Last week we had a Freshman Orientation that we call ‘Bridge Week’. My school draws students from all over the district so we invite the incoming Freshman class for 3 days over the summer to introduce students to our school culture. A big focus of Bridge Week is creating small advisory groups and playing games that will bond them together. These kids will be together for the next 3 years as a group so We play alot of get-to-know-you icebreakers. 

One of these games was called ‘Would You Rather’. Its a pretty straight forward game. Students line up shoulder to shoulder in a straight line and the leader gives students two choices. For example, would you rather eat broccoli or carrots. If you want broccoli you step forward and carrots you step backwards. Its meant to prompt discussions and allow students to make some,personal connections. The students respinse to one of the questions really took me by surprise though. 

One question was worded as ‘Would you rather watch tv or listen to music?’. I expected about a 1/2 of the 16 students to step forward – but every student stepped back .waning they would rather listen to music! So I changed the question- ‘Would you rather watch YouTube and Netflix or listen to music?’ This time I got the half and half split I expected.

What does this mean though? First, this suggests that our current generation of students do not equate watching television to watching YouTube or Netflix. So what is the essential difference between TV and these streaming options? With TV the viewer is at the mercy of the alignment if the programmers’ scheduling and their own availability! There is way too much planning involved. Worse, why would they rely on the coincidence of flipping channels,to find somwthing interesting when there is much better option is available… On-Demand! This generation can read a review on social media and then go and watch the show. I distinctly remember desperately flipping through channels as a tween looking for X-Men: the animated series and being irritated to find the channel as the episode was wrapping up. I still want to know why was Wolverine slicing the arm off that Sentinal!

Anyways, what are the implications for our students? The first is that students are used to setting their own pace on consuming new information. Classroom lectures are like television. There is some great tv that people will make appointment viewing for (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones), but these days people want to watch when they want to watch. Second, this generation binges on tv shows. They don’t watch an episode a week the watch a series in a day. This has changed how tv is produced, the pacing of the content, and the economics of the industry. Also important, if a viewer is busy, gets sick, or has an emergency the can catch up later.  In terms of narrative a season on Netflix lends itself to serialization. A show like Master of None has unique episodes (1 episode was black and white and in Italian this season!) that differ in tone and message but there is a continuous narrative driving the season. Third, YouTube is searchable and (mostly) self produced. Quality is less important than authenticity (at least to my untrained I). Fourth, YouTube allows playlists and recommendations which allows for clustering of content.

I am not sure of the grand implications of this for classroom applications; however I have some initial thoughts that I am ‘action researching’.

  1. Flip the Classroom – flipping the class and putting the lecture/content on-line allows for students to access it on their own time and in their own way. I would recommend having some DVDs or jump drives or other means to get the recordings to students for equity of access reasons. Students can also get information if they are absent.
  2. Use YouTube as a resource – some schools still ban YouTube and it is a distraction for some students. However it is a platform they are used to and have the schema to use the playlists.
  3. Use the QWIQR model – (see the link for a How To) this method  speeds,up the content acquisition while trying to make it a higher order thinking activity. 
  4. Try making your own recordings – there are a lot of resources out there to borrow but they may not match standards and they will not have your voice. Students demand authenticity. If you’re nervous about quality just go to YouTube and see what the top videos are then rest assured.
  5. Set a deadline – Netflix shows get taken off the site and YouTube users delete the videos. There is no rule that on demand has to mean ad infinitum. Leave the recordings up but make students are of what day the content will be used.

These are my initial thoughts and I would love to hear thoughts and suggestions for additions to this list.