Since it began in 2005, YouTube has become an online site that teens flock to for entertainment, whether it is to watch a cute cat video that has gone viral or a music video for one of Beyoncé’s hit singles. But recently, YouTube has seen a wider variety of videos that teens are interested in, including several educational videos.
Channels such as Crash Course attract large numbers of teens because they teach high school concepts but make the material interesting to learn.
Crash Course offers a series of videos in courses such as world history, U.S. history, literature, biology, chemistry and many other common high school courses, which are taught by the best-selling Young Adult author John Green and his brother, Hank.
The Greens’ videos usually last around 10 minutes and are highly concentrated with information.
“I like the way they present the information,” said Kenny Bianchi, a sophomore at Canisius High School.
The Crash Course “videos are fast-paced and interesting. They grab my attention,” Kenny added.
Often these videos use visuals or phrases that can help some teens remember facts and concepts.
Audrey Wack, a junior at Sacred Heart Academy, says Crash Course has helped her to study for world history, biology and U.S. history.
“The jokes, comparisons and analogies that John Green uses help me remember the material, and it’s interesting how they connect events that have happened in history to events that are happening now,” Audrey said.
A growing number of teens are using these videos as supplements to their studies, and many of them are seeing better test results.
“I can’t only watch the videos, I have to study my notes as well,” Audrey said.
Julia Scherrer, a junior at Clarence High School, also testifies to the effectiveness of Crash Course. She used the videos to study for the global history Regents exam that she took in June.
“Watching videos is my favorite way to study,” Julia said. “I’m not the kind of person who can just sit and stare at a piece of paper – the information just doesn’t register with me. But when I watch these videos, everything seems to make more sense.”
But it’s not just Crash Course that offers helpful educational videos for high school students. There are many more channels on YouTube that teens are tuning in to.
Julia said she has used a channel called Bozeman Science, which was introduced to her by a teacher, to study chemistry.
Khan Academy provides video courses on YouTube in several subjects, as well as SAT test prep.
Some schools have free lectures available to the public on YouTube, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Open Course Ware channel. Or if teens simply want to learn tidbits of information not directly related to their schoolwork, channels like ASAP Science or TED Talks offer videos on many subjects.
In addition to students using these videos independently, some high school teachers have started to show them in the classroom as well.
Michael James, who teaches Advanced Placement European History and Advanced Placement U.S. Government at Nardin Academy, often shows his students videos in class or suggests videos to the students that he says will help reinforce their learning.
James often shows his classes videos related to the material they are learning that he finds on TeacherTube.com, a website that offers appropriate educational videos that are free for anyone to use, or lectures by Eugene Weber, a former professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.
“The biggest value of these videos is the supplement they add to the textbook readings and the classwork,” James said.
He views these videos as a great way to reinforce what students already have learned in class.
James also said that while students are studying at home, they may come across information that they have questions about, and those questions may be answered by watching the videos he has suggested since he cannot be there to personally answer them.
In addition, James said he is glad that his students are finding and using educational videos independently.
“Today in class I asked my students how many of them use videos on their own to study,” he said recently. “Every hand was up.”
It is easy to think YouTube is simply a website used solely by teens for entertainment purposes, but it has much more to offer. As more schools continue to incorporate technology into their curriculum, educational videos on sites like YouTube will grow in popularity.
Kate Quinn is a junior at Nardin Academy.