Back in the Spring of 2007, just a few months before almost every major university had established their own channel on YouTube, TeacherTube was making the rounds of the edublogosphere. At the time, it was a Godsent gift to teachers everywhere looking for an alternative to the increasingly blocked preeminent video-sharing site. I planned entire projects around TeacherTube for the following school year, and hosted many of my student’s projects on the site. No commercials, no filtering or blocking, and best of all, it had a bright shiny apple in the logo with the word “teacher”, which magically made it 100% perfectly safe (in the eyes of many teachers and parents) from all of the detritus of fowl-mouthed YouTube commentators and inappropriate content.
Fast forward to present day, and TeacherTube has become one of the worst examples of online video-sharing, so much so that I’ve even started to explicitly advise teachers to STOP using TeacherTube to share their content.
Why do I feel this way you may ask? To be fair, I’ve broken my reasons into 5 separate thoughts, so that supporters of TeacherTube, and the entrepreneurs behind TeacherTube itself can respond in a way that best addresses the issues. That, and making lists is a lot of fun 🙂
1. Commercialization Makes Me Cry…
I understand that as a business, TeacherTube must make money (or at least earn enough VC to attract the attention of Discovery Education in hopes of a buyout). However, After several months of video hosting and streaming, putting commercial advertisements on my videos (even though they be text advertisements) is NOT cool.
If I wanted advertisements, I would have hosted at YouTube, not your site. My students don’t need to be bothered with a link advertising help with their algebra from a tutoring service. They’re getting it from me, RIGHT NOW, with the video I’ve uploaded! Also, pick a target demographic and stick with it. Advertising for online Master’s degrees on one page, while soliciting “rock hard abs” by following “just 2 rules” isn’t exactly nailing your audience is it?
Am I saying you should take down your advertisements? NO! But if you’re going to plaster them on every video you need to offer a subscription-based OPT OUT system. I’m sure there are plenty of people willing to pay 5 dollars a month to have their content be add free. It would certainly be more money than what I assume you’re getting for the advertisements being run now.
2. Fix the Uploading Crash Bug Feature
In the past 4 weeks I have been unable to successfully upload a video from home, school, and a “neutral” third party location (public library). The little java-loader tells me that everything is going fine for the majority of the upload, and then, right at the end, as I’m preparing for the “All’s well that ends well” notification, I get nothing. The web browser times out, and TeacherTube becomes inaccessible for me on whichever machine I happen to be using for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Once it does become responsive again, is it possible that my video got uploaded? Nope! I’ve had the uploading “timeout” problem since I first started using TeacherTube. It’s become more pronounced, and soul-crushing in the last few months, to the point where I don’t trust TeacherTube for getting video up in a timely fashion, let alone even successfully uploading the earth shattering discovery in my ongoing investigation as to why elementary students MUST put headphone wires in their mouths.
3. Homepages…..Specifically MY homepage…..should have…..MY videos on it, WITHOUT clicking on another link!
4. Presentation, Presentation, Presentation
I’m not in marketing, nor advertising, so I’m sure if presentation is the word I’m looking for, but at least put a little more attention to how seamless (or unglued) the TeacherTube experience is across the web. When I visit the site itself and view movies I’m presented with a nice, visually appealing video player. Visit that same video embedded on another website and the player is completely different. No buffering notification so I can see how much of the video has loaded, no quick rewind button, not even a zen-like spinning wheel that assures me something is happening in the background. And I’m presented with yet a 3rd kind of video player when I stumbled across my “video shelf”, which I’m still not sure how I found. Pick one seamless experience, and stick with it. My vote is for the player on the site itself.
5. When So Many Others are Doing Video Sharing Better, Why Keep Going?
The list could go on, but the point is….if you’re not going to innovate (uploading and attaching documents does not count), then at least imitate! Too often we as educators get the second-string effort when it comes to professional tools. We don’t always get the nicest, fastest computers at school. We don’t always get the best digital video cameras to create content with. We don’t even always have the top-shelf whiteboard markers that don’t leave greasy streaks on the board, but what we do have is competent at performing our daily tasks! We ask the same online.
If even by “adopting” some more standard practices among other video sharing sites equates to a small measurable difference in performance of the site, I say go for it! If blatantly copying features of other sites turns TeacherTube into a video-sharing powerhouse, then full steam ahead!
My real point isn’t to harp on how awful the site is, but rather to point out that we as educators have choices…too many choices to allow ourselves to be shackled to a sub-par service simply because it’s branded “for teachers”. Do I have other gripes with TeacherTube? Yes. Do I appreciate the service TeacherTube has offered simply by existing? Sure…it’s served as an excellent catalyst for the educational video hosting/sharing market, now we just need someone to step up the game.
And if no one’s game, I may just have to spend an afternoon getting a phpMotion install running on my own server. 😛