Using YouTube as a Flipped Classroom Strategy

This summer, my ten-year old son Brady and I decided to build a deck around our above ground pool after he convinced me that we could learn how to do it simply by watching this fifteen minute video on You Tube posted by Erie Pennsylvania builder Craig Heffernan His video walks viewers through the entire process of building a deck from start to finish and has been viewed more than 3.8 million times since it was first posted to YouTube in the summer of 2012. Building a deck seemed like a lofty idea to someone like me who had never built something of that magnitude before, but Brady convinced me that we could do it. “If we get stuck, Dad, we can watch another YouTube video. You can learn anything by watching a video on YouTube.” I decide to give my ten year old the benefit of the doubt, and we got to work. After a week in the hot son, amidst a lot of father-son bonding and just a few minor set-backs that required us to watch some follow up videos, we completed our deck project. As you can see from the picture, I think it came out all right for two do-it-yourselfers with no formal construction training.

Brady’s comment about the power of YouTube as a learning tool really got me thinking. How well can you actually learn something by watching a video? I decided to go back to my expert source, my fifth-grade son. I asked him what else he has learned to do by watching You Tube videos. He responded, “Dad, I watch it all the time. Grandpa needed help taking the tire off of his lawn tractor last week and I showed him how to do it from a video. Just yesterday I needed help downloading a new game on my computer and I found a video on that. This morning I was watching videos on how to become an airline pilot. I think I might like to do that one day.” For Brady, the power of You Tube as an on-demand digital library resource has no limits. I asked him if he ever gets the chance to use videos as learning tools in school and his next answer left me speechless. “I wish we could watch YouTube videos in school because we could learn so much more. We have to wait for a teacher to explain something to us first.” Brady’s response is exactly what is wrong in our schools today.

Gone are the days where teachers are the guardians of the information, yet in schools we ask teachers to play that very role as if we are unwilling to accept that technology has changed our access to information. With digital tools like YouTube, knowledge is at our children’s fingertips and a lesson on any topic is just a few clicks of the mouse or swipes of the screen away. The question must become: How as schools can we make better use of these digital tools and repurpose the role of the teacher to one who can use these tools to guide students as a facilitator of learning?

Last fall, Kristen Hicks of Edudemic posted the Teacher’s Guide to Using YouTube in the Classroom. With over ten million videos that have been tagged as “educational,” it can be daunting for a teacher to figure out how best to use videos in the classroom. Hicks offers four suggestions to help teachers get started:

1. Bring in videos that show students a more fun side of the lesson.
2. Create YouTube playlists as student assignments or as recommended extra resources.
3. Record class lessons or lectures and save them for future viewing.
4. Take it to the next level.

She went on to list several other educational websites that offer access to digital video content for classrooms including TeacherTube, Neo K-12, Explore, TedEd, Zane Education, How Stuff Works, PBS Video, National Geographic, NASA TV, and BBC.

With digital video content, the power to improve teaching and learning comes with limitless opportunities. It is my sincere hope that children like Brady have the opportunity to use these resources both in and out of the classroom as they continue on their path to become lifelong learners.

This article was written originally for MultiBriefs Education.


  1. I agree. My husband and I are always using YouTube to learn how to do things or do things better. It's a great resource and free!


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