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Selling My Principal on YouTube

Old YouTube IconI’d been at my new district a week when I sent IT an email requesting my YouTube channel be unlocked. Not YouTube the site, which was open, but the ability to sign in and use my channel. That was closed. I needed it open.

One week in. Brand new to the school and the district. “Hi, yeah. Can you please change how you have treated this website for however long for me? Like, soon? Thanks.”

I got a prompt response, and not promptly for a school district IT department at the beginning of the year but actually within 24 hours. It told me they don’t unlock YouTube accounts normally but if my principal said it was ok they’d be happy to help.

Wrangling the big cheese took a little longer through no fault of her own. It seems principaling is a busy job. Who knew?

Before I go into how I got her to buy into my pretty pleasing, why go through all this work in the first place? Why does a teacher need a YouTube channel?

Having a YouTube channel dedicated to my classroom means I can make videos of students doing presentations and working, giving speeches to the school, winning awards, being goofy, Shaking It Off, and generally learning. I post the videos on our class website so they can watch themselves later with their parents. We make visual running records and the students get to see and hear themselves get better at reading as time passes. Video proof is the best proof, as any Bigfoot hunter will tell you.

Pitching YouTube as a creation engine rather than a consumption contraption was something I’d done plenty of times. One of my professional development sessions is called Adventures In YouTubery, which was built for CUE Rock Star and travels beautifully. I was ready to convince the boss.

In ten minutes I laid out my YouTube User’s Guide. I had two goals- the first was to get her to agree to unlock my account. The second, longer shot, was to get her to unlock the student accounts. It’s one thing to let students work through my sign-in. It’s quite another for them to have their own. The kids already have Google accounts. They have Drive. They have email (which is also locked for elementary students, leading to my second email to the district IT people). They could technically have YouTube channels. It would increase workflow efficiency. You can record and upload multiple videos to one channel at the same time, but you can only edit one at a time. If only my account is unlocked students have to wait in line to add effects, cut and edit, and throw on titles. Give them access to their own accounts and that process gets 100x more efficient immediately.

My principal’s questions were right in line with what you’d expect. She was planning ahead, predicting questions she’d get from parents, while also clarifying things that she didn’t know you could do until ten minutes ago.

Who can see these videos? No one if they are private, which kind of defeats the purpose, so we’d make them unlisted and not tell anyone but the parents what the links are. It’ll be fine. 

How can we control what the students post? Honestly? We kind of can’t. Which is where you have to trust me to be on top of it as a teacher. They need to learn digital citizenship. They need to know just because they can say something they don’t need to. I need to be on point so if they do try to get away with something they’ll get caught immediately. 

She nodded and took more notes and patiently watched as I excitedly showed her videos I’d created for class. Then she agreed. Not to the student accounts, which was a long shot anyway, but to unlocking mine.

Influence word cloud shapeHere is the key- I took the time to explain my reasoning to her in an open and professional way. I told her that YouTube isn’t the Future, it’s the Now and our kids are already using it. I didn’t tell her that by hesitating she was being irrelevant, behind the times like a doctor bleeding a patient with leeches. I understood her fears and hesitations and let her have them because it’s through those answers that she learned to trust me. And now she’s working with me to get student emails unlocked a year earlier than the district ever does. She’s fully supporting a fellow teacher and me in getting a MakerSpace up and running and indulging us in our, “Oh, and we need this learning toy too!”

Connecting with her on a human level, then on a professional level means that now we can do even more. We’re changing district policy by working together, checking the boxes that need to be checked while pushing our way out of those boxes completely.

*the logic being I’m too handsome and modest for radio

Update- It was just brought to my attention that YouTube’s terms forbid anyone under the age of 13 from having an account. YouTube is not one of the GAFE apps, so if I had succeeded in convincing my principal and district to unlock my kids’ channels I actually would have been violating a much bigger usage ruleset.

Thanks to Bill Fitzgerald for pointing out my error.

Ed. Note- This post ends CUE’s series of Connected Educator Month (#ce15) blog posts. For all things Connected Educator Month visit their schedule on the CEM main site and follow #ce15 on the tweets. Connect with the CUE blog by tweeting at me (@TheWeirdTeacher) and leaving comments in the comment section (where else would you leave comments? Sticky notes on your computer screen? That’s not very connected, except with extremely weak glue).


Slytherin robeDoug Robertson is the CUE blog editor, Slytherin faculty representative, and a tenth-year teacher currently talking at fifth graders in Northern Oregon. He’s taught in California, Hawaii, and Oregon in 3rd, 4th, and 6th grades. He’s the author of two books about education, He’s the Weird Teacher andTHE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome) and an active blogger. Doug speaks at teaching conferences including CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps, presenting on everything from technology to teaching philosophy (or teaching The Weird Way, to use his words).  Doug is also the creator and moderator of #WeirdEd on Twitter, which happens every Wednesday at 7pm PST

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