Use TED-Ed to Make YouTube a Powerful Educational Tool


Since its inception in the mid-2000s, YouTube has changed the way we look for and watch video. This voluminous archive is a great tool for educators. If only there was a way to leverage YouTube to make it a tool that can teach, reinforce and assess.

As a teacher, it is not enough to say to students, “Watch this video tonight. We’ll discuss tomorrow.” Today’s students need scaffolding and accountability to engage and learn.

If only there was a tool that added reading and questions to YouTube. It would be really great if that tool tracked student assessment data. Imagine if it had a discussion component so students could interact. And if only such a tool was free.

This all exists in one place. Meet TED-Ed.


To get started, go to TED-Ed. You have to set up an account if you want to customize questions and activities for YouTube videos and track student assessment data. Trust me, you want to do this. I suggest using your school e-mail when setting up your account. Would you rather get updates on student progress in your work e-mail or your personal e-mail? Students also have to set up accounts to log-in and have their answers recorded.

Using TEDEd’s Videos

You can start very easily by using TED-Ed’s ready-to-go lessons. They are usually TEDEd produced and have questions. You can find them by searching on the TED-Ed site.

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The TED-Ed produced videos (labeled TED-Ed originals) are usually brief animated videos that are short enough to keep students’ attention but deep enough to convey content and provoke thought.

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The TED-Ed originals come with three sections besides “Watch” which is simply the video itself. “Think” questions (multiple choice and short answer), “Dig Deeper” (links to further reading on the subject) and “Discuss” questions which are discussion board questions.

You can customize the lesson by clicking “customize this lesson” found below the “Discuss” link.

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Customize the lesson by editing or deleting any of the lesson sections. Not only can TED-Ed originals be customized, so can any lessons TED-Ed users have generated.

The “Think” questions are limited to fifteen. You can delete questions and add your own. These questions allow for multiple choice or short answer. I try to use a mixture of both. Multiple choice give me a good data picture of how well my students have learned. The free response questions give students a chance to use think about content by considering perspective or building an argument.

The “Dig Deeper” tool is great for giving students more resources to explore a topic. For a video about the postwar development of American suburbs, I was able to use this tool to give students perspectives that differed from the speaker in the video. Once you have finished editing the sections, TED-Ed gives you a link to share.

The “Discuss” tool allows you to enter discussion prompts. You can have students interact with each other, all in a space where you see exactly what every student has written. The different TED-Ed sections build nicely from multiple choice through to student discussion.

As students answer the questions, you can log in to your TED-Ed account to see student data and read answers to free response questions.

Advanced Level: Use ANY YouTube Video

The TED-Ed originals and user generated content are great. The work is already done for you and you can simply customise it for your needs.

However, the great thing about TED-Ed is that it can be used for any video on YouTube. Any at all. Find a video you want your students to interact with? Use TED-Ed to make it happen.

Log in to TED-Ed. Near the top of the screen is a link to “create a lesson.”

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From there you simply search the for the video you want. I suggest copying and pasting the video URL. From there you create questions and material for each TED-Ed section you want to include. For an example of the end result, please have a look at my TEDEd lesson based on a video about JFK’s World War II experience informing his Cuban Missile Crisis decision making from The Armageddon Letters (link includes video) a great source for content about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In Conclusion

YouTube is great for teachers. However, it comes with neither scaffolding nor assessment. TED-Ed changes that. Leverage it to make YouTube a powerful tool for your students.



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