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The Best YouTube Channels for High School Classrooms

With the increasing popularity of blended learning and flipping the classroom, teachers are hungry for new and exciting ways to engage their students, while meeting 21st century standards.

YouTube has been around since 2005, but it is really just now beginning to hit its stride as an educational tool. More and more, entertainers are collaborating with educators in order to create content that reaches and engages our modern-day, tech-savvy students.

Today, Education World brings you a collection of the "best of the best" YouTube channels available for high school classroom use. Some of these are organized perfectly to fit your curriculum. Others might take some creativity on your part, but the interest value will make it worth the time and effort.

1.  CrashCourse   

We mentioned the launch of this gem by the Green brothers and PBS Digital Studios last year, and it has only expanded its scope since. Funny, fast-paced, and charming animations in literature, physics, history, biology, government, ecology, and so much more. These videos are an excellent supplement to your classroom work, but due to their popularity, there's now a wealth of lesson plans online that are built around them, shared by fantastic educators across the world.

2.  Big Think

"Where top experts explore big ideas and core skills that define the 21st century." Big Think is heady, complex, philosophical, political, and topical. The latter by itself also means high interest. The format of the Big Think videos is simple: let's get the greatest minds on the planet to explain their mind-bending ideas. Heavy in the areas of political science, sociology, and psychology, Big Think videos are not yet organized by content area or a skill focus. However, the content is simply fascinating, and could easily find its way into any Social Studies or English classroom.

3.  TED-Ed   

You know TED. You love TED. But sometimes its "big idea" and "big thinker" content is not easily consumable for all levels of high school classroom. Enter TED-Ed: more than 500 whimsical and brightly animated originals on a wide variety of topics from "fun facts" to common curricular info sessions. It's all the fantastic knowledge you expect from TED, created specifically for your classroom. Be sure to take a minute and check out TEDYouth Talks and TED-Ed Professional Development, too.

4.  Brightstorm

Brightstorm is a collection of "teacher at the whiteboard" lessons conducted by engaging master educators. At first glance, one might be worried about this format. However, when we're in the world of differentiated lesson planning and focus correction areas, the flexibility Brightstorm gives you in the classroom is only paralleled by Khan. Excellently organized and fluid, Brightstorm lessons follow the high school math track from Pre-Algebra, right up to Calculus. In Language Arts, they tackle writing and grammar, and their ACT/SAT prep modules are fantastic.

5.  The School of Life

Covering literature, philosophy, art, history, political theory, and pop culture, The School of Life channel integrates big ideas with cut-and-paste visuals that offer really nice and succinct outlines of some of the concepts that helped shape our world. The channel is updated weekly and extremely well-organized by content area, which makes it super user-friendly.

6.  Veritasium

Veritasium is a necessary resource for every science classroom. It is quirky, honest, hands-on science. The channel takes on a huge checklist of scientific principles, and shows you exactly how they work, from gravitational waves to quantum mechanics to the Magnus Effect. A simple passion for scientific curiosity and experimentation is what makes Veritasium so incredibly unique, and their ability to take these complex concepts and make them palpable for students is what makes it perfect for the classroom.

7.  DNews  

DNews is all about "bringing you mind-bending stories and perspectives"–news spanning the globe, encompassing every corner of the academic landscape, and created quite specifically for a teenage audience. It's not unlike the nightly news if your students were in charge of the network. With charismatic hosts and captivating content, this channel produces new videos every day of the week.

8.  It's Okay to Be Smart

"Joe Hanson, Ph.D. is a curious group of atoms in a curious universe, and he's here to tell you how it all works." Created by PBS Digital Studios, this is the "what/how/why" channel for YouTube: every question you've ever wondered (or didn't even know you wondered) about the nature of the Universe. Grounded in mostly science content, this channel is high-interest, fast paced, funny, and beautifully produced.


Written by Keith Lambert, Education World Associate Contributing Editor

Lambert is an English / Language Arts teacher in Connecticut.