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Student voices: The helpful side of technology

As I write this after taking finals, the last thing I want to think about is school and everything associated with it. However, there is a very interesting trend emerging in education that I have noticed in the past year. The obvious growing influence of technology has spilled into education. Some schools use iPads, for example, or use interactive electronic whiteboards to facilitate learning.

There is a new player in the field of educational technology and it's free, as long as you have an internet connection: YouTube. The popular video-sharing website is most notable for those silly viral videos of people falling, cute animals and strange music videos, but beyond those, there is an amazing set of resources that is helping students in unimaginable ways.

Okay, so maybe "unimaginable" is a bit of an exaggeration, but I am speaking from experience. The people who produce educational YouTube videos are some of the smartest people out there. Don't get me wrong, my teachers are excellent, but if I don't quite grasp a concept initially in class, staring at my notebook is not going to make me magically understand. However, having a voice guide me and a visual to follow makes it a lot easier to focus on learning new topics. It is by no means replacing the need for teaching. Instead, it is building on the knowledge I learn in class to increase my understanding that much more.

Every topic imaginable is covered by these content creators, some of whom run a nonprofit to produce their videos, and others who make them on top of maintaining a regular job. The methods of teaching vary greatly among the videos. Some are face-to-face, some include animation and others just feature a step-by-step narration to solving equations or understanding concepts.

Although these videos are very convenient to watch at home when you simply do not understand your notes or just need a bit of interactive teaching to help you focus at home, they have been discovered by "real teachers" (my teachers) to enhance their teaching. Some teachers include YouTube videos in class to focus students, break up the lecture, or even explain a topic that needs extra emphasis. One of my teachers also links us to videos that help us understand the concepts we learned in class at home, where we obviously cannot get their direct help in understanding.

Not to mention, the added benefit of these videos is that at home, I can re-watch the concepts I do not understand and skip the parts I already understand. It is comparable to a personalized lecture. Educational YouTube videos will never, ever replace traditional teaching, but they do offer extra help and provide an example of how technology is not hurting us, but instead helping.

Marnie Sciamanda is a senior at Rosemount High School. Her column appears every other week.