George Lucas Educational Foundation
Technology Integration

Harnessing the Power of YouTube in the Classroom

If you want to use YouTube in the classroom, here are some tips to help you find and distribute appropriate content, explore virtual reality, and share student work.

May 3, 2016
Photo credit: ©Hero Images/500px

There are amazing ways to elevate and energize instruction through using technology tools. One resource that's popular with students of all ages -- from the youngest to the oldest -- is the video hosting website YouTube. YouTube lets anyone with a free account upload videos. Many organizations post collections of videos on this site, which is organized into channels. In addition to locating content, teachers can create their own YouTube channels to share videos and showcase student work.

YouTube is so much more than music videos and clips of animals doing tricks. It contains engaging, informative content at all levels. This video hosting site gives teachers the opportunity to take students around the world, listen to experts on a topic, or hear an explanation for a new idea. One of the reasons why people of all ages are using YouTube is because it's a powerful tool for teaching and learning.

Finding the "Right" Videos

Searching on YouTube with keywords can be as hit-or-miss as any Google Search. When looking for the "right" videos, there are a few strategies that teachers can use. Substituting different keywords can help bring different videos to the top of the list. Another option is to search within channels. Many organizations have YouTube channels, including notable channels from Khan Academy to the American Museum of Natural History. An advanced search will help you find channels based on your keywords. You can also use the advanced search tool to seek out videos of a certain length or uploaded within a certain time frame -- a great trick for finding recent and relevant content.

Accessing Content

Once you've found that perfect YouTube video, there are many ways to share it with students. The video clip might be something that you'll share with the whole class on a projector screen to spark a discussion and generate interest in a topic. If you'd like your students to watch differentiated content in smaller groups or view the same video at home, there are a few ways to get YouTube links to students. To include a YouTube video in a traditional activity sheet or homework page, you can shorten a URL or turn it into a QR code to make it easy for students and parents to access that clip.

A learning management system like Google Classroom or Seesaw lets teachers send the link to individual or groups of students to click and view on their device. The interactive presentation tool Nearpod also lets teachers embed YouTube videos so that students can pause to watch a clip by themselves or with partners. YouTube videos can also support students who are ready to explore topics that might not be explicitly covered in your curriculum.

Exploring Virtual Reality

YouTube now hosts videos that students can use to explore the world. The 360-degree videos on YouTube come from places like the Discovery Channel, are accessible on YouTube's website, and viewable on computers or mobile devices. There are lots of ways to use virtual reality tools like these in the classroom, and YouTube now contains videos that are compatible with Google Cardboard. If you don't have access to virtual reality viewfinders, students can still open the YouTube video and move it in all directions for a 360-degree view.

Sharing Student Work

There are many digital creation tools that link directly to YouTube. One example is the powerful screencasting tool Explain Everything. Students can post their Explain Everything creations on YouTube to easily share them with a global audience. Indeed, there are many ways that scannable technology like QR codes and augmented reality can make sharing student work happen easily in your classroom. Keep in mind, however, that when sharing student work on a platform like YouTube, you'll want to make sure that student permissions are in place.

How are you using YouTube with your students? Share your favorite YouTube channels and activities in the comments below!

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  • Education Trends
  • Media Literacy
  • Online Learning

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