Web and Media‎ > ‎

YouTube for Educators

"Give me two minutes of the right video and I can teach you almost anything"
quote by Hall Davidson, several years before YouTube was invented

YouTube is amazing.  It has over 100 hours of video being added to it every minute. Get your head around that. It has videos on just about any topic you can think of, and while that's a scary idea to many school administrators there is an LOT of educationally useful material, from historical moments, significant videos, as well as music and movie clips, TV shows, tutorials and reviews. It's become the go-to place for anyone who wants to learn visually and it has spawned its own cultural icons and online stars. It is as much a part of our culture as television or Hollywood. For most kids it would be hard to imagine life without YouTube.

But YouTube also offers opportunities for creating content, not just consuming it. (Indeed, where do you think the 100 hours of video every minute comes from!)

Privacy Settings

When your students create video, YouTube is a great place to store it. It's free and unlimited. Many teachers are concerned about putting student work on YouTube, but if you just get the sharing settings right it's a great choice.

There are three basic Privacy settings in YouTube - Public, Unlisted and Private.


This is what it exactly what it sounds like. Public. Videos using this setting will be visible to anyone in the whole world. They will be searchable (and findable) using the YouTube search engine. Only use this setting if you actually want your videos to be easily found and watched.


This is also what it sounds like. Videos set to private can only be seen by yourself, and others if it has been explicitly shared with them (and they need to have a Google account for that). If you have connected your YouTube channel to your Google+ account you can also share to a specific Circle. On the whole, Private videos can be awkward in a school situation, especially if you want to share with groups of parents, etc.


This is a great option for schools. It makes the video publicly available to anyone regardless of whether they have a YouTube account or not, but only if they have the link. The videos are not searchable and they don't show up in search results.  Unless you have the link, you won't be able to access it.  This makes it ideal for sharing to specific groups of people, or to embed on blogs and school websites, etc.

If you want more information on sharing settings, check out the Google Help page at https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/157177?hl=en

Other Video Upload Options

When you create a video on YouTube you also have some other options...

Webcam Capture

Just click the Record button to record directly to YouTube using your computer's built in webcam. A really simple, quick and easy option for video blogging. Students can use this to capture their progress, teachers can use it for feedback.  Remember, if it's set to Unlisted, no one sees it unless you give them the link.

Google+ OnAir Hangouts

If you have a Google+ account connected to your YouTube, you can do a Hangout on Air (HOA). This is a live multiparty video broadcast with up to 10 people (15 if you're in a GAfE domain!). After establishing the video call you then have the option to broadcast the conversation live to YouTube so that anyone can watch it. When you complete the call, just stop broadcasting and an archived version of the conversation will be posted to your YouTube channel for later playback.

Video podcasters have really taken to HOAs, as it really is the simplest way to broadcast a live conversation.  It also has a number of built in tools for sharing documents and screensharing, as well as support for lower thirds, etc. It's a very powerful tool with lots of potential for the classroom!

Photo Slideshow

A super simple way to make a slideshow of photos. Click Create and it taps directly into your Google+photo collection, or you can upload images from your computer.  Once you add your photos you set the duration, effects and transitions, then choose a piece of copyright-free music, and hit Publish. It really is that easy.

Here is an example...


One of the most objectionable features of YouTube is the comment threads that accompany each video. They often  show the very worst side of human nature with trolling, name calling and other antisocial behaviours. Google has made a number of changes recently to the way YouTube comments work, tying them in with Google+ (where you are required to have a real identity, not just a pseudonym or nickname).  The new system prioritises comments from people you know and allows antisocial behaviour to be "voted down" by the community. Even in the short time it has been running the new system has started to dramatically improve the comment streams, with far less junk and stupidity.

However, on your own videos, it's a good idea to either turn off the comments completely if they are not needed, or to at least moderate the comments so that they require approval before going live.  The choice is yours, but for student produced videos, requiring comment approval is a really good idea.

Usage Rights

YouTube videos have two usage rights options: the Standard YouTube licence, or a Creative Commons Attribution licence.  The standard licence allows you to retain all copyrights on the video. The Creative Commons licence allows others to reuse and remix your video as long as they attribute you as the source. 

Which licence you choose it up to you, but if unless you're trying to make a living from creating YouTube videos, think about going the Creative Commons path.  If you'd like to remix the videos of other people, how about making it easy (and legal) for people to remix yours? It's just good karma, man.


You can (and really should!) arrange your videos into playlists. While watching a video (yours or someone else's) click the Add To button below the player. From the list of existing playlists that appears you can add the video to one or more playlists.

If no playlists exist, or you want a new one, just enter a name for it at the bottom, choose its visibility, and click Create playlist.  It gets added to the new playlist.

Why both with playlists? They are a great way to organise videos into useful categories.  For example, if your students do a video project you could group all their finished pieces together into a playlist to watch back as a collection. If you want to gather videos on a particular theme, say Space or Antarctica or Funny Cats, you can do that. 

You can share a playlist, which then shares all the videos contained in it, very easily.

And if you take the time to organise your channel front page you'll find that playlists are the main organisational unit used to do this. On your channel front page you can have a separate section for each topic (grouped by playlist) so that your viewers can easily grok what your channel is all about.

The YouTube Video Editor

Did you know that there is an actual video editor in YouTube?  Check it out at www.youtube.com/editor

Ok, it's not Final Cut Pro. It's not even iMovie.  It's somewhat limited in what it can do, but not as much as you might imagine. The big advantage is that you can use existing YouTube videos for your raw footage (either your own or other's if they've published using the Creative Commons licence) so as an entry point into video editing it removes a lot of the need to mess around with cameras and transfer footage (That's still a useful skill of course, but using the YT Editor allows you to focus on the editing part of the process to tell a simple story)

Here is a screenshot...
And here is the video it produced...

Here's an example created by one of my Year 11 students...

And here is a reflection she left on her blog about it...
"Youtube is still processing my video so it'll be up ASAP. In the meantime here are my reflections:   I really enjoyed this task in particular. It was a lot easier than I expected, in terms of cutting, editing the videos and adding a soundtrack. I saw that there were a lot of timelapse videos from different cities across the globe, so I decided to put a few together and create a video about A Night Around The World." - Ella  (http://kerrzil.blogspot.com.au/)


 Annotations are text overlays that you can add to your YouTube videos. They can be used to label items in the video, add context, create titles, and so on. They can be added anywhere on the screen, can have any duration and can be customised with size, and colour.  

There are five different annotation types - Speech bubble, Spotlight, Note. Title and Label. Until recently there were also Pause annotations which were quite useful for adding interactive questions to your video, but they have been deprecated.  :-(

However, one very useful aspect of annotations is the ability to link to another web resource.  Annotations can be made clickable and take you to another video, a playlist, channel or Google+ profile or page, as well as act as a subscribe button, associated website, fundraising project or merchandise.  This ability to link to another video could be interesting for students to create a "choose your own adventure" style project, where the story is made of a series of short videos that the user makes choices about, leading to different pathways through the story.

YouTube and Copyright

You knew it would come up eventually, right? What about copyright? How does that work on YouTube? I'll let Margaret Gould Stewart from YouTube explain it, as she does so well in this TED Talk called How YouTube Thinks About Copyright.

If you get a moment, I'd really appreciate your feedback on this workshop session by filling out this form
Your feedback helps me fine tune and improve these workshops for future events.