YouTube as a source?

There is a great discussion going on right now on the National History Day teacher list-serv. (If you aren’t on it, consider signing up:

Basically, an inquiry came in that said this:
“I have started to proofread some bibs, and have one with an interesting source–YouTube. The topic is a Holocaust rescuer…and several of their sources are from a Survivors of the Holocaust Testimonies on YouTube. What do you think? Looking at them they seem like true valid and legitimate sources…… but my other thought is what do you think of using YouTube as a source? My first thought was absolutely not…..but then….when I first started doing NHD we were discouraged from using the internet too much. Should I recommend they leave the YouTube oral histories in their bib or take them out? I would really appreciate your opinion.”

I admit, that I didn’t instantly have an opinion on this. It was a little shocking, considering how much a rail against Wikipedia as anything other than a place to go to find background info and more legitimate sources. But then feedback starting coming in. . .

“I think contacting the folks who put it up would be the first step to legitimacy. See if there is a historian behind it,” said Ed Glassman, Denver School of the Arts.

That’s a great first step. YouTube, like Wikipedia, can be a great place to go to identify sources. It, like Google Image Search, isn’t the main source of a research tidbit.

And then this email came through from middle school teacher Mellissa B. Harvold: “If these were my students, and there was still time, I would suggest they contact the local NPR and see if their traveling Oral History recording booth had any similar stories. If they are not using the YouTube images for a documentary entry, then they could get much the same information from a more socially acceptable source. Another suggestion would be to go to the site with your students and help them look for contact information from the publisher/creator. Your students could do some backward research to request a phone or IM interview, that way they get the primary source of an interview to cite, rather than YouTube.”

Another excellent suggestion! I am curious as to what you, the teachers and students of New York State think about using YouTube as a source. Here is your chance to help me formulate my final opinion on the matter. Post your comments here. Let’s discuss!!!


1 Response to “YouTube as a source?”

  1. 1 John Warren February 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Seems like a perfect teaching moment for media literacy, sourcing and citation. If the video is from a reputable source, then it’s oral history plain and simple and entirely fair game.

    I generally tell my students when it comes to internet sources – try to find the original document, primary source. It this case it may be looking into who did the video, finding it on their page, and linking there.

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