How to Use YouTube Responsibly in the Classroom

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

YouTube has become the go-to source for teachers looking to enrich their lessons with video, bring concepts to life, or get some grading done at the back of the room. While it might be a powerful tool, and it has some safeguards against truly inappropriate content, it still takes some work to use it responsibly. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Always, always, always preview

I know how it goes. It so happens that today’s lesson runs about 10 minutes short. You decide to fill the time with a YouTube video. You type in a search based on the topic at hand and hit play. It turns out that the video is full of swearing and bikini models.Whenever you’re going to use something from YouTube in the classroom, you need to preview it first. This is one of those practices, like logging all communication with a parent, which may end up saving your job. Just do it.

Let YouTube help

YouTube actually has channels and subsites built for teachers. YouTube EDU, among other features, gathers educational content and organizes it into channels that you can subscribe to based on grade level. If you have a strict filter on your school’s network, YouTube for Schools can help you access content in a controlled environment. YouTube.com/Teachers provides more tips on how to use YouTube in class, as well as video playlists.

Observe YouTube’s Terms of Service

YouTube’s Terms of Service (TOS) are created to protect everyone who uses the community, including users, contributors, and copyright owners.

Downloading videos is against the TOS unless a download link is provided. You need to be careful with the clips or background music you might use in your own videos. Copyright infringements will be taken down, and three strikes will result in termination of your account. Finally, YouTube doesn’t guarantee the accuracy or validity of anything on the site. You’re on your own.

Get parental permission before posting student information or likenesses

Although you might think that most parents would be proud to see their child featured in a YouTube video from class, the truth is that many parents have the opposite view.

Some are worried about the issues surrounding underage children on the Internet. Others have custody and legal concerns. And some just don’t want a teacher gaining recognition based on their child (no matter how small that recognition might be). If posting videos is part of your plan, send a permission slip home early in the school year and be mindful of the parents who decline.

If you would like more tips and tricks for using technology in your classroom, check out these 10 Free Digital Resources.