10 Tips for Teachers Using YouTube in the Classroom

The YouTube Paradox

YouTube is an amazing resource for the classroom, and it is increasingly hard to ignore. YouTube has over 1 billion users with 300 hours of video are uploaded to its servers every minute. People spend hundreds of millions of hours watching YouTube and they generate billions of views all over the world.

There are countless examples of educational videos on YouTube that are invaluable for teachers in the classroom. Every curricular area can benefit in some way from the treasures that it holds. However, YouTube is not without its problems. There are many examples of distracting or just plain inappropriate content, and that can be hard for educators to navigate. So, here are some tips on how to overcome these issues when using YouTube in the classroom.

1. Block YouTube Video Ads

There's no denying the fact that ads pay for many of our favorite, free websites. YouTube is no exception, but at the same time, they are a clear distraction in the classroom and a quick way to shift student attention from the task at hand to something that is clearly unrelated. Many can be skipped after the first five seconds, but others are 20 seconds or more.

To minimize this disruption, try an ad-blocking browser extension like AdBlock Plus. It is available for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and more. It is designed to block banners, pop-ups, malware and video ads on all websites, including YouTube. It is not always 100% effective, but you should see a noticeable improvement once it is installed. Another great option is the AdBlock extension. It has a similar name, and does very similar things, so feel free to compare and contrast.

The Pros & Cons of AdBlock Browser Extensions

2. How to Hide the YouTube Sidebar and Comments

Ads are undoubtedly an annoyance when using YouTube in the classroom, but the videos in the sidebar and the comments underneath can be just as annoying. You can, of course, go full screen with your videos to hide these distractions, but they are still there when you share the link to a video with students, or exit full screen mode. So what can be done about that?

A number of websites and browser extensions exist to help with this problem. Websites like SafeShare.TV, ViewPure, and Quietube let you paste the URL from a YouTube video into their search box to give you a clean, distraction-free view of your video. There are no comments, sidebars or ads to get people off task.

Another solution is to use something like Turn Off the Lights, a browser extension that is available for all modern browsers. This handy tool dims everything around a video so that it is no longer visible and focuses the attention on what you want people to be looking at. For even more options, Chrome users might want to take a look at Magic Actions, an extension that allows a deep customization of your YouTube experience.

A screenshot of a video viewed on the SafeShare.tv website
A screenshot of a video viewed on the SafeShare.tv website | Source

3. Remove 'Suggested Videos' on an Embedded YouTube Video

Embedding a YouTube video on your classroom website or on an LMS is a great way to eliminate many of the distractions you encounter on YouTube. However, at the end of the video you will still see YouTube's suggested videos for what to watch next, and these are not always the most appropriate thumbnail images for the classroom. Fortunately, there is a way to turn that off. Here's how to do it.

  1. Underneath the video that you want to embed, click the Share button and then Embed to find the HTML embed code you need.
  2. Below the embed code, you should see and option that says Show More. Click this to reveal additional options for your embedded video.
  3. Uncheck the box that says Show suggested videos when the video ends.
  4. Now copy the embed code that you need for your website.

When you uncheck this box, the HTML embed code is modified so that your students will no longer see suggested videos at the end of your embedded video! It is a quick and easy fix.

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4. How to Enable YouTube's Safety Mode

As you are probably well aware, not everything on YouTube is suitable for the students that you teach. YouTube has strict rules over the types of content it allows users to upload, but that still doesn't preclude everything that you might hope that it would. One way to avoid the more unsavory content is to enable the Restricted Mode in YouTube.

The Restricted Mode, formerly known as the Safety Mode, is available at the bottom of any page in YouTube, and it lets you hide videos that contain content that has been flagged by other users as inappropriate. It is by no means 100% accurate, but it will cut down on at least some of the less desirable content in your browser.

You can toggle it on or off at the bottom of the screen but you should note that it only applies to the browser that you are currently working in. Students are able to go in and toggle this setting on and off for their own devices, but at least you will see less inappropriate content when you have your computer connected to a projector, or when searching for content to use with your class.

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5. Start YouTube Videos at a Specific Time

Have you ever wanted to share a YouTube video with students, (or other teachers), and wished that you could start it half way through the video instead of at the beginning? Well, you can! Simply tap the Share button under the YouTube video you found. This will open the sharing menu where you will see an option to check a box to start the video at a given time. Choose the time that you need the video to start at and you will get a custom URL that, when clicked, will start the video at precisely that point. You can also right-click on any video and select Get video URL at current time for the same effect.

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6. Trim the Beginning and/or End of YouTube Videos

Starting a YouTube video at a specific point is useful, but what if you only need 3 minutes from the middle from a 22 minute video? TubeChop.com is a free website that lets you trim the start and end point of a video so that you can share only the edited version with others.

TubeChop is easy to use. Simply paste the URL of the YouTube video that you want to chop, then move the pink sliders to the beginning and end points that you want to use. When you have them set to the times you need, click Chop for an edited version. You can share the URL to this video with others, or use the embed code to add it to a website or blog.

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7. Turn Off the Autoplay Feature in YouTube

Are you often caught out by YouTube's autoplay feature that will automatically play the next video when the one you are watching has finished? Well, you are not alone. Thankfully it is easy to fix. Simply look for the Autoplay switch in the top right hand-corner while watching a video. Flip the switch to the off position and, as long as you are signed in with your YouTube account, you will never again have to endure videos starting right after the one you just watched!

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8. Add YouTube Videos to PowerPoint Presentations

Did you know that Windows users can add YouTube videos to PowerPoint 2013, or later? It is a handy trick to know if you are presenting at a conference, sharing new ideas at a professional development day, or delivering a lesson to students. Best of all, it is very easy to do. Here are the steps you need to follow in order to embed a YouTube video in PowerPoint 2013 or later:

  1. On the Insert tab in PowerPoint, click Video > Online Video...
  2. Paste the URL of the YouTube video in the YouTube search box and press Enter on your keyboard.
  3. Make sure the highlighted thumbnail on the next screen resembles that of the video you want, then click the Insert button.
  4. Resize the video player on the slide to the size and position you want it on the screen.

In step 2, (above) you can also choose to paste the embed code for the YouTube video in the search box that says From a video embed code, then click Enter on your keyboard to insert the video. This will often achieve the same end product.

YouTube videos that you add to PowerPoint may not be immediately available to play until you enter presentation mode. However, you can right-click any video that you add and select Preview to make sure that this is the video that you need.

Bonus tip: You can use the same method to add a YouTube video to Microsoft Word documents! This can be a great way to add interactivity to a handout or study guide and is another way to use YouTube in the classroom without using YouTube.com.

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9. Take Notes on a YouTube Video with Videonot.es

Many teachers today are flipping their classrooms, or asking students to watch instructional videos at home for homework. A useful tool to complement an assignment of this nature is VideoNot.es. On this website, students can paste the link of a YouTube video, and take notes alongside it as it plays.

Notes are timestamped and synchronized to the video as you type, and you can click back on the notes at any time to see what was being played at the video when you wrote those notes. It is a great tool, but does require students to sign in with a Google account, because it saves all your notes in Google Drive. VideoNot,es is free and well worth checking out if you have not seen it before.

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10. Add Questions to a YouTube Video

Another great option for flipped classrooms, or for giving students more accountability over the videos you ask them to watch, is the option to add questions to a YouTube video. This is a great way to check for understanding. There are a number of free tools available that will let you do this. They include:

All of these services collect data for the teacher that shows how well students answered the questions that were added to a given video. This data can be invaluable to help inform future planning. Adding questions, or other interactive elements, also makes the viewing experience less passive for the student, and could potentially keep them more engaged in the content you are asking them to watch.

How to Add Questions to a YouTube Video in EDpuzzle

YouTube for Schools

There are many schools that still ban YouTube because of the potential for misuse. However, if you employ some, or all, of the tips above, you can greatly reduce the harmful elements that some districts are still wary of. Will you ever be able to fix everything? Probably not, but when used judiciously, there are few better ways to engage students in their learning.

© 2015 Jonathan Wylie

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