Downloading and Using Video in the Classroom

There is little doubt that video engages kids.  The evidence of that reality stares me in the face each time I watch my three-year-old daughter become slack-jaw while watching her favorite television show.  As an educator, I know that we need to harness that kind of power in our efforts to engage students.

However, video is a difficult world to deal with when it comes to the Internet.  The quality and size of video files causes it to suck up a lot of network resources (meaning that other people cannot access what they may need to teach or learn).  If you have ever suffered through a “choppy” video that plays faster than it streams to the computer, you’ve dealt with this frustration.  It becomes especially difficult to justify that constraint on resources when you walk into the neighboring room of people crowded around a computer, all laughing uncontrollably at the latest viral video. 

Of course, there is also the issue of the appropriateness of content.  You understand that if you have ever shown a YouTube video (that you’ve previewed and decided is appropriate) to a class and then had a host of “suggested” videos appear on the sidebar with less than appropriate subject matter.  In my case it was a video on “mob mentality” that returned pictures of scantily clad people dancing and a video on a dog breeding program (you can imagine what the images for that one looked like).  Needless to say, I lost my audience before the intended video even started.

With that said, there are ways to get the upper hand on Internet video to maximize its power and limit its distractions.  Below are several ways that you can capture Internet videos in order to share them with your students.

*Disclaimer:  The world of Internet video is peppered with lots of technical jargon and elements.  Downloading Internet video is more of an “art” than a science at this point.  Patience is critical! Also, having a few “methods” to fall back on is helpful.

Internet Overrides

YouTube and other sites are often filtered at school.  However, there is little doubt that some educationally valuable content is available on these sites.  For this reason, any staff member in my district can use an override code to access these filtered resources.  This allows him/her to access any content that he/she may need while at school simply by using the override code whenever he/she encounters filtered material.

If you do not presently have access to these resources at school, perhaps its a conversation starter with your Director of Technology to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

Of course, without that option in place, it's nice to be able to "collect" or download Internet video content directly from the web BEFORE going to a filtered environment.  If that option speaks to you, you can utilize to download videos from several Internet video streaming sites. 

  1. First you will need to locate the video you want to download. 

  2. Then, copy the URL and open another browser window to .

  3. On the green box in the center of the page, click the second tab, which reads “Download Videos”

  4. Under “Step 1” paste the URL of the video into the text box

  5. Under “Step 2” choose one of the following formats:

    1. FLV – if you want to place the video directly into a SMART Notebook file

    2. WMV – if you want to play the video with Windows Media Player

    3. Under “Step 3” enter your school email address and then click “Convert”

    4. Zamzar will send a link to your email inbox.  This is not an immediate process, but if you have not received the link within 24 hours, check your “Junk Email” folder.

    5. Click the link emailed to you, click “Download Now” on the web page, and save the file to your computer.

Pros: Cons:
-Reliable download of videos -Slow process; may take hours to receive email from Zamzar
-Lots of file formats available -Small video files only; 100 mb limit

Another reliable source that is a bit more streamlined is

  1. First you will need to locate the video you want to download. 

  2. Then, copy the URL and open another browser window to

  3. In the “URL” box in the middle of the page, paste the address of the video you want to download

  4. Click “Nab” just to the right of the URL box

  5. Wait a few seconds, and several buttons will appear below the “URL” box that will indicate the preferred file format and quality of the video for the video you want to download (FLV medium, FLV high, WMV low, etc.).  Click on the preferred format and quality.

  6. Wait a few more seconds and a “Save” dialogue box will appear.  Click “Save” and identify where you want the video to go.

Pros: Cons:
-Faster download process -Video files formats limited to what is available; not all formats available
-Reliable download of videos -May have to use another service to convert video file formats


*Not all video players are made equal.  If you’ve got a file that won’t play with a standard media player (like Windows Media Player), you may want to download and install another media player – VLC Media Player.  You can download VLC at this site:

Alternative Video Sites

There are lots of great video sites out there to pull resources from.  Here are just a few worthy of mentioning.

School Tube and Teacher Tube

While no comparison to the expansive library of YouTube, School Tube and Teacher Tube are vetted content sources that have systems in place to monitor the content hosted on the site.  There is a wide array of educational resources available on both sites.

Find them at:  and

YouTube Edu

About a year ago YouTube launched YouTube Edu (  Partnering with academics and universities the world over, there is an expansive list of lectures and resources available for free on the site.  Hosted on YouTube, you’ll have to access the site using the Internet override you were given, but it has lots of great content that may just fit your classroom needs.

The most important element to remember is that video engages students in a wide variety of ways.  Although showing video from YouTube isn't an option that is presently available for every teacher, it is definitely worth the extra effort to pre-plan, download in advance of the class period, and show the video to students using some of the techniques and tools mentioned here.