This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write for the last couple of weeks, but wasn’t sure how to approach it. I’ve been interested in YouTube as a self-directed learning tool for ages now, especially because so many people I know, including students, use YouTube as their primary entertainment tool and also the first place they go to when they want to learn anything new.
My partner is one of these YouTube visitors, rather than residents, who do not make videos themselves but are hugely influenced by those that do, and through him I happened to watch this video from The Modern Rogue, where two “professional idiots field test the things that will make you the most interesting person in the room” (The Modern Rogue, 2016). It turns out that my partner doesn’t “normally” watch this channel, but found it through the suggested watches from a channel he does regularly watch, The Whiskey Vault, which is the publicity tool for the Whiskey Marketing School (The Whiskey Vault, 2014). Presented by Rex and Daniel, with other guests, this channel explores the world of whiskey making, selling and drinking. The video from The Modern Rogue saw Daniel from the Whiskey Vault joining the Modern Rogue presenters to teach them the basics about whiskey. I watched this video with growing excitement at just how good the teaching was and how clearly Daniel displayed various learning theories and teaching strategies in action-if I’d been peer observing this I would have had LOTS to praise.
Andragogy is pedagogy, but with adult learners. It involves much more motivated student involvement as the adults are better incentivised to learn, and are often doing so with less time and from a distance (Cooke, 2011). Adult learners share much with self-directed learners (Knowles, 1975), where individuals “take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying material resources for learning and evaluating learning outcomes” (Knowles, 1975, p. 19). This could exactly describe my partner’s use of YouTube: he has an interest in whiskey, wants to know more about it, and has found and evaluated appropriate resources for this. I would argue that Daniel has created here a self-directed learning tool for adult learners that is better structured than many expensive online learning educational resources I have seen in the past, and has done so in a way that (presumably) makes him money, whilst also being open access apart from where access to YouTube is restricted. This is the model that many educators are now taking, and one that should be researched.
The more I thought about this the more I wanted to unpack what was going on in this video and explore the learning and teaching moments happening in it. Daniel has very kindly given me permission to use clips from the video in this blogpost….which I now cannot figure out how to import at all! So instead….here’s the whole video and then I’m going to break down what I think is going on below.
The first thing you notice is that this isn’t someone talking into a camera or over powerpoint slides, this is a one-to-one or small group tutorial involving active learning.
So at 2.15 , when Daniel starts to talk about the basics of whiskey, he fills their glasses. Because you don’t talk about whiskey with an empty glass. This involves the students straight away with the subject, their senses are awaken, and they have something to do with their hands, so they may be more likely to remember what goes in their ears.
From 2.31 Daniel starts to scaffold the lesson. “I’ll explain to you later what you’re drinking, but let’s talk whiskey first”- this is setting the students up with a learning objective-to know what they are drinking-but also allows them room to explore the parameters of their own ZPD (yes, I think adults have a ZDP) through the lesson’s overall aim which is to know more about whiskey generally. The students will already have some preexisting knowledge of the subject, and they can already drink whiskey, however, with help, they will then be able at the end of the lesson to talk precisely and confidently, using the appropriate vocabulary, about the specific whiskeys they are drinking.
This also links back to the location of the lesson and the use of teaching props. Everything about this video is demonstrating the context of the subject it is exploring, and through experiencing language within the contextual environment one can better make sense of what is heard – Chomsky’s translation of “surface structure” to “deep structure” of vocabulary (Chomsky, 1957, cited in Barron and Powell, 2002) but in an andragogical context.
Active learning is involving students in their own learning, using their existing knowledge and skills- activities that are more than just listening aid this process, and in this video having the students stand and be engaged in the activity (admittedly that of drinking whiskey!) promotes this method of learning and encourages the students to get more involved and take responsibility for their own learning (Walsh and Inala, 2010). Daniel is the teacher, yes, but by using active learning techniques he has transformed himself into the facilitator, helping the two students realize their own scope of knowledge and encouraging them to expand their ZPD in a scaffolded and safe way.
At 2.40 Daniel explains the term whiskey and compares it with the way vehicle is a generic term too. This is a brilliant tool to use in teaching: compare a term to a known term. So students might not know what our library’s branded discovery service is, but they know what Argos is, or Amazon or Asos or the million and one other website that are basically catalogues. Daniel comes back to this point at 5.40 to check the learning too.
From 2.50-3.10 Daniel expands on this, he uses examples the students give him, he articulates and pauses on major learning points (especially at 2.57 ish-that pause is beeeeeautiful). The two students are encouraged to ask questions, this is probably scripted but I don’t care, if you’re producing a learning video it’s a good shout to have the learner represented and that’s what they’ve done here. So at 4.36 when the chap on the left (sorry I do not know your name!!!!) asks about moonshine, he’s taking an earlier point that he wasn’t entirely clear on and relating that to his own prior knowledge, with the teacher’s guidance he learns something new and has a better understand of the process of extracting alcohol from grain–therefore we as learners watching the video ourselves also do.
Daniel uses diagrams to illustrate learning points, this isn’t uncommon but what I really liked is that he draws them as he goes-how many times do you see that any more? From 7.50 onwards there is a really nice use of drawing a diagram to illustrate the relationships between the various types of whiskey thats just so clearly done with no need for whizzy graphics, he is also explaining the use of the tool as he goes and using a metaphor of an actual family, once again placing a not yet explored concept in a context that is known to the learner.
This video isn’t just about teaching the two students with him in the room though, it is also for the self-directed learners watching it. None obtrusive graphics are used throughout to explore and highlight points, 4.15 is an example of this.
From 9.01 is my favourite part of the video as it shows such a clear learning moment that shows the learner articulating his growing knowledge and then linking it with previously existing knowledge to form a new idea completely on his own that is then verified by his teacher. It’s just gorgeous and if that happened in a one-to-one I’d done I’d be chuffed to bits by it. He checks the learning for this towards the end of the video, at 16.17 and the student has learnt!
Discussion is a tool used throughout the video as another active learning tool. Look at the conversation that occurs around 12.31, they are exploring the market and the reasons why a problem exists, and then Daniel comes in to explain what the current answers are-in a classroom you might want to challenge the students to see if they want to solve the problem themselves, but this is a self directed learning tool directed at people who have limited time and want their learning experiences to be “task accomplishing inquiry units” (Knowles, 1975, p. 21), so a discussion can be set up but the answers are instantly given. Whilst this may not be using a more critical pedagogy, it is on YouTube, so it does involve a user community discussion below-and that’s what Daniel is talking about when he apologizes for the presenters going to get complaints at 13.19, he is acknowledging a learning community with it’s own agenda and experience even if he is not allowing it to actively contribute to this particular teaching session. As he says at 15.54, you can have varying opinions and you are all exactly right-a message I’m going to think about carrying through to my teaching, as I am quite guilty of having an agenda to my teaching which isn’t perhaps the best way to get people thinking about information resources!
Much more research is needed on YouTube as a self-directed learning tool. This is how people are learning now, controlled by one business and it’s analytics and algorithms. There are think pieces and horror stories of children watching unmonitored YouTube clips and YouTubers making millions and saying stupid things-but there should be so much more research on this than the little I could find, and that behind a paywall (Lee, Osop, Goh and Kelni, 2017).
The theories of Malcolm Knowles in the 60s and 70s could be directly applied to so many practices of adults watching YouTube in order to learn new things and discover new skills, as well as be entertained. This is a huge opportunity for librarians interested in information literacy to learn how to both use this tool better, but also to discover what it is that motivates people to learn, to watch, and to discover.
Barron, I., & Powell, J. (2002). Story sacks, children’s narratives and the social construction of reality. London, England: SAGE Publications.10.2304/csee.2002.5.3.129
Cooke, N. A. (2010). Becoming an andragogical librarian: Using library instruction as a tool to combat library anxiety and empower adult learners. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 16(2), 208-227.
Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Chicago: Association Press.
Lee, C. S., Osop, H., Goh, D. H. L., & Kelni, G. (2017). Making sense of comments on YouTube educational videos: a self-directed learning perspective. Online Information Review, 41(5), 611-625.
The Modern Rogue. (2016). The Modern Rogue. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC42VsoDtra5hMiXZSsD6eGg/about?disable_polymer=1.
The Whiskey Vault. (2014). Whiskey Vault. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCElm866_W5r1eg8VjhFNARw/about?disable_polymer=1.
Walsh, A., & Inala, P. (2010). Active learning techniques for librarians: Practical examples. Oxford: Chandos.