Thursday, October 22, 2015

7 ways to use YouTube in the classroom

YouTube currently has over one billion users, with those users watching over six billion hours of video each month. 300 hours worth of new video is uploaded every minute. It's estimated that the average time spent on a session by mobile YouTube users is 40 minutes. (source) That's a lot of video time! Clearly video is a big thing and isn't going away soon. 

How can teachers harness the power of video? James Sanders has created a presentation 10 Ways to Use YouTube, that has given me a lot of ideas. I've shared some of them here and added a few of my own.

1. Hooks and discussion starters

Start a lesson or discussion with a video that grabs your students' attention. YouTube videos are great for engaging your students, bringing in different perspectives, and encouraging students to consider new viewpoints. This Hot Wheels video could be used to introduce a lesson on the laws of motion or a physics lesson.

2. Critical Thinking

Visual imagery produced by videos is a great way to get students thinking critically. This commercial was produced by Honda to advertise their cars. After viewing it let them play with critical thinking. What's the bigger idea here? What's Honda trying to express about its company? What can the student infer?

3. Exam Review

Use videos to help students review material or study for a test. Create a video with "flash cards" to help students practice vocabulary the night before a big test. Here is one example of using YouTube to review for exams.

4. Flip your classroom

Use video to flip your classroom. Have the students watch a video as homework to understand the basics of a concepts. When they come in to class, expand on their learning experience by applying the information they learned. After watching this video on tectonic plates at home, students could create a model to show movement.

5. Bring the world to your classroom

Bring the world to your students. Many will never have the opportunity to see far away places, experience unique environments or see experiments in action. Use videos during a lesson or unit so students can see what something is actually like, rather than just reading about it.

6. Link videos

Within a video's settings you can add links to other YouTube videos that allow you to create engaging interactive experiences. Here's one that was professionally created.

Here's another one teacher James Sanders put together to help his students learn about chemical reactions. James shows how to do this here.

7. Create interactive videos

Use a service like Edpuzzle or Zaption to create interactive videos. With these services you can embed your voice, add questions, keep students from "skipping" through the video, and gather student viewing data. This is an easy way to hold students accountable for the videos you share with them.

Jim Sill leads many workshops on harnessing the power of video in the classroom. He has compiled a list of creative ways teachers have used videos - everything from cultural bias to risk taking to metaphors. Browse through the list for some very creative ideas.

Do you use video in your classroom? What are some ways you can engage students through this medium?


  1. I certainly include videos in my classroom. However, sometimes I find excellent YouTube videos that I am not able to use in the classroom due to CCSD restrictions. Last month I was ready to show a video from Vimeo to my colleagues and I couldn't. It was about using the WIDA Can Do descriptors in the classroom. It was great and I just sent the link to my school
    Conference icon. Do you have a solution/advice for this kind of problems?
    Thank you in advance for your answer.
    Sandra Oviedo

    1. Yes, this is a big problem unfortunately. I have only two solutions:

      Try changing the URL on YouTube to include the s after http. For example https://youtubeurl. This forces YouTube out of the education version and a lot of times videos will come through. That only works if you have the direct URL to the video. If it's embedded in another website that won't work.

      Another option is to contact the author of the video and ask them to categorize it as Education. That will always get through the filter and is easy for them to do from their end.

      Another option that I don't really encourage is to download the video using a website such as This isn't the best idea because it most likely violates copyright. Also, the author wouldn't get the video hits on their YouTube channel that would let them know how popular the video is.

  2. I use youtube in my driver's ed class for some more up to date videos. Red Asphalt is a little out dated and finding a VHS player is becoming more difficult haha.

    1. You should check out With that website you can embed quizzes into any YouTube video, making your students accountable for the videos they watch. It's completely free too! I'll be writing a blog post about it soon.