Getting YouTube (and Other Online) Videos

Most students are visual learners so teaching using video content just makes sense. The ‘seeing is believing adage’ could be restated as seeing is learning. The problem is often in getting content. The first place most teachers want to turn is to YouTube since it is the central place for video content. But what if YouTube is blocked at your school, your network is slow and causes constant buffering, or you just don’t want to risk possibly inappropriate content.

Unblocking Sites (in NYC)

YouTube Unblocker
In New York City a lot of web content is restricted on a school by school basis. Some sites have YouTube and others don’t. Usually, they’re not even blocked by site though but rather whole categories of sites like games or streaming media. You can request to have them unblocked with the approval of an administrator, but if you’re sharing internet in a building with multiple schools…good luck with that. As for things like Netflix and You don’t need to try a sketchy and unauthorized method like setting up a VPN which risks other network issues and viruses. There are a few other options available.

Alternative Sites

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should be enough to get you started.


  • learn-fun-video-670x335.jpgYouTube for Teachers and YouTube Education – These are channels on YouTube that were created to help educators find educationally relevant content for their classroom. That could mean lectures, tutorials, instruction, documentaries, and more.
  • Teacher TubeSchool Tube, and Edu Tube – These are alternatives to YouTube that function very similarly, but the lack some of the content you might want like Crash Course which I love for history and science content.
  • Khan Academy – The site that used to help with math homework now can help with learning almost anything else too.
  • PBS Learning Media – PBS has long been where teachers went for educational videos even when it was via VHS tape. Their site makes it much easier now.
  • Neo K12 – This is an old-school site, but it is still worthwhile with educational videos and games suitable across grade levels.
  • TedEd – They offer lessons for student and teacher learning. They video periodic table is really nice.
  • Howcast – If you want to know how to do it, here is the place to learn.
  • iTunes U  – A lot of this is for higher education and they have full course including videos.
  • Edutopia – This site has webcasts, videos, blogs, and more sorted into grade levels.
  • National Geographic Videos – These videos allow students to travel and explore the world around them.
  • Math TV – This online education resource teaches algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus.


Less Free

  • BrainPOP – They have multiple sites for different levels and languages that produce animated videos across all content areas along with many other resources.
  • Discovery Education – They have a ridiculously large collection of videos covering mostly science and social studies content.
  • Flocabulary – You can teach, assess, and create with students using hip-hop educational videos across several content areas.

Downloading Videos

download-youtube-videos-free.pngThis is a skill I get asked about regularly, so it is about time I gave a tutorial on how to download online videos. In a perfect world, all schools would have the incredible bandwidth and unfettered access to the internet where we could train the always eager, attentive, and dutiful students. Our situations tend to be far from perfect though so I can understand (even if I don’t like it) the need for blocks and why the network may be slower in some places (why it’s hard for my parents to stream video in quaint Barry, Illinois).

Downloading most videos is a fairly simple process, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re working with Mac, Windows, or Android. If the videos (i.e. YouTube, etc.) are blocked then they will need to be downloaded from outside the school or a computer on an administrative line (NYC has different internet access for classrooms and administration). That said, there are 4 basic ways to download videos that I will discuss below.


This is the easiest method but has the most limitations on what you can download. Basically just copy the URL (address) into these video services and you can choose the version (1080p, etc.) that you want to download. Sites for this include KeepVid, SaveVid, Savefrom, or Deturl.


This is probably my favorite method which doesn’t require opening another piece of software. These are built-in tools for the internet browser that lets you download videos directly without going to a separate webpage or email to download. They require a download and installation ahead of time though. SaveFrom Helper and FastestTube are available for most browsers. YouTube5 is for Safari, Video Downloadhelper is for Firefox, and FVD Suite is for Explorer.


You can also download using an app on your device. For Mac and Windows, there is Fastest YouTube Downloader, 4K Video Downloader, or Gihosoft TubeGet. For iOS there is TubeBox, and TubeMate works for Android. One of these methods is bound to work for you.

4). Download via APP or Streaming

Certain sites like Netflix or Amazon allow you to download a movie in advance on your mobile device. Simply load the video and click the download button. Now when you need it, you can connect your mobile device wirelessly (if the site is unblocked) or via an adapter to a display. The kind of adapter you need depends on your mobile device and display (i.e. lightning to HDMI).

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If you didn’t get a chance to download in advance, because you were a normal busy teacher or because inspiration just hit. You can still stream content despite blocks or bandwidth issues, but it comes with its own challenges. I’m not someone inclined to show students a whole film due to time constraints, but maybe you think its worth it to screen the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th for your students. Again the only authorized way to stream Netflix (in NYC) is to do it with your phone that is not connected to the school network. That means you’ll be using your personal data plan. You then can once again connect it to a display via an adapter cable.

3 thoughts on “Getting YouTube (and Other Online) Videos

  1. Downloadhelper also works on Chrome as an add on! I used it last night to help my wife get a video into slides that was not YouTube!

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