What the Manager of YouTube EDU Is Watching

By Charley Locke

Angela Lin, manager of YouTube EDU, knows her stuff when it comes to online educational videos. EdSurge was lucky enough to ask Lin about why she believes in the mission behind YouTube EDU, her favorite videos and how “The Cosby Show” got her where she is today. Check out her recommended picks below!

EDSURGE: So, how did you get interested in educational videos?

LIN: For me, media is this powerful medium through which people develop their worldview. I grew up in a bilingual household, exposed to both Eastern and Western pop cultures and influences, and I was really aware of how that additional exposure was a very enriching experience for me.

Also--I would feel remiss if I didn’t tell you this: A lot of what I do at YouTube EDU is inspired by my love of “The Cosby Show” growing up. It wasn’t hit-you-over-the-head education, but that show taught you so much about how to be or not to be. I think learning happens in that way: It doesn’t need to be something that only happens at school in class-time, but should be part of everyone’s everyday lives. Learning and being curious is something that is innate in all of us.

What does YouTube EDU offer viewers?

Oftentimes, people think of YouTube as a place to see cat videos or dogs on skateboards, but “learning” content actually garners twice the number of views as content categorized as "pets and animals." People come to YouTube every day to learn about all sorts of things. And from an education perspective, we’re really excited that it’s not just parents or teaching telling their kids, “Go watch this.” It’s oftentimes students finding their way to these videos based off their own curiosity.

Tell us about the users who are posting videos on YouTube EDU.

The common thread is that these are people who are extremely passionate about their subject matter. They’re all experts in their own way. Some people, like Joe Hanson from “It’s Okay to Be Smart,” have gone to get a PhD in the particular subject. He said, “You know, I could spend my life in the lab and write academic papers in an echo chamber, or I could apply what I’ve learned and bring it to the masses, explaining science in a fun, engaging way.”

On the other side of the spectrum, a teacher, armed with a flipcam or a webcam, will often record classes so a student could watch them from home. A teacher in Montana explained to me that he posted them to YouTube because it’s the easiest place to put them, and it’s free. He started getting messages and comments from people all over the world who were watching his videos.

If you were going to make YouTube EDU videos, what would your channel be?

Straight education, I’d probably do a Mandarin channel. There’s so much history behind every Chinese character and that helped me learn the language. There are a lot of people teaching others how to speak English, but not a lot of channels about speaking Chinese, beyond talk news channels.

The other thing that would be funny coming from me is kitchen fails--I’m just terrible, I inevitably get myself in trouble when I’m in the kitchen. I’m sure that would provide a lot of comedic value.

Angela Lin’s Favorite YouTube EDU Channels

The Art Assignment
Frequency: Weekly
Created by: PBS Digital Studios, Sarah Green
Angela’s take: Art Assignment takes you around the US to meet working artists, and at the end of every episode, they challenge the audience to go out and recreate their version of the art that is talked about. What’s so awesome about The Art Assignment is that it showcases really interesting contemporary art, which I think is such a difficult thing to wrap your head around, and connects online consumption of the content with offline behavior. I love that idea that you can bring the art to a new generation that’s so used to seeing everything online--how do you make something that typically requires people to go experience it in person relevant, when people are used to consuming everything on their tablets and devices on their own homes?

Frequency: Weekly
Created by: Steve Spangler
Angela’s take: Sickscience is focused around showing you how to run an experiment. But they don’t actually tell you the science behind why--they show you the science first, and post a link to the answer. So in the comments section, people are debating back and forth on why they think something happened, which is really fun to see.

Frequency: Biweekly
Created by: Hank Green and John Green
Angela’s take: Hank Green and his brother John Green, YouTube sensation and New York Times bestselling author, offer a quirky, fast-paced and entertaining course on The Fall of RomeThe Dark Ages and The Mongol Empire. CrashCourse has close to 2 million subscribers--when you compare that to cable channel viewership, that’s just incredible. Straight educational content couldn’t go to a cable network and pitch following a US history curriculum--nobody would’ve said, yeah, sure, I’ll greenlight that. But on YouTube, it’s gotten so much viewership and engagement.

Frequency: Weekly
Created by: Loretta Scott
Angela’s take: A self-described “perky polyglot,” Loretta Scott is a Brooklyn native and Japanese/English bilingual who vlogs about her life in Japan and helps people to learn Japanese. Loretta describes her channel as a "metacognitive approach to language learning”--or, in less fancy words--it helps viewers ‘learn how to learn’ Japanese, so that they can teach themselves.” Loretta knows that if you give any student a textbook, that doesn't mean they'll learn to speak the language. With her approach, language learning is broken down into funny skits to show students how they can transform any content they find into real proficiency.

Check out a couple of EdSurge selections from Angela’s full playlist of channels to watch here!



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