YouTube: Classroom Friend or Foe?

From Chevin…

As you know, I am working on my masters in Educational Technology.  As part of my cohort’s Capstone requirement, we have to contribute to the education community in a way that uses technology.  I’ve offered my blog space to anyone interested in doing a tech review or sharing any topic they’d like. My classmate Gillian Keller took me up on my offer!  Please find her review of YouTube below… please, give her some love!


By Gillian Keller, candidate, M.Ed, Educational Technology, American College of Education

  I get to school an hour before the school day is expected to start. I am glancing over my plans to review what we are doing for the day. I look at my reading block and see the book we are supposed to focus on for our reading lesson. I check my classroom shelf and even the library but can’t find the book. So what do I do now? I go to YouTube. I type in the title of the book I am looking for and 8 out of 10 times I can find a digital version of the book I need. Sometimes it is someone reading the book and other times it is a screenshot of each page while someone narrates the pages. I make sure to skip the ads, check for any advertisements, make sure the book is appropriate (no surprises will pop up during the story) and then I am set for my morning read aloud.

YouTube reaches a variety of audiences and is used for a wide range of reasons. It can be used for education, entertainment and even tutorials. My kindergarten students are even familiar with YouTube because of how frequently I use it as well as their exposure to YouTube at home. My question is this: Is YouTube a classroom friend or foe?

Let’s start with the friendly side of YouTube. I probably use YouTube at least 3 of 4 times a day. I use YouTube for all of the subjects I teach. In reading, I use it for foundational skills (adjectives, nouns, verbs, phonics, sight words). I also use YouTube to find the read aloud that I am supposed to be using for my reading lessons. Many of the books required by the curriculum I do not have or my team only has one copy that we all have to share. I can go to YouTube and have pretty good luck finding the book for my students.  There are so many fun and engaging songs for my students that support both their reading and language skills. I have found sight word songs for each of our kindergarten sight words. I can put on one or two songs in the morning for the students to sing and listen to while they are unpacking and getting ready for the day. In math I use it to introduce a topic or for counting.  I have different counting songs that are upbeat, display the numbers and keep my students engaged. We practice counting by 1’s, 2’s, 5’s and 10’s. We even practice counting backwards from 20. I love finding 2-3 minute clips that introduce my students to a new math topic. We are getting ready to talk about 3-d shapes and I have little videos saved to my favorites that we will use as a quick review before we start our small group lessons. I even use YouTube to provide my kindergartners with brain breaks. They love doing the Just Dance videos and I have found a wide range of different Just Dance songs that they can dance along to.  YouTube even comes in handy for our learning skills. I recently found a Sesame Street video that teaches students about motivation and effort.

It’s time to take a look at the foe side of a relationship with YouTube. One of the biggest drawbacks of YouTube, in my opinion, is that it can easily become a teachers go to. I found that I was using YouTube so often that I was disconnected with my students. In particular, I felt that I wasn’t getting that special time to read to my students. There is nothing better than reading to my students. It calms them and they get so peaceful while I am reading a story. They love nothing more than being read to. I felt like I was using YouTube so often because it was easier and it gave me a few minutes to get materials ready. Once I started feeling like this I decided to make a change. I still use YouTube if I cannot access a particular book, but every afternoon, right after lunch, we all gather together and I sit in my rocking chair and read my students a story. I cherish that time with them and I am glad that I have committed myself to bringing back our read aloud time. Another drawback is the advertisements; both before the videos and on the sides of the videos (when they are not in full screen size). Students are very perceptive and they quickly see things on the website even if you are quick to make the video full screen. Not all of the videos have advertisements, but you have to be very careful before playing something. I have learned that lesson and now make sure to take precautions before playing a video. Some of the ads aren’t bad but I have had one or two Victoria Secret ads play and I was sure glad I was not displaying that on the promethean board. I either have the video already loaded and the advertisements skipped or I blank out my promethean board, get the video ready, skip the ads and then display the video for my students.

There are so many beneficial and educational videos on YouTube but there also are a lot of not appropriate and non-educational videos. It’s great when I can present new information or review information in different ways using YouTube. All of the videos I have found I have saved to my favorites and I continue to add videos to my list each week. Even with the drawbacks, I think YouTube is a classroom friend. It can give teachers another way of presenting information. It can be used to engage/inform students and can also be used to get students up and moving. I think as teachers, we need to be careful not to have YouTube take over our teaching or take over our classrooms, but when used to enhance learning, YouTube can be a useful technology. And so I ask you: Is YouTube a classroom friend or foe for you?


From Gillian Keller…

I am in Montgomery County, Maryland. I teach kindergarten.
When I was choosing to pursue my master’s I knew right away that I wanted to get into the educational technology field. While I was in college I took an education technology class, but really felt that I was unprepared to effectively use technology when I entered the classroom. I was learning outdated technology skills and knew that there was more out there for me to learn.  Because of my experience with this class, I had a strong passion to get my master’s in educational technology. I wanted to gain the skills and knowledge to understand how to effectively use technology in the classroom. I believe very strongly in using technology to enhance learning. Our students are 21st century learners and these learners have been exposed to technology their whole lives. We should take the opportunities that technology provides us and use them to benefit and enhance student learning. Technology is here to stay and I think it offers teachers and students unprecedented learning opportunities. My goal is to one day help teachers learn how to effectively integrate technology into their classrooms.

8 Replies to “YouTube: Classroom Friend or Foe?”

  1. Nice article! I quite agree with your observation that YouTube can become the teacher, much like the TV at home can easily replace the parent. All things in moderation, including YouTube. It sounds as though your district, Gillian, does not block YouTube – at least for staff. What about the upper grades? In our district, it has been quite an issue. Our old filtering system allowed us to create a ‘white list’ of specific videos which could be allowed through the filter. Now, however, it’s all or nothing for each profile type, which means we can allow it for staff, and disallow for students. I wonder, since you teach kids at one end of the spectrum, have you spoken with teachers at the other end about YouTube?


  2. Youtube has given me the chance to share my skills. Without it I could not have even begun to offer the extra listening practice in French and Spanish for children which I think could be so helpful.
    Videos are monetized but I would much prefer funding or support of some kind. I hesitated because my absolute priority is to produce worthwhile resources for use in education, but I know add-block is easy to install and I have discovered that it is all too common in the UK for teachers just to download the videos.
    If there is anybody there with useful advice I would love to hear from you.


    1. We use Lightspeed Content Filtering (, which is part of MyBigCampus. Very recently, they opened up their video library to anyone using the system (whereas before, students would need individual logins to access the videos). Teachers can now submit videos to the Tech Dept who then adds the YouTube URL to the library. When played back, it is ad-free and comment-free.


  3. Youtube is like everything else in life. A little bit at the appropriate times is great. Too much can be overwhelming or a crutch, as you’ve said.

    Quite frankly, I don’t kow how I would have taught World Geography without it. Without a schema, many learners really struggle to understand the meaning of words, situations and circumstances. How do students understand vocabulary without visual images? What makes video so engaging is when the speaker has an opportunity to share his/her voice with listeners. The downside of Youtube is the negative reactions from others who don’t understand that many learners are visual and that learners need multiple exposures to content in order to be able to interact with it. Youtube is a resource that all teachers need to learn how to use as one component of learning!

    Good Luck! It’s true-everything that you need to know about life is learned in kindergarten!


  4. I use YouTube about once a week, usually as a supplemental learning tool after a discussion. I also have a YouTube channel where I store my tutorials (as I find time to make them). I think, in a middle school classroom, the videos bring a new dimension of understanding for the students because they can see other students expressing themselves with the technology and are learning to use the educational videos to take on personal learning…

    My 8th graders will be creating videos in about a month where they will be playing the parts of meteorologists. I can’t wait to put them on YouTube for the world to see and share!


  5. I love all of this feedback! Working in an elementary school, the only experience I have with YouTube is at the elementary school level. It is beneficial to hear how middle school and high school educators use YouTube in the classroom as well. One of my goals is to download the videos and have them embedded in my flipcharts. This way the videos are loaded and in case the county decides to block YouTube I can have my clips ready to go.

    I would love to have my students create videos to share. They are already pretty tech savvy at five and six that I wouldn’t be surprised if they knew how to capture videos using phones or tablets! They think that every time I send an email to their parents that I am ‘texting’ them something 🙂

    I do think YouTube has opened the door for great educational sharing and resources. I appreciate the people who post these educational videos because both my students and my teaching benefit from these creative and inventive resources.


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