YouTube in the Classroom? YES!

By CUE Memeber and Guest Blogger Karen Mensing

Hilarious cat videos, retro commercials and “not safe for work” clips might come to mind at the mention of the word “YouTube.” However, many educators have realized that YouTube in Education has almost endless possibilities and is can be an invaluable resource in the classroom. So, how does one strike a proper balance in a learning environment?

Because cute kittens running amuck might be too tempting as a time-waster for kids who are supposed to be doing their class work and the aforementioned, less-than-savory elements frighten their parents, many schools and districts block YouTube. It’s understandable why. But the sad fact is, the same districts and schools that are blocking their students and teachers from non-educational content are also blocking them from some of the most dynamic educational content available anywhere.

There’s a solution that everybody can be happy with: YouTube for Schools. YouTube for Schools grants access to thousands of free, high-quality, educational videos that can truly bring the world into their classroom – and do so in a controlled environment.

YouTube for Schools allows teachers to log in and watch any video, but doesn’t allow students access. The only videos that can be watched are YouTube EDU videos or videos their school has added. Comments and related videos are disabled, and educators’ searches are limited to YouTube EDU videos. YouTube for Schools also has some nice customization options and allows teachers to create playlists of videos viewable only within their school’s network.

All this is great news with regards to keeping kids away from undesirable content, but a district or school-level administrator may still be asking questions like, “What is the purpose of showing videos in the classroom?” Or, “Aren’t videos just something lazy teachers who don’t feel like teaching use?”


If used properly, YouTube for Schools can open up the walls of your classroom for your students and bring the world inside. You can add authenticity to your lessons by showing actual footage rather than simply looking at photos in a textbook. You can bring worldwide experts into your classroom, let your students experience science experiments you could never afford to do and allow your students to witness historical moments.

YouTube delivers thousands of educational videos right to your students. These videos can be used to enhance a lesson, like showing students a YouTube clip of actual Irish dancers while studying Ireland or footage from a Chinese New Year celebration while studying China.

YouTube videos can also add relevance to a lesson like showing Martin Luther King Jr. actually delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech (see below) or allowing students to watch the Berlin Wall being torn down. These videos can actually BE the lesson as well. Many educators have created videos, channels and playlists specifically as a lesson.

You can describe concepts such as a planet moving in one way and then quickly moving the other way, and it is a perfectly acceptable lesson. But if you can show them a video of it happening, then they will really understand what retrograde motion is and it will be so much more meaningful and the lesson, much more powerful. That’s because there is a big difference between talking about something and actually seeing it (or a representation of it) in action. Authenticity makes a lesson far more personal to a student and allows them to gain a better understanding of the lesson, which creates a deeper and more enjoyable learning experience.

Karen Mensing teaches a multi-age 1st and 2nd grade class in the Paradise Valley Unified School District in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a Google Certified Teacher, a Google Certified Trainer and a YouTube Star Teacher. In 2011 she was named Arizona’s Gifted Teacher of the Year and in 2012 she was Arizona’s Technology Teacher of the Year. She has also been recognized by the National Association for Missing and Exploited Children, Honeywell, TED-Ed and Microsoft for her use of technology in education. Follow her on Twitter @MsMensing.


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