Our students live in a world of media. In fact, no other period in human history has ever afforded young minds such access to entertainment. This is especially true for YouTube. Whether it’s music, videogames, or even something as redundant as cat videos, the possibilities for amusement (and distraction) on YouTube are virtually endless. This knowledge can make a lot of teachers nervous. After all, how are we supposed to compete for student focus and application when they have all of that at their fingertips? Well, maybe we shouldn’t.
While it’s true we live in an information age, students haven’t lost their innate desire to learn. Their curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills are still itching to be flexed. Rather than try to shut platforms like YouTube out of the classroom, we can use them to facilitate learning experiences which help students understand the information they’re given. They may even discover something new along the way. Here are just 5 useful (and fun) YouTube channels for your classroom!
Important Note: Keep in mind that not all content on these channels is suitable for small children, so be sure to review it thoroughly before sharing it in class!
(Specializes in Science, Biology, Math, and Physics)
If you’re looking for fun, hard-hitting science content that will engage your students, you can’t go wrong with Veritasium. This channel was created by Derek Muller, a scientist and filmmaker whose work has been featured in Scientific American, NPR, and Bill Nye Saves the World. What makes Veritasium truly unique is that it explores a wide range of subjects through a lens of inquiry and scientific analysis. Videos tackle everything from how black holes devour stars, to oddball physics problems, or even how social media accounts falsify their own popularity. Also, the channel features a scientist wielding a flamethrower. That’s bound to keep your students’ attention.
(Specializes in Geography, International Politics, and Social-Emotional Learning)
The world is a big place, but sometimes our students can have trouble visualizing anything beyond their own hometown. Geography Now won’t just show students what a fascinating place our world is, it can also help them develop empathy and understanding for other cultures. Each video highlights a different country while breaking down its demographics, languages, traditions, history, and political structure. The hosts provide plenty of humor yet are always respectful in their analysis of other cultures, and best of all, they make a point to include citizens from the featured countries whenever possible. So, if you’re looking to expand the horizon of your classroom, make time for Geography Now. It’s a great way to introduce your students to the wider world and show them that we all have more in common than they might believe.
Overly Sarcastic Productions
(Specializes in History, Literature, and Philosophy)
Learning is serious business, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of fun too! Overly Sarcastic Productions lives up to its name by providing a humorously analytical look at books and historical events which help to make the content both memorable and more comprehensive. Whether its dunking on ancient literary characters (seriously, Agamemnon was THE WORST) or trying to untangle the bizarre patrilineal slap-fight that was the War of the Roses (too much stabbing!), OSP is bound to keep your students engrossed, entertained, and learning. Most of the videos are not overly long either, which makes them a perfect tool for quick classroom reviews. There may be a plethora of student resources on YouTube, but none can match the passion or wit of Overly Sarcastic Productions!
(Specializes in History, Game Design, and Literary Theory)
As educators, we should always be on the lookout for ways to ignite our student’s innate desire for knowledge. Extra Credits is a channel built for such discovery. Unlike most traditional learning outlets, Extra Credits isn’t afraid to wander off the beaten path and introduce viewers to stories or ideas that may get overlooked in a standard curriculum. For example, did you know that an epidemic in World of Warcraft is helping modern scientists to study viral outbreaks? Have you ever heard about the hilarious financial con that brought England to the brink of ruin? Are you aware that J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were more than just great writers, they actually reshaped our understanding of literature? Simply present these questions to your classroom and watch as their natural curiosity takes over.
(Specializes in Everything)
Crash Course is easily the most comprehensive learning resource on all of YouTube. The channel was started by the author John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and his brother Hank. Initially created as a way of helping students and teachers learn about world history and biology, it has since expanded to include chemistry, literature, psychology, physics, and much more. Both John and Hank have proven themselves to be excellent instructors. Their videos are filmed in such a way that even the most difficult subjects become easy to understand. Both brothers also carry a very deep respect for education. In their own words, “If Crash Course helps you do better on a test or pass a class that’s great, but really, our goal is to help people learn things, to know stuff, to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and their world.” And in the end, isn’t that what education is all about?