Teaching Without Chipmunks: A Cleaner YouTube in the Classroom

A use case we never envisioned for A Cleaner YouTube: teaching.

This first came up in a blog post by Richard Bryne titled “A Cleaner YouTube: A Handy Browser Extension.” He wrote that when using the extension, “you don’t have to worry about accidentally displaying an inappropriate comment, advertisement, or related video.”

This blog post seemed to spark interest, other blog posts, a podcast and tweets. Here’s a few:

It makes sense that A Cleaner YouTube would have classroom uses and I’m almost embarrassed it hadn’t occurred to me. I taught for roughly 7 years at several universities, but I taught before YouTube had taken off as an educational tool.

Perhaps the best example of using YouTube for education might be the Kahn Academy’s channel. And if you don’t know about the Kahn Academy visit http://www.khanacademy.org/ or @khanacademy and read Wired’s article on Education By Disruption: Salman Kahn’s YouTube Revolution.

Here’s how A Cleaner YouTube can help teachers and students. I’ll use a Kahn Academy video as an example. Watch it without our extension installed or enabled to get the full experience: Matrix multiplication (part 1).

Last night for me the video came with an ad for laser skincare and suggestions to watch “The Matrix Movie Mistakes.” In the comments was a trenchant critique from Leonitusworm of the sketching software used in the video: “wait… is this MS paint? lawl.” Even better is this useful comment by shaneymane15: “linear algebra is a pain in the ass.”

In short: YouTube is a video sharing site and because of that it’s not ideal in some cases for presenting academic videos, as teachers have pointed out. Install our extension and you aren’t distracted by those Matrix movie mistakes or the unhelpful lawls.

Reading the above, you might get the wrong idea and we want to set that right. We’re not anti-YouTube. We’re very much pro-YouTube; comments and suggested videos can be helpful, or just plain fun to read and watch. I’ve learned some Radiohead songs from warrenmusic (the inimitable Warren Lain) and I still think the dramatic chipmunk is gut-busting funny after all these years despite the fact he’s not a chipmunk. This love of YouTube is why I built A Cleaner YouTube and why we, @dharmabruce and I, continue to develop and maintain it.

I love the music tutorials and the chipmunks, but sometimes students don’t need reminding that linear algebra is, well, a pain. Installing our extension doesn’t guarantee students an A+ or magically make instruction easier for teachers, but it’s one small tool that can help reduce distraction. And having been a teacher, I know that every little bit helps.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Without Chipmunks: A Cleaner YouTube in the Classroom

  1. The displayed comments are usually completely uncensored, just spam and porn links are filtered.
    I mean any comment could be posted, and the option to hide comments is a must.

    However, I still need to see related video lists. A better quality video could be listed.

    • You’re not the first to ask for related video lists. We can’t control what videos get listed–YouTube controls that. But we can provide an option to show the suggested video list.