Could the District unblock We can’t view the videos on the site!

Should WatchKnow be blocked in your school district? Well, only if you block YouTube and GoogleVideo. More about that later in a sample letter (featuring some tweets from the edublogosphere)…for now, here’s the press release:

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Nov. 12, 2009) – Dr. Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, has launched a new website designed to gather and organize educational videos for students ages 3 to 18.

The site, <> , launched in October and currently features more than 11,000 videos across 2,000 categories on subjects such as math, science and history. The nonprofit site features new software, specially developed for the site by Dr. Sanger, which allows wiki-style collaboration among users.

“Think of it as YouTube meets Wikipedia, filtering out everything but quality educational videos,” says Dr. Sanger. “ links together content from traditional sites, and also allows users of the site to improve the organization of the video categories, which makes finding the video you need much easier.”

The site, which features videos from National Geographic, YouTube and Google Videos among others, took more than 18 months to develop and has been endorsed by educators from schools including Harvard, Stanford, Brigham Young and more. is designed to complement and enhance the traditional learning experience for students as they study concepts that are traditionally hard to learn.

“Many of our country’s educators are unaware of the enormous amount of good video content available for free online,” said Chareen Snelson, an advisory committee member and professor at Boise State specializing in online educational videos. “Having a central repository of organized, quality videos is a blessing for busy teachers and students.” is funded by the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi (CFNM), which has set the goal of offering more than 50,000 videos on the site by the end of 2010. The site offers tips for video searching, separate pages for students, parents and teachers, and a guide for contributors.

“Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in the development of our children, and can be a big piece of that puzzle,” says Tom Pittman, president of the CFNM. “We believe that with the help of educators, we can create something very important and useful to the future of education.”

As wonderful as WatchKnow appears to be, know that WatchKnow’s content comes straight from other video providers. What would be your response if someone in your district asked you to unblock so they could access the videos?

Here is one possible response from the perspective of a district that currently blocks YouTube:

WatchKnow’s “content” is hosted by other providers, such as YouTube and GoogleVideo (to name two video providers that are blocked in our District). While YouTube use in K-12 can be appropriate–as many school districts in Texas have proven–the District’s current policy is to restrict access. Since YouTube videos are a part of the content displayed on WatchKnow, the District would have to unblock YouTube video access.


Furthermore, consider the content of some videos (You’re Not Alone – might be inappropriate from a Health/PE perspective when filtered by the parent. As a parent, *I* want my daughter to know where to turn…but is this a video I want her accessing at school without supervision? Regardless of your response, it is a question that parents need to answer in the context of a dialogue with their teen and school system.

While you and I may agree that access to videos on children learning about sexual assault may be appropriate, my experiences with the digital video distribution system–where a whole series of videos dealing that mentioned “sex” were blocked because parent committees had not approved viewing–signal caution.

Until the District is willing to convene parent committees and engage in deeper dialogue about the video content available through YouTube, C&I agree to use YouTube video, and teachers/instructional specialists/Principals receive the proper training to implement CIPA-compliant usage, I seriously doubt WatchKnow as a search window into YouTube and GoogleVideo will be allowed in our District.


You can always search TeacherTube and SchoolTube videos directly on their web site without an intermediary…they are not blocked. Google Video and YouTube video, because of their content, will probably remain blocked.


Using, you can obtain downloadable copies of YouTube videos for viewing. Be aware that downloading videos for use in the classroom–rather than watching them via the YouTube web site–is a breach of copyright, as well as a violation of the YouTube user license agreement. In a recent survey of educators, some of the following perspectives were shared:

  • “It seems odd to teach kids not to plagiarize and grab stuff off the web when the teacher does it,” Derek Baird
  • “As far as copyright goes, I always ask the creator for a copy (and always get one!) when I see something I want to use locally,” Kathy Schrock

Please take these perspectives into account when considering use of YouTube videos you have downloaded for offline use in the classroom.


A more enlightened perspective is for the District to change its policy on YouTube videos. As long as we have an “ON/OFF” content filter, it is my understanding that blocking will continue. However, I’m sure the District’s Chief Technology Officer can speak to steps being taken to allow for tiered filtering that block student access to certain content but allow it for teachers.

Would this be YOUR District’s response to the question of YouTube in K-12 classrooms? How would you approach this issue?

And, finally, thanks to all who tweeted their opinion about YouTube downloading, including the following folks:

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure