When I started teaching, videos were a rarity. Common practice was to assign a chapter to read in a textbook and then a worksheet to assess student knowledge. This placed the responsibility for learning on the students, using teacher-prescribed methods, even though decades of research screamed that lots of kids perform better with images than pages filled with black-and-white text. But the excuse I used, as did most of my colleagues, was: It takes too much time to find the right videos to support so many different personal demands.
Back then, that was true. It’s not anymore.
Now there are dozens of online free educational videos that address most every academic topic imaginable. And they’re put out by recognized names in education — Khan Academy, BBC, Microsoft, Teacher Tube, as well as textbook providers like Origo. Here are ten of my favorite virtual places to find clear, effective educational videos that not only support teaching but can be used to enrich lessons for students who want more and/or backfill for those who might need a bit more help:
Bitsize is the BBC’s collection of free short videos and lessons (they’re all bite-sized) on over fifty subjects taught in Primary or Secondary education. Topics include languages, music, technology, social studies, science, engineering, maths, journalism, and more. They are sortable by grade level and/or subject and can be adapted to four different UK languages. Most include class ideas for usage and an assessment to determine if students got what you put out there. No sign-in is required but registration allows you to collect a list of videos to watch in the future, track those already completed, and return to videos not quite finished.
These videos are well-suited to international learners but if you’re outside the British Isles, you will find videos listed as “not available in your location”.
Bright Science is a free YouTube channel of over 1300 study videos for high schoolers (or precocious middle schoolers). Most are about five minutes (some longer, some shorter) and cover topics like chemistry, physics, calculus, geometry, biology, Algebra, trigonometry, grammar, ACT prep, and SAT prep. They are professionally recorded and presented by expert teachers with a class screen or whiteboard. The presenters may talk fast — after all, they’re trying to get it within the tight timeframe — but all information is cogent and pithy.
There is a paid version that is ad-free and offers more than triple the number of available videos.
Check123 describes itself as a video encyclopedia filled with engaging, professionally-produced movies that run between one and three minutes. They are produced by expert educators in the fields including some prominent names like National Geographic. Topics include earth sciences, nature, science, technology, history, space, the human body, sports, politics, philosophy, and more. The delivery platform is YouTube making them available from desktops or mobile devices and embeddable into LMSs, websites, or anywhere that takes embeds.
Each video includes a rating by viewers to give an idea of how effective they are to those who watch them.
Critical Past is one of the largest collections in the world of royalty-free original videos (and stock photo images) on amazing events in world history from the mid-1800s through the 1990s. All are available for viewing and/or immediate download. Specialties include World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, The Cold War, political figures, industrialization, culture, Civil Rights, transportation, aviation, and space. The website also offers featured collections that focus on one topic such as the Cold War or the Great Depression.
Videos can be searched by topic or decade. Videos are free when low-resolution and are watermarked. A user who requires a professional quality without the watermark (such as journalists) will pay a fee.
C-Span is one of the best-known apolitical purveyors of commercial-free political videos, podcasts, streaming content, and more. Their videos cover Congress in action, the Executive Branch, the Supreme Court, prominent speeches, Commission hearings, and a wide variety of other topics (not all in realtime) that address American politics. All are provided at no cost to viewers. What is exciting to teachers is what they call C-Span Classroom, where free video-based lesson plans and bell ringers are provided on topical and historical subjects such as AP US Government, civil rights, comparative government, financial literacy, environmental policy, federalism, foreign policy, and more. C-Span Classroom is free but requires registration to access materials.
Explore.org is the world’s leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel. It is a massive collection of Live Cams, nature films, documentaries, more than 250 original films, and over 30,000 photographs from around the world. The website showcases work at film festivals and on over 100 public broadcast and cable channels. They also have a YouTube channel that provides videos that explore nature topics such as Africa, bears, dogs, and farm life.
Their mission is to “champion the selfless acts of others, create a portal into the soul of humanity and inspire lifelong learning.” Kudos to their ability to achieve that goal.
The Futures Channel is a subscription service enabling teachers to access four-ten-minute videos on a wide variety of educational topics such as animals, earth science, the environment, space science, math topics, and more. It was founded in 1999 with the goal of using new media technologies to create a channel between the scientists, engineers, explorers, and visionaries shaping the future and today’s students who will one day succeed them. It has become the largest STEM video library of its kind.
History Channel is one of the most popular and well-known providers of free (and in some cases fee) history videos for education. It includes not only original movies but TV series, military history, in-depth topical explorations, biographies, and the ever-popular “This Day in History”. It is in Spanish or English, and on desktop computers or mobile devices. History Education includes collections on historical topics, study guides, the Citizenship Quiz, and Take a Vet to School Day ideas.
Education.com offers a free collection of preschool-fifth grade educational materials — printable worksheets, online games, lesson plans, and more — but what caught my attention was the educational songs. Nothing sticks in your head like a singable times tables or vocabulary! For students who struggle with counting, vowels, ABCs, math, shapes, place value or another of the forty-five songs, this is a great website to visit. Songs are sortable by subject or grade, rated by viewers, aligned with a wide variety of international standards (such as Common Core), include a guided lesson and in some cases related resources, and can be listened to on a desktop or mobile device. If teachers create an account (with Education.com), they can assign songs to students as homework, classwork, bell ringers, or warmups.
Here are ten more online video purveyors you will like:
- King of Math
- National Geographic Video
- PBS Video
- Reuters Video Index
- School Tube
- Teacher Tube
- TED Talks
- Untamed Science
- USGS Multimedia Gallery
- Wired Science
It’s impossible to keep up with available online video resources. What have I missed that you can’t do without?
— published first on TeachHUB
More on videos in class
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.