilities of the adult’s cognitive abilities to discern truth from fiction, to judge the intent of the media and therefore it’s educational purpose: inspiration, excitement, wonder, political information, etc.

I agree with CatOwlFilms that “People do get educated by films, so it would be helpful if filmmakers made them as accurate as possible without sacrificing major film plot…”  There is no doubt in my mind that media, including entertainment media, is educational, intentionally or not, erroneously or effectively.  I don’t think movies would be very entertaining if they did not cause us to think, consider, reflect, imagine, and connect, all of which are actions that lead to learning, or being educated. 

Like Kaley Schuster commented, “Movies with scientific inaccuracies could actually be good for the scientific community because they start a conversation about whatever subject the movie misinterpreted,” so if parents and teachers use movies as learning tools, these inaccuracies can come in handy. For instance, I used DreamWorks’ The Bee Movie as an assessment and learning tool when my class was studying honeybees and pollination.  Students identified and discussed the copious scientific inaccuracies in the movie and considered how the movie could have been made accurately and still be a successfully entertaining event. 

In our discussions as a class, students communicated a mild sense of betrayal at being scientifically misled by movies to the degree of inaccuracy they found in The Bee Movie.  Some things they agreed were just silly and obvious, like a talking bee, or for dramatic effect having inaccurate body proportions. We debated how much impact on educational understanding other inaccuracies had, like the fact that bees are insects and insects have three pairs of legs, unlike the personified two-pair versions of bees in The Bee Movie.  Also, field bees that collect both nectar and pollen are female, not the big macho squads of male bees shown in The Bee Movie. In reality, male bees, drones, are important because they mate with queen bees, but that is their primary and generally only work function in the hive.  Now that would be an interesting premise for Disney movie as they strive for more stronger female role models- The Real Bee Movie!

I the point of Minngarn Halnhammer’s comment, “I find the more realistic and factual items more interesting than the fictional variants.,” taps into the idea that indeed reality can be very entertaining, suspenseful, exciting and downright unbelievably fantastical, as in the example that CatOwlFilms gave in the comment, “…imagine 2 seconds of startling silence in the middle of a space battle, or dinosaurs with a dirty, nasty, bloody feathers hanging on like rags to their skin.” 

I have faith that the power of story and the components of fiction can still be alive and well in children’s media while still aiming to be educationally responsible.  Even with a call for greater attention to accuracy in children’s media, I don’t think that motivation to entertain will ever be met with apathy. Creativity is powerful and entertainment sells.

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