Videos are inherently arresting and engaging, making them an invaluable educational tool. Once you have captured your audience’s attention, it is that much easier to get across information you want to convey. When I was a classroom teacher, I liked to use short videos as a fun hook to grab students’ attention at the beginning of the lesson or as a jumping off point to provoke class discussion. I sometimes allowed students to create video projects of their own—a great way for them to demonstrate their understanding of a topic or to teach one another.
Whether you are looking for high-quality video content or making your own, I recommend taking inspiration from some the best educational YouTube channels out there. Here are a few of my favorites. What makes the following channels distinct is that they are entertaining as well as informative. Check out these terrific YouTube channels and see if their videos might be helpful in your class!
This is my absolute favorite YouTube channel, created by John and Hank Green (side note: John is the author of the huge YA bestseller The Fault in Our Stars). This brother-brother team creates 10-minute video courses that cover a wide range of school subjects including World History, Biology, Literature, Ecology, Chemistry, Psychology, U.S. History, Anatomy & Physiology, Astronomy, U.S. Government & Politics, and Economics.
Most people are familiar with TED videos, but you might not know that they have an education-focused video library. Many of their videos are collaborations between talented educators and animators, focusing on topics nominated through the TED-Ed website (ed.ted.com).
CGP Grey is a teacher in the UK who makes quirky videos on topics related to using data to visualize complex ideas. Many of his videos focus on politics, history, and geography.
Kurzgesagt means “in a nutshell” in German. Here you can find videos that use beautifully minimalist animation to explain big concepts like evolution, time, space, global energy, and our existence in the universe.
Vanessa Hill creates videos about psychology, neuroscience, and why we act the way we do. We love exploring these topics when teaching SMARTS to help students reflect on their own behavior.
Extra Credit’s raison d’etre is creating fun videos about fairly sophisticated topics in the realm of video game theory. They also have a fabulous Extra History series that introduces key figures and events that took place across the world. Don’t be fooled by their lighthearted graphics. Their videos are in-depth and often moving. I particularly recommend their 12-part video series on the reign of the Byzantine Emperors Justinian & Theodora.
Like Crash Course, this channel is headed by Hank Green and puts out an amazing amount of content, producing seven videos a week. The wide range of topics makes it easy to find a video to fit a specific lesson. SicShow is particularly good at covering current events in the world of science.
Emily Graslie is the Chief Curiosity Correspondent of The Field Museum in Chicago. What’s unique about this channel is that you get to see all the amazing things that museums do that the public generally isn’t privy to. Emily often makes videos on rarely exhibited collections from The Field Museum and interviews working scientists on their methods.
Check out this channel for bizarre stories from the slimy, smelly, creepy world of science! Hosted by Anna Rothschild with PBS Studios.
Destin Sandlin explores the world of practical everyday science with boundless enthusiasm and endless curiosity. He takes science out of the classroom and explores phenomena that students will instantly recognize from their lives.
Math doodler extraordinaire, Vi Hart is a truly unique voice in the world of math education. She covers complex math concepts in a way that is both playful and compelling. Beyond merely explaining the specific math concept, she depicts math as a beautiful system for understanding the world.