Using Youtube and Google Books to Teach Education History

Guest post by Kevin Currie-Knight (bio).

Before I even start this blog post, let me make something clear: I don’t think anything I’m doing is particularly cutting-edge or anything. In fact, I think if you ask my students, they’d probably say that I use quite a blend of traditional method with some non-traditional sources.

So, the first thing I do that many students appreciate is the use of video in class, and particularly, Youtube video. I have found Youtube to be a quite amazing resource and have gotten some amazing video off of it. I have shown students every type of video from a camcorder quality recording of a valedictory speech criticizing public schooling to a recording of an early 1900 speech by Booker Washington to a 1950’s black-and-white video designed to convince then-young girls to take home economics (embedded below). A great many of my course evaluations have highlighted my use of some very diverse video as one thing that students have very much enjoyed (and something that has really brought history “home” to them.)

Phrenology: essays and studies, Book coverAnother thing I do, particularly as a history teacher, is use Google Books, and other electronic archiving databases for primary sources. My students have read excerpts of books on phrenology written in the 1800’s, expositions of the then-new trends of progressive education and scientific management from the early 1900 and seen newspaper advertisements for dame schools and New England Primer textbooks in the late 1700’s. Between Google Books collection of public domain books and newspaper archives UD has subscriptions to, I can get students looking at a lot of primary sources that previous generations would have required me to search for hard copies of.

Google Apps Chat feature in the left sidebar

Google Apps Chat feature.

The last thing I do utilizing technology, which may seem somewhat commonplace but is quite a tool, is to really use e-mail and the chat feature (called Google Talk) to effectively render physical office hours obsolete and ineffective. I still show up for office hours as required by students, but I notice that most students never come. The reason is that it is simply easier for students to ask questions in one of two ways: most commonly, students e-mail me, but also, some students and I have utilized GoogleApps’ chat feature (that anyone who has a Google@UDel e-mail can automatically use) to set up a “virtual meeting” that is, in many ways, every bit as effective as a face-to-face meeting. In future semesters, I may toy with having “by appointment” office hours and, instead, fielding most office-hour type of interactions by e-mail and Google chat. (Anyone who has a Sakai site can also use the chat room to field these types of interactions, but they are NOT private, as are the GoogleApps’ chats, which means that other students will be able to see the entire chat transcript.)

As mentioned, I don’t really consider anything I’m doing to be altering radically how I instruct. Every lesson of mine generally still contains a hefty dose of more “traditional” instruction technique (which I believe still is often the most effective way). But even by me simply incorporating electronic sources into my instruction, students often view me as more in tune with their world than as a stuffy instructor. The myth is that using electronic sources and methods in your class means that you must radically transform how you do everything. It does not. It simply offers instructors more options to enhance what they are doing (or change what they are doing, depending on how they want to use it.)

Kevin Currie-Knight is a Ph.D. student and a Teaching Assistant at the School of Education at the University of Delaware. He teaches the EDUC247 (History of Education in America) course, which enrolls about 40 students per semester. His research and teaching interests are centered around curriculum inquiry and the history/philosophy of education. He can be reached at


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