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YouTube Channels to Use in Your Classroom

February 10, 2021

YouTube is a dynamic online space used in lots of different ways. Although you might hear students talking about making TikTok videos instead of YouTube videos, this is a space for student creators and consumers of all age levels. When someone says I’m going to Google to find the answer, they often use Google interchangeably with a verb, the simple action of searching for something.

You might have heard someone say, “I’ll YouTube it,” or some variation of this phrase. And we know what they mean, that they want to find a video related to their question or their interest. Although heading over to YouTube with a topic in mind is often how we use this space, it’s also important to know what is out there and available. So we can search with a purpose but also have a better understanding of our options.

Yes, you can search with a purpose, but let’s get a better understanding of what is out there and available for us. Now I could spend the whole day talking about YouTube and video content. If you’re interested in video playlists and using and creating them this year, check out episode 34 of the Easy EdTech Podcast, it’s titled Ways to Use Video Playlists in the Classroom!

So today we’ll focus on five of my favorite resources on YouTube, specifically five favorite YouTube channels for teachers! You can also listen to these ideas in episode #38 of the Easy EdTech Podcast. This episode is: Five Favorite YouTube Channels for Teachers.

Finding YouTube Channels

Let’s start off with that word channel. A YouTube Channel is essentially all of the videos created by one YouTube account. Sometimes they’ll break these down, or organize them into categories. But the channel is where all of their videos live.

When you go to YouTube, whether you use a mobile app, search on a web browser or open it up on an app on a classroom AppleTV, you can search by keyword. To find a user or channel, you can do an advanced search or simply type in the name of the channel into the normal search bar and typically the YouTube channel will pop up as one of the first results.

Edutopia

First up on the list is Edutopia. Now I’m a big fan of Edutopia, and have written lots of guest blogs for their website. In addition to their more traditional written content, they have a fantastic Youtube Channel.

With almost 600 videos, the folks at Edutopia have hundreds of videos for you to explore and share with colleagues. I’ve had the chance to blog for Edutopia and visit their offices in California a few times. As a big fan of their work, I know that video is a large component of what they offer teachers. Although I love podcast episodes and blog posts, videos are a powerful way of communicating information.

Edutopia’s YouTube channel is really diverse in content. They feature case studies where they take you to a school or classroom and share a success story or strategy. This channel is really designed for educators (the next ones on the list are ones I chose with student viewers in mind). So you can use these videos as research for a new strategy or fact-finding to figure out how to bring a new initiative to your school.

Learn about which YouTube Channels are perfect for using with your students. These selections give you access to free content for all subject areas.

How might you use videos from Edutopia’s YouTube channel? 

Choose a video related to a current initiative and share it with your colleagues. If you are running a PLC or PD at your school you might play it for a group and lead a discussion about what you saw. Alternatively, you might send out the link ahead of time with discussion questions, or substitute a face-to-face meeting after school with a discussion in an online forum. This is also a great way to model how you might use videos and discussions with a group of students.

NASA

Great for students of all ages, NASA’s YouTube channel has a large variety of content perfect for cross-curricular exploration. When you head over to their YouTube channel you’ll see a handful of categories. Remember just search with a keyword or advanced search on YouTube.

Although there are lots of great videos, and they update their YouTube page frequently, I love the “Ask NASA” series. Right now there are 7 videos on this playlist from NASA’s YouTube channel. Even one with Brad Pitt. They’re all just a few minutes long and tackle questions your students might have around outer space. 

Learn about which YouTube Channels are perfect for using with your students. These selections give you access to free content for all subject areas.

How might you use videos from NASA’s YouTube channel? 

Choose a video to inspire student storytellers during a science fiction unit, or one that can drive conversations around inquiry projects in a high school science classroom. You can share the link along with a task or question for students to discuss by posting it in Seesaw, Google Classroom, or whatever space you typically use to share online resources.

Storyline Online

Number three on the list is one that regular readers of the blog have heard me talk about before. In the post Read Aloud and Teacher Guides From Storyline Online, I talked about read aloud videos and teacher guides and referenced the YouTube channel of Storyline Online. Although they also have an app, and a website with all of the videos embedded, they have a dedicated YouTube channel, too.

Now Storyline Online is definitely designed with an elementary audience in mind. That being said, they do have some read aloud books with topics related to middle school and high school social studies topics, as well as big ideas like friendship or belonging that might align with goals you have for SEL (social emotional learning) curriculum.

If you’re sharing a read aloud video from Storyline Online, remember that you can turn on and off closed captioning and even start the video at a specific time which is useful if you’re revisiting a book or just sharing an excerpt.

Learn about which YouTube Channels are perfect for using with your students. These selections give you access to free content for all subject areas.

How might you use videos from Storyline Online’s YouTube channel? 

Choose a video of a book you would typically read aloud to your whole class. Share that link with students who would benefit from hearing the book read and seeing illustrations before a whole class reading activity. This way they can listen to the book and be better prepared for a traditional read aloud experience.

If you are working with or supporting new teachers, Storyline Online is also a great YouTube channel to recommend to them. They can use this YouTube channel to listen to books they haven’t heard of before and expand their knowledge of children’s literature.

Before we get to number four and five on the list, here is a quick tip: If you sign into YouTube when searching for these channels (any Google account like a school email that is also a Google account), you can subscribe to the YouTube channels I mentioned. This is totally optional, and completely free. But if you do hit that subscribe button (just like the subscribe button for this podcast) it will give you a notification when there is a new video added to that account. This is great for any YouTube channel that posts content you don’t want to miss.

TED-Ed & TED

Number four on this list of favorite YouTube channels is kind of a two-for-one. It is TED-Ed & TED. Now TED is the organization behind the popular TED and TEDx talks you’ll often see go viral. They feature an expert standing on a stage, sometimes with visuals or a slide deck behind them. That person shares a story, big idea, or makes a case for something. These are great for sharing with students, and you can find them on TED’s website or straight from their YouTube channel.

TED-Ed takes a spin on this and has explainer videos for students. Now I spoke about explainer videos on episode two of the Easy EdTech Podcast and some strategies for using them with students. You can also check out my blog post 25 Reasons to Use TED-ED in your classroom.

On TED-Ed’s YouTube channel you can find their explainer videos broken down into different categories. One reason I like this is because it makes it easy to find related content. So if you have a student who shows a great deal of interest in a video you shared with them, you can use this feature to find more content for them to explore.

Learn about which YouTube Channels are perfect for using with your students. These selections give you access to free content for all subject areas.

How might you use videos from TED or TED-Ed’s YouTube channel? 

Because there are so many videos from TED to choose from, it’s a great reminder of the power of curation — strategically handpicking resources to share with students. Head over to YouTube and search with a keyword, but also add TED to your search bar. This can help you find video resources from this user that might be helpful.

National Geographic

The final and number five on the list for today is National Geographic. Now National Geographic is an organization and media outlet that has been around for awhile. They have great content on their website and a fantastic YouTube channel, too. On their YouTube channel you’ll find videos that spotlight life in different parts of the world. 

Now I love the variety of content including their 101 series. With over a hundred videos on this playlist, it gives you a quick primer on a variety of subjects. So if you are introducing something totally new to students this could absolutely come in handy. Or if you’ve noticed some gaps in student experience as compared to classmates, you might decide to bring in one of these videos for a small group of students or an individual student who you want to have specific background knowledge on a topic 

And one thing I definitely love is their 360 video content. You can access this straight from YouTube but I would suggest viewing it on a Chrome web browser, even if you’re not on a Chromebook. This way, you open up the 360 video from National Geographic and look in all directions as you and students explore a new space.

Learn about which YouTube Channels are perfect for using with your students. These selections give you access to free content for all subject areas.

How might you use videos from National Geographic’s YouTube channel? 

If your students are reading a book with a setting that might be hard for them to picture, do a quick search. If you are introducing geography, landforms or life cycles to students, look to see what they have on their channel. Or in the math classroom, you might make a connection to how a certain equation relates to a structure or space in a different part of the world, see if National Geographic has related content to bring this idea to life.

Do you use any of these YouTube channels in your classroom? I’d love to hear about it! Share your story in the comments below or tag @classtechtips on any social sharing! If you have another favorite YouTube channel make sure to share it below, too!

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Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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