5 next-level uses for technology in the classroom

There is simply so much untapped potential in new uses for technology in the classroom! When I started as a teacher, everything was on paper. The first change that I made was to make all of the assignments paperless. This was not a next-level use of technology. In fact, it was the lowest level of change on the “SAMR” scale

 uses for technology in the classroom
SAMR scale for the uses for technology in the classroom


“Going paperless” is just substituting technology for the sheets of paper that I needed to hand out. Students are doing the same work that they used to be doing. Most uses technology in the classroom fall into this category and the next category.


Another early use of technology in my classroom was to have students research topics online, instead of only using their library books. This was just augmenting what was already happening in the classroom.

Next level uses for technology in the classroom

Modification & Redefinition

Students do not need to be confined to the resources that a teacher has physically collected in the classroom. We can do so much better! There are so many resources online and even YouTube (see below) that can help students learn from countless helpful resources.

Adobe Spark

This is a great tool for students to make simple graphics like the one pictured below.

Adobe Spark Video

The tool can also be used for video slideshows. Students simply add photos and record what will be said during each slide. The exported video will stich your photos and audio into a seamless video.

Learn how to use Adobe Spark

Kids can learn how to design games, tell stories, and more

Scratch is an online way for kids to code by just dragging blocks. It is so easy. Students can learn how to use scratch simply by just watching some videos.

Design in 3D to make useful, creative, and cool looking objects

TinkerCAD is the best way to have students start designing in 3D! They can make objects that tell stories, serve a purpose, teach a skill

The last next-level use: YouTube can be a force for good in the classroom

Youtube is a dirty word to many teachers. It was to me for a long time. Every teacher has had those students who will sneak over to YouTube. These students often are ignoring their classwork and have made a habit out of being off-task. For a long time, YouTube seemed like a bottomless pit for some students. Those students would pour their mental energy into videos and got nothing back. But when we are talking about uses for technology in the classroom, YouTube has to be a part of that discussion.

It doesn’t have to be like this. At some point I stopped fighting it. YouTube has resources, inspiration, entertainment, and help of all kinds. There are hours of motivational speaches, thought leadership, and resources for personal growth. Our kids will not choose these videos without our help.

Now I treat it as inevitable. YouTube can be a resource that helps far more than it hurts. We can teach kids how to use YouTube for inspiration and instruction.  It is possible with some proactive teaching. Why not use this powerful resource to our advantage?

If you use YouTube as a teacher or parent, check out my channel!

The YouTube Algorithm

I used to treat the site like it was the forbidden fruit. Some kids would avoid it, some woust use it for music, and others would act addicted. These students were always waiting to sneak back and watch ever more videos. They had hundreds of hours logged on the site, yet they had no idea that YouTube could help them in any way. We made it that way by never talking about it  and letting the Youtube algorithm take over. This algorithm is designed to tempt kids with the most addictive videos.

Google employs a lot of very smart people. They can customize the home page to show the middle aged woman videos that are very appealing to them. Middle school boys will see very different but equally appealing videos. This algorithm has millions of other viewers to give it information. People who liked this video also liked this video. The some people who watched this video were definitely interested in those videos. If a person stops watching a long video, start showing them shorter options.

The choices you make on the site teach the algorythm how to keep you watching.  The site knows exactly what to show you next to keep you watching. When kids pick the videos they want to watch on their own, they do not make wholesome choices. Then the YouTube algorithm will feed them other videos that they’re sure to like. There is SO MUCH low-value content aimed at kids. Before long, YouTube has lost all redeeming qualities. The battle is lost and that student will be watching trash.

We can interrupt that decent. Kids love to learn how to create new things. Why not help them find videos that teach and inspire them? This is exactly how I introduce YouTube to my students in the first week of school. I encourage kids to follow creators that they find interesting. Our students can learn how to follow their lead and see high level work at the same time!

I’ve seen what middle schoolers will find on youtube when you leave them to their own desires. It isn’t pretty. These videos get a huge number of views and will not be going away. We need to stop being luddites and show kids how YouTube can enrich us.

Youtube in the classroom

Too many classrooms resemble classrooms from centuries past. All students working on the same project at the same time. The teacher is the primary resource.  These old ways of running a class are the norm but they are far from what our students need.

The biggest mindshift from before was that our kids can self-differentiate. Sites like YouTube are what make this possible.

After a student learns how to 3D design, they can look up and follow tutorials on designing new objects.

After a student learns how to code a game, YouTube has videos to help with the second game.

A young person who wants to try writing a song can get advice directly from songwriters to get started.

Innovative Arts students are learning how to become creators. We learn this while students are working on their own, different projects. Thinking like a creator and the process of creating is the focus of the class. YouTube is just another resource they can tap into during their work time. Managing this is not as difficult as it might seem – kids want to do unique and creative projects.

Better recommendations!

When you use YouTube for learning, it shows you better videos! If you watch useful videos, it will recommend useful videos. This shift if a big leap towards thinking like a creator. You can discover things you didn’t know you could do, related passions, or new techniques this way. You can see the materials they are using, learn from their mistakes, and see their process all at once.

I show this with my own YouTube homepage to my classes. I make sure that the recommendations are great  by watching only creator videos. This makes it safe to show a class. I use a different google account for late night shows, news, or random videos.

What we are teaching in classrooms is disconnected from our student interests. Why not teach kids about the YouTube algorithm and how it gets them to watch more videos? Why not help them be mindful of what they consume?

I have created a course that teaches students how YouTube works. It covers how it can be addicting and unhelpful. Other lessons show how YouTube can be used for ideas, inspiration, personal improvement, and instruction. It is a powerful resource that we are ignoring.

For teachers, I have a course that shows how to teach students to value Youtube. The course introduces how to structure your class to use YouTube as a resource. It can help with differentiation.

The whole goal is for students to become creators of their own type. It is tough to do that when we are ignoring the most useful resource in all of history.

Useful links for teachers:

This site holds the resources for Innovative Arts class, a class that replaced our technology class in our middle school. Students learn to create as engineers, designers, and more. At the same time, we are learning about our brains/mindsets (‘Puzzle‘), engage technology (‘Shift‘) and the creative process (‘Create‘).

New resources are being added constantly, so I send out a weekly roundup email with all of the new resources. Sign up to stay in the loop.

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