Growing Up in the YouTube Age

[Here’s Anna Cavallo, back with another interesting post on the ever-changing world of learning and content.]

On Wednesday, one of the Publishers Weekly blogs, Shelftalker, led me to a YouTube video that I can’t get enough of: Scholar Ladies (Get an A on It).

I’ll admit having a soft spot for Beyonce’s original song, “Single Ladies,” but mostly I just think the video is a perfect example of how modern students are learning, living, and growing with technology and multimedia. The rehearsed choreography, the inventive rhymes, the school faculty involvement? All took organization, teamwork, and creativity. And everyone looked excited to be involved.

A young relative of mine wowed me several years ago with a video that he filmed, directed, and appeared in for a high school group project on ancient China. (Or was it 8th grade? He could work a VCR by age two, so either is possible.) He and his classmates had created an impressively informative yet humorous script, coordinated costumes, and rehearsed (or at least filmed several takes of) scenes. After his adept editing, it was a quite well done 8-minute movie. And today, years later, most of the kids involved probably remember at least as much about ancient China as—I’m tempted to say more than—if they had each just been required to write a report.

I’m not trying to downplay books and writing. That relative has also created countless movies with his cousins, in which I often see elements of multiple books combined into awesomely zany plots (think Harry Potter travels to Narnia and meets Frodo Baggins in a light-saber battle, with many original twists thrown in). These kids have excellent imaginations fostered by years of reading.

But our obvious current challenge in the children’s book world, maybe particularly nonfiction, is figuring out how our materials can best lend themselves to the interactive ways students are using technology—and how to tap into the excitement they have about it. Many class video projects are on YouTube; students share pictures and songs and videos on Facebook. So our books may have companion websites with informational videos and links, new titles more often have book trailers, and back matter can suggest activities that use technology or media to enhance understanding. How else can books contribute as one of the media in a multimedia education? We’d love to have your thoughts.