Where to Find the Best Free Educational Videos Online
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but pictures plus words are priceless. As every good teacher knows, educational videos can fasten a concept into a child’s head much faster than a lecture or textbook.
Not surprisingly, many educational videos are now posted on YouTube. Charismatic educators have condensed their best lessons into short segments that are as entertaining as they are educational. These bite-size videos have several uses. During summer, they offer young minds a workout that may minimize summer slump. During the school year, they can supplement or enliven lessons from school. Homeschooling families can add videos to their teaching tools and parents who are flummoxed by homework assignments may turn to mini-videos to refresh their memories.
Since preteens are already snacking on videos of cute animals and favorite music groups, parents might as well expand the menu to include something a little more nourishing. Videos on the sites listed below are fun, so they reinforce the idea that learning something new every day is a terrific way to make use of a brain. If you find a channel your kids really like, consider subscribing so you’ll know when new videos are posted.
CGP GREY has a simple tagline — “complex things explained” — and it delivers on that promise. These short videos feature stick figures that explain everything from the debt limit and daylight savings time to the Electoral College and net neutrality.
CrashCourse is the collaboration of two brothers who are also teachers. (One of the brothers happens to be John Green, author of several wildly popular young adult books including The Fault in our Stars.) Videos on this site are a bit longer than others, but the brothers talk fast (and occasionally use edgy language). They post videos on U.S. and world history, literature, chemistry, biology, ecology and psychology.
MinutePhysics prides itself on making very short videos that explain “cool physics and other sweet science” using “stick figures and bad puns.” Not surprisingly, the narrator talks very fast so kids who are completely new to a topic may need to watch the videos more than once.
Numberphile, produced by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute, focuses on encouraging young people to “love numbers.” The videos, created by a talented team of mathematicians, explain a wide variety of mathematical concepts in idiosyncratic ways. To calculate the value of pi, they use pies!
Science Music Videos are the creation of Mr. W, a science teacher in Berkeley, Calif., who makes up infectious folk, rock and even rap songs about complicated biological concepts like DNA, photosynthesis, mitosis and osmosis.
The Spangler Effect is the product of a science teacher who turns “ordinary science experiments into unforgettable learning experiences.” If your kids want to replicate some of the experiments, you can purchase books and science kits via a complementary website.
TED-Ed is part of the growing empire of TED products. Unlike the well-known talks, TED-Ed segments consist of shorter lessons from exceptional teachers. Many have been developed in consultation with animators and screenwriters. They vary widely in length and subject matter but all are intended to spread great ideas and spark curiosity.
Vi Hart is one of the few vlogs hosted by a woman. Victoria calls herself a “recreational mathemusician,” and her videos are quirky, fast-paced explorations of the intersections between math and art. Check out the hexaflexagrams!
Veritasium is a grab bag filled with experiments, discussions, interviews, demos and random interesting facts. The host, Derek Muller, has a special interest in correcting scientific misconceptions.
More in-depth videos can be found at the following sites.
Khanacademy.org is a nonprofit that posts free video lessons on a wide range of subjects from art history to economics. Started by a young man who was trying to help his cousin do her math long-distance, the site is especially good at helping young learners master mathematical concepts from counting to differential equations.
NeoK12.com has a well-organized list of videos on almost any topic a child might want to explore. In addition to the video lessons, the site offers games and worksheets that may be helpful to students who are trying to master unfamiliar concepts.
WatchKnowLearn.org has indexed 50,000 educational videos on everything from physics to phys ed and ethics to ecology. In addition to searching by subject matter, parents can zero in on videos suitable for specific ages by using the slider at the top of the page.
Carolyn Jabs raised three computer-savvy kids, including one with special needs. She is working on a book about constructive responses to conflict. Read more of her columns at growing-up-online.com.