Make YouTube Work for You (OnDemand PD – THS Sept. 13, 2017)

YouTube can be a great resource for teachers, but it can also be an incredible time-suck. Darn those video suggestions! For some reason, I can’t stop watching those goats that freeze up when they’re startled. Here, take a look. Hilarious. (By the way, no goats were harmed in the writing of this blog post.)

Ok, now that you’re back, there are ways to maximize your YouTube experience and keep things safe and organized for your students. Here are _ helpful tips to keep YouTube from stealing an hour of your life.

Sharing a video with a specific start time

Sometimes, you find a video that you want your students to watch, but it’s an hour and 45 minutes long, and you only need them to watch a 20-minute segment. One easy way to ensure that your students start their video at a specific time is to use the “Share” button and specify a start time. For example, I want my students to start this goat video at exactly 42 seconds in. By checking the “Start at:” box and specifying a time, the link will change with that time indicated. Then, share that link in Google Classroom or through an email, and your kids are good to go.


Use to Keep the Distractions to a Minimum is another nice teacher-friendly resource that allows you to create a version of a YouTube video that does not have controls or buttons to link back to YouTube. That way, your students have a full version of the video without the distraction of suggestions or comments.

Just go to and log in using your Google account (or create an account), paste the link to your video in the bar on the front page, then choose your options as seen below.

You can specify the start and stop times, edit the title and description, make the video public or private, and hide the default YouTube buttons. By making the video private, it simply means that it won’t show up in Safeshare searches. Hiding the buttons will make the video totally separated from YouTube, and the only buttons that stay are the full-screen option and closed captions if they are available.

Then, once you make your selections, the site will create a new video and will bring it up. Then you can share it through the options they provide. You can also simply copy the url and paste it into Google Classroom or email it out. (Disclaimer: The free version of does have a 20-video limit, but there is no limit on the number of views.)


Closed Captions and Transcripts

So, YouTube will automatically generate closed captions for videos that have not turned off that setting. If they are available, a small “CC” button will appear at the bottom of the video. By clicking it, the captions will start scrolling. From the videos I have tried, this seems to be really accurate.

You can also view a transcript of the text by clicking “More” which is just to the right of the “Share” button and choosing “Transcript”. This is a really nice option for students who have a hard time hearing, or need to watch a video with no sound. YouTube suggests that uploaders include a transcript of their videos to help with results, so many professional videos will include a transcript with correct grammar and punctuation, which can be very helpful for citation or references.


Use the Filter while Searching

YouTube has so much great content, but it doesn’t all show up at the top of a search. The filter option is a great way to sift through the stuff you don’t want and narrow down your search results. This is not a new option, but it is more visually apparent now, so I thought I’d mention it.

After conducting a search, you will be presented with your results. In the new version of the YouTube interface, there will be a “Filter” option right above the top result. Click on that and your filter options will come up. These are incredibly handy and will do wonders for your results. I especially love to sort the results by posting date, and searching for playlists is great to cultivate the best videos.

Creating and Sharing Playlists

If you’ve never created a playlist before, it’s one of YouTube’s best features. As a teacher, I love searching through playlists that have already been collected. If your search is specific enough, you’ll probably find like-minded teachers who have already cultivated some pretty awesome videos and you don’t have to spend the time watching video after video. Just watch the ones in the playlist and see if they are what you need.

To create a playlist, the easiest thing to do is start with a video, click “Add to” button which is just to the left of the “Share” button and click “Create new playlist”. You can then choose a title and create your list.

Once your list is created, it will show up in the “Library” portion of your sidebar on the left hand side of the YouTube homepage. To share the playlist, open it up so that you have a video playing on the left, and the list of videos on the right. You can simply choose the “Share” button which is below whatever video is playing, and there you will have the option to share the whole playlist or just the singular video. That link will take people to the playlist where they can watch the videos.

There are also some interesting settings for playlists. If you click on the title of the playlist and then “Edit”, you will be taken to the old version of the playlist editor (as of September 2017).

In this view, you then click “Playlist Settings” and you then have the option to change the privacy and ordering settings. You can also add videos automatically based on criteria like words in the title or tags. Finally, you have the option to make the playlist collaborative so that other people can add their own videos. This might be a good way for students to create their own learning resources. Save yourself some time!


Subscribing to Channels

Many teachers forget about this option because we didn’t grow up in the YouTube world where subscribers are like currency. But there are tons of legitimate education channels out there that are worth subscribing to. Subscribing is as simple as clicking the “Subscribe” button below a video. You can also search for channels by using the Filter option we talked about earlier.

While it’s a good idea to be as specific as possible with your search terms while searching for videos, the opposite is true with channels. You are better off searching for general topics like “Education” or “Science” or “History” instead of being specific. Also, be sure to check out the subscriber totals before joining up. The more subscribers, the better the channel.

Once you click the “Subscribe” button, you will have the option to turn on or off the notifications. Notifications simply tell you, via email and push notifications if you have the YouTube app on your phone, that a new video has been uploaded to the channel. It’s a great way to keep up with the newest info.

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