|21 April, 2019

Books vs YouTube: Students debate which one is better

While videos offer the audio-visual advantage, books exercise the brain and allow room for imagination

Midsection of woman working with colleague at table in office. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Midsection of woman working with colleague at table in office. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images/Prathan Chorruangsak

Which one is a more effective way of learning - watching videos or reading books? Teachers, students and parents are still trying to find the right balance between both, even though this question has long been debated since YouTube took over most computer screens.

While videos offer the audio-visual advantage, books exercise the brain and allow room for imagination. Visual learners may argue in favour of learning through videos, but word-lovers are likely to vote for books.

UAE students who wrote in to Khaleej Times have shared what suits their personal style of learning, with many saying they prefer books to videos as these help them retain information for a longer period of time.


"Books leave room for imagination, and you get to create the characters in your own way. The words and letters come alive in the mind. It has been proven that our brain cells grow strong when they are used in a task like reading. Books are great stress-busters," said Prakrithi Suresh, a Grade 7 student at ASPAM Indian International School in Sharjah.

However, Suresh knows it's not easy to get kids to like books.

"With all the glow of gadgets, parents need to be role models and read in their children's presence. As much as we embrace the tech world, sometimes, it limits the imagination of children.

"Besides, unsupervised viewing of YouTube can also be unsuitable for kids. A lot of inappropriate content may pop up, and since YouTube has already become a marketing platform, ads can easily distract students who are studying," she added.

A Grade 5 student at The Indian High School in Dubai, Nehan Naseem, said reading books helps him retain the information he learns; enhances his concentration levels; and improves his communication skills. But whenever he requires a visual representation of a topic he doesn't understand, he turns to Youtube.

"When reading, we unconsciously observe and learn new words, along with the language structure. This is also an added advantage as we get to improve our vocabulary.

"But I would not undermine the benefits of watching YouTube videos because these can help us understand a complicated concept through its visual interpretation. It is also beneficial when we are running out of time as videos can present ideas in 10 minutes or so," he said.

There are also students who would rather study mainly through videos than books.

Lavanya Liz Thomas, a student at Cambridge International School in Dubai, said: "By all means, students refer to YouTube videos for further knowledge and understanding of a concept. It increases the depth of information for the students, and it helps visual learners grasp a lesson with loads of animation and graphics.

"It likewise benefits tutors while handling the topic in classes. It can serve as an online tutorial source for learners of all ages."

'Learning should not be limited to one medium'

Every individual has their own way of retaining information, whether it's by watching videos, reading books, listening to a podcast or sitting in on a lecture.

But what method are teachers using in UAE classrooms? Are they now depending more on videos or do they often use textbooks?

Nida Akif, a teacher in the UAE, said: "I use YouTube videos, but only the clips that are one to two minutes long. They are mostly used as a starter activity or to give a visual concept to students. The main study portion comprises books and PowerPoint presentations."

Another teacher, Uzma Azim Shaikh, said: "I hardly use YouTube videos for teaching. Not all videos are age-appropriate, and some do not touch on each concept being taught. Most lessons are activity-based or taught through PowerPoint slides made by teachers."

A few parents who shared their thoughts on the matter said they prefer books to videos in teaching children. Though some mums and dads believe that schools should use alternative means of teaching and should not limit themselves to books.

Madiha Wasim, a parent, said: "In this era of technology, I think teachers must ignite the love of books in kids. As far as YouTube videos are concerned, kids enjoy watching them, so the right videos can be used as a tool."

Another parent, Marium Bano, said: "I don't think there's anything wrong in using YouTube for teaching. I think children are lucky that there are so many different approaches to learning now. Why should learning be limited to books?"

Psychologists have also been going back and forth in attempting to figure out the best way to retain information. The World Economic Forum reported in 2017 that a new study proved that students learn better from books as compared to screens.

The study had concluded that most students comprehend the content better in print books, however, it also added that there is no "one medium that fits all".

Teachers must help students evaluate information sources

(Angelika Küster-Assistant Head of Secondary, MYP Coordinator,GEMS International School Al Khail)

Research projects have become a common occurrence in student assignments across all disciplines. While 20 years ago, much of that research was conducted in libraries, using books and articles, today's students have access to the Internet and a wealth of information and sources.

One of these sources is YouTube, by now the second most popular website in both the global market and in the US for 2019, with Google searches being number one. Not only is YouTube a popular medium, it also holds a wealth of information - an ever-expanding pool of video data, often documenting real-life situations and interactions.

Which begs the question whether students can still benefit from doing research by reading books, visiting libraries and accessing journal articles. At GEMS International School - Al Khail (GIS), we believe that research skills encompass a range of sources and these cannot be limited to one particular type. Hence, we provide students with sources that include books, articles, as well as information from online platforms, including YouTube. Our students in the upper grades are especially encouraged and expected to use articles and books as sources to acquire information, as they tend to be specialised and are generally written by more qualified authors.

In addition to that, we focus on developing a set of research and critical thinking skills that allow students to find and evaluate information. As Mr Gagan, the GIS head of individuals and societies, tells us: "In INS, students are taught to analyse the origins, purposes, values and limitations of sources. This ensures they access and use evidence which is more reliable."

Hence, it is as - if not more - important for students to be able to locate, evaluate and use different types of sources than accessing and using one particular format. This is also reflected in the International Baccalaureate's approaches to learning skills, which include a separate category for research skills.

While speaking to the GIS secondary librarian, Ms Wright, I was told that as early as 2009, "YouTube created YouTube EDU.With over 700,000 videos, teachers can find just about any topic they would want to cover".

This proves that YouTube has significant educational value that goes beyond infotainment. Furthermore, YouTube allows visual learners to access information more easily, which supports our differentiation strategies for students.

The current generation of students, Generation Z, is accustomed to obtaining information through multi-media, which makes YouTube an excellent research tool when used correctly and wisely. Our job as educators is to help students navigate the growing mountains of information and teaching them how to use different sources for different purposes, always ensuring the reliability and accuracy of the sources.

Books will also form an important part of the educational experience at GIS because as Mark Zuckerberg said, "books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself deeper than most media today".


>Leaves room for imagination

>Tends to be specialised

>Generally written by more qualified authors

>Easier to highlight information


>Engages more senses (sight, sound)

>Can be more conversational

>Presents concepts in a way that makes it easier for kids to understand (visual representation)

>Often documents real-life situations and interactions


Reading takes you on a journey

The interactive apps on the Internet might seem like better learning tools for the young minds, but they aren't as powerful as books. The visual images keep the mind engaged, but reading takes it on a journey, sparks imagination, and sharpens it. Read for just 10 minutes every day to a toddler and see the difference it can make. Our digital lives should not affect our reading habits.

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