YouTube, the good, the bad, the ugly


Well, the good news is that one of my students learned how to create and edit video with Windows MovieMaker from my lessons and decided to commemorate their sixth grade graduation using these skills. The bad news? Some of their content was definitely not “school friendly”, and they posted it on YouTube with the school name.

Here’s the narrative, it may have some points that are useful to you…
I’ve been making a lot of movies lately about events at our school, and posting them on TeacherTube, and YouTube (since that is better known, and parents are more apt to come across it). Specifically, they’re movies publicizing a fundraising effort by a local minister to benefit our students by getting them more/better health care. My administrator is very “proud” of these efforts and wants to share them with others (school board members, his family, etc.) So he directed his 80 year old step-mom to YouTube to look for our videos with the school name as a search, and came across a video for the sixth grade class.

That video is no longer there, but let’s just say the language was a little raw, and there are kids not always behaving as they should. There is also lots of stuff that was just fine in there, and the creator of the video may not be ready for USC film school yet, but had the basics of titles, some still shots, and transitions.

So, my administrator called me at home, and told me what was going on. I started looking at the video, and also the TOS for YouTube, but we discussed it and agreed that we would prefer to bring the kids in to discuss the video, and then find the creator (not obvious from the user name, and not pictured in the film), and ask them to take it down, rather than making a take-down request with YouTube. I did send an YouTube inquiry about the guidelines for a take-down since the video clearly violated our school “community standards”, but would hardly qualify for that label on YouTube. I figured if we couldn’t track down the video’s creator because it’s summer vacation we could probably ask for takedown based on their age (under 14 yo), but fortunately it didn’t come to that.

We were able to bring in one boy in the video and talked to him about how this video would make the school and our students look, and the image problem that schools like ours have. He understood and was teary-eyed. I asked if he knew the video would be up on YouTube, and he said he was not told that. I explained that in the future if he was being filmed he might want to ask that, and that if someone did put a video of him on YouTube without his permission, he could request it be removed based on privacy issues (this is on the YouTube help page for requesting a video be removed). I pointed out that we are starting to get some publicity for the school on YouTube meaning there is an audience building for our videos, and that he was lucky we caught it, because if it had gone viral (say as a “students behaving badly video”) there would be no way to “get it back”.

We got the name of the video’s creator from him, and called that student and their family in. Lots of tears, not a lot of talking on their part. When asked where they learned how to do this replied, “From her,” (pointing to me). I had to tell the student, good idea, not great execution. We received word when the student arrived that the video was already removed from YouTube. When I got home, the message for the video indicated that the video owner had pulled it. I’m guessing that when I called the house, and asked the student/family to come down to the school, the student pulled it down at that point (showing some good sense). Here are some lessons:

1. Give students more creative outlets: Next year I will try to have a working group to create post graduation videos so that we keep them clean (as long as they are slapping the school’s name on stuff). The video’s creator was to upset to take me up on this yesterday, but I’ve offered to come in next week to the lab to work with them on re-creating the video.

2. When we’re responding to things like this, the best to approach it as a teaching moment, rather than with threats and retribution. At no point were punishment, telling their new middle school, or permanent records (except for the record they had created themselves) discussed. We also talked about how the school was seen, but not how it affected us as adults, but them as students, and to take pride in that image.

3. Give students the chance to fix it themselves by taking the material off and redoing their work. I didn’t get to ask the student to remove it, but it’s part of giving them responsibility for their actions.

YouTube search for “Oak Ridge Elementary”

by posted under Uncategorized | 5 Comments »    
5 Comments to

“YouTube, the good, the bad, the ugly”

  1. June 18th, 2008 at 11:44 pm      Reply Josh Morgan Says:

    Considering most adults don’t understand what’s appropriate to post using social media tools I agree that we need to provide students with some leeway to learn how to do the right thing.

  2. June 19th, 2008 at 6:42 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    That is so true. I’m just glad all the adults and kids I saw agreed it was inappropriate.

  3. June 23rd, 2008 at 7:57 am      Reply blogwalker Says:

    Alice, thanks for a great story to share with other teachers who are just bringing filmmaking into their curriculum. Since the uploading of inappropriate material by elementary students to YouTube is a reality we all face (in my district the example that comes to mind is an awful little piece done by a 5th grader – with some special effects added on my a 7th grade brother), I know other teachers and administrators will appreciate your roadmap to a student-generated action.

  4. June 23rd, 2008 at 11:30 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Things I wonder about in the aftermath:

    * I wonder how different the situation would have been if they were criticizing us as a school? How to allow for that form of self-expression?

    * I wonder if some folks outside think that I/we are stifling self-expression (esp. in light of Mr. Carlin’s recent demise, this thought occurs)?

    * Have I shared too much about these students? I’m telling them to keep a low-profile, but talking about it with all of you. The consequences can be great but I guess that is an advantage to having tenure instead of just waiting for it.

    * The “school image” argument would not work (or would be sorely resented) if the kids didn’t like the place. I would never have used it in some places I’ve taught, but then I wouldn’t have been allowed to cause the students would have been threatened rather than given a choice.

  5. June 30th, 2008 at 6:59 am      Reply UltimateTeacher Says:

    Allow me to add my two cents…
    I thought you(and company) handled this situation in the proper manner. The students do show an interest in video making, yet just made a poor judgment on what’s inapproriate and what’s not. This happens all the time, and given that they were showing remorse, shows that they did not have the malice of intent. With that, you would hope to build on that interest by showing them what they should have done instead. Great teaching moment!!

    I think that this is going to be problem that many teachers are going to encounter very soon. I only hope that they are going to handle it with the same caution that you have shown.

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