6 Unusual But Educational YouTube Channels To Inspire Your Students To Look Beyond Academia
When I was a kid, I’d always get told off for being glued to the TV. Nowadays, all we hear is how little TV kids are watching! Instead, the youth of today are firmly seated, smartphone in hand, watching the current hottest YouTube influencer.
It’s not surprising that they consume media in this fashion. YouTube provides infinitely more possibilities than television ever could. Social interaction, supreme choice over what to watch, portability and an easy way to speak with the real person behind the screen.
So as educators, dedicated to ensuring our little darlings are prepared for everything the world can throw at them, surely we should embrace these trends and the opportunities they give us to engage with our students? I’m glad you agree.
To that end, here are six awesome YouTube channels, guaranteed to engage your classroom and capture their attention (for 5 minutes at least).
Ok, you’ve got me with this first one— it appears on pretty much every YouTube channel recommendation list.
But.. I would argue it’s how you use the TED Talks resource that matters most. It’s an amazing channel for providing inspiring and eye-opening looks into the wider world. Showing school kids the humongous array of possibilities and amazing opportunities open to them post-school could make a tremendous difference to their career paths.
TED Talks are also a great teaching tool. I know many teachers who have taken to starting their lessons with a short 5-6 minute TED talk before opening the floor to discussion. Straight away they’re capturing their students'attentions, encouraging them to engage and building their evaluative and critical thinking abilities.
Don’t stick with the same old talks on productivity and happiness either, there are SO many other options. Talks are available on everything from artificially rebuilding coral reefs, to Hunting for Peru’s Lost Civilizations, and The Magic Ingredient That Brings Pixar Movies To Life.
Now for a channel that doesn’t appear as frequently on these types of lists, yet should probably get more focus in educational settings than it’s big sister!
TED Ed focusses on a very specific type of question. As a teacher, you’ll know exactly which ones I’m on about too. You know, the questions asked smack bang in the middle of a lesson, completely interrupting your flow and diverting your students' attention faster than a boulder diverts a stream. Yep, those ones.
TED Ed is a channel dedicated to answering these annoying, yet intelligent and inquisitive questions. ‘What makes sharks so awesome?’, ‘The science of milk’ and ‘Why do we hiccup’ are just a few examples.
Any good educator knows that children curious enough to be investigating the world around them in this way should never be shut down. However for the sake of your sanity and maintaining a confluent train of thought, show them these TED Ed videos instead!
Part of the AWE me (Amaze, Wow and Educate) channel, Man At Arms is probably one of the most kick-ass YouTube shows out there. Perfect for students that like to be a little more hands-on and build things, Man At Arms features expert blacksmiths recreating famous props from movies, comic books, and video games.
Watch your students' eyes widen in wonderment as Godric Gryffindor’s sword is forged step by step and as they create and test how throwable Captain America’s shield really is. Similarly to TED, Man At Arms is a great show for providing inspiration for the different opportunities and paths students can take after high school.
On the wider AWE me channel, other shows delve into similar subjects creating movie props, costumes and more, encompassing skills such as sewing, papercraft, electronics and so on. If you teach a workshop based class, these are the perfect videos to get kids excited about working with their hands
The natural world is full of wonders many of us will never get to experience firsthand. Thankfully the amazingly talented camera teams at the BBC are working tirelessly to ensure the rest of us get to experience the absolutely astounding beauty of the wider natural world.
The BBC Earth channel is basically a micro version of the Planet Earth TV series’ (which are seriously cool - if you haven’t watched them, then go do so. Now!). The channel features bite-size, 5 minutes or less, snippets about different creatures and locations around the world.
You can introduce your class to the odd, bioluminescent creatures of the deep or experience life as a city-dwelling fox in 360 degrees. However, if you’re teaching any budding scientists or zoologists, be warned - you’ll be hard pressed to tear them away from this channel!
Space. The Final Frontier.
Space and the universe are fascinating topics to study at any age. However, for your students, there’s high possibility that they may be the first generation to really begin forging a future in the dark abyss.
To get them excited, NASA’s Johnson Space Centre provides regular videos on their channel all about the science of the universe, space-travel and more. Exploring future technologies which will allow us to explore the cosmos, their aim is to benefit the entirety of humankind.
Putting on a few videos from this channel will have your kids gobsmacked - you’ll hear audible gasps of amazement as they see a hurricane from space or watch beautiful 4k footage of the earth rotating.
As the final entry on the list, big think doesn’t cover any particular subject or area of your curriculum. But it does help to teach the most important skills your students will ever learn.
The channel revolves around experts from across the world discussing and disseminating the core ideas and skills, essential to learning and defining knowledge in our world. Videos such as Moral Authority Vs. Military Power, Asking Dumb Questions Is A Smart Move and Why Are We Obsessed With Celebrities will help your class with big picture thinking and critical evaluation.
Use the videos to encourage debate between students, build their interpersonal communication skills and teach them to form arguments based on evidence. Over time these skills will become a wholesome contribution to their learning across the curriculum and will prepare them for continued learning and education in later life.
Giorgio is excited by everything to do with marketing, growth, startups and entrepreneurship. He loves helping people gain access to education and has worked as a marketer within educational settings for years, initially with an innovative provider of online learning degrees and now with Tutora. Elsewhere, Giorgio organizes Startup Weekend events, enjoys bouldering and board games (though not at the same time!) and can often be found in a pub, craft ale in hand, regaling tales of his adventures around Iceland.