Curating Videos for Virtual Learning

This is a guest post by one of our blog writers, Sarah Joncas.

Videos can be a fabulous tool for virtual learning. There’s a long history of educational videos helping kids learn. By curating videos already available online, teachers can provide exposure to many types of music in a time-efficient manner. Any music teacher can learn to use tech tools to curate videos for their students to use during distance or hybrid learning.

It’s great for teachers to make their own videos when they can. You can see a post about how to make your own videos here. Making your own videos allows you to add a personal touch to lessons, to stay connected with students, and to teach concepts in a way that fits your teaching strength and curriculum. 

When I make videos, I tend to focus on teaching concepts. I like to use videos I didn’t make as well with my classes. There are lots of different considerations to curating videos for virtual learning. Selecting videos and organizing videos are the two steps of video curation that I think about.

How to Select Videos for Students

When I look for videos to use for my students, I look for a few different qualities. Generally, I look for videos that have all of these qualities, and select the videos accordingly.

Short and sweet

I prefer to show my students short videos, since I have such limited instructional time with students and want to make the most of it. I aim for most videos to be under 5 minutes, and rarely ever more than 10 minutes (unless it’s for a sub plan). Short videos tend to keep students’ attention better, in my experience. With the audio and visuals of a video, a lot of information can be conveyed quickly, so there’s really no need for videos to be too long.

Only the best

I am very intentional about looking for high-quality musical content. There are plenty of children’s musical videos, but I look for performances that are good models for students. Sure, I could just search for Mary Had a Little Lamb and pick whichever video happened to pop up first. But is that video worth my students’ time? Is it going to teach whatever concept I’m working on? I often turn to trusted channels, or crowd source from other music teachers to find high-quality videos to share with my students.

Some of my favorite sources for videos are:

Variety is the spice of life

I look for variety in the videos that I show my students. I like to find videos that expand my students’ musical horizons. This could mean performers from the culture in which the song originates, music that is outside of what my students listen to outside of school, or a unique interpretation of a song. I try to make sure that I share videos of a broad variety of musical artists, genres, and even time periods. Yes, it’s easier to find footage from recent performances, but digging into YouTube for archival footage of the jazz greats and other historic acts has been very rewarding for me.

Preview please

When selecting videos, I always watch them before I put them on for my students! Sometimes even a video from a channel I trust will have something that I don’t want to show in class. Taking the 5 minutes to watch the video lets me check that it’s appropriate, engaging, and covers the concept that I’m teaching. Previewing also helps me make sure that there are no technical issues with a video. There’s nothing worse than 25 “it won’t work!” comments from a whole class full of students when a video won’t play due to a broken link or being taken down. 

When I’m sharing a video with students “live” on video conferencing software or in a physical classroom, in addition to previewing the whole video I also pull up the video before class starts to get it loaded and ready at the beginning. This lets me play through any ads away from my students’ eyes and ears, and ensures that the video is ready to go without buffering time. 

Ways to Curate Videos

There are so many different tools that you can use to curate videos for your students! Whether you’d like to send out several videos to your students, or just keep videos organized for yourself to make them easy to access, there’s plenty of ways to collect and save videos.

Wakelet is a free digital curation tool that allows you to save and share collections of multimedia items, including videos. It’s a fantastic way to collect videos and share them with students. You can make your collection unlisted or public and share a simple link with your students. Here’s an example collection which compares an original song with a cover song:
Better Than The Original? Cover version showdown

YouTube playlists are another great video curation tool. Be aware that videos marked as “for kids” cannot be added to a playlist, so this option may not work for those who teach younger students. As an alternative for myself to keep my kid-friendly videos organized, I use bookmarks in Google Chrome. I have folders in my bookmarks for different concepts (steady beat, instrument examples, jazz, etc.) and when I find a suitable video I bookmark it in the appropriate folder so that it’s easy to access when I need it. 

If you need to make a playlist of YouTube videos that are marked “for kids” for students to view, what I usually do is put together a Google Slides presentation with one video per slide. Then, students can watch the videos and simply click to go to the next one. You can do something similar in a Google Site, if you prefer. For example, here’s a playlist I made on a Google site.

Google Site Playlist

As for presenting videos for students, there are lots of different options. I really like making videos interactive. Two tools I use for that are Nearpod and EdPuzzle. Both allow you to add different questions and content into the video. This does two things: it allows you to ensure students are engaged and actually watch the video, and it helps you see if students understand the content. 

The nice thing about using EdPuzzle or NearPod is that students won’t be able to click to other videos or otherwise engage with YouTube directly. You can also stop them from skipping ahead. This can be handy for students who might get distracted, or where school policies prohibit students going directly to YouTube. Additionally, EdPuzzle lets you edit a video if needed, or show only a specific section of the video. It’s very handy. 

Did you find a video you want to share with your students, but it’s on a social media site that they’re too young to use like TikTok or Facebook? Screen capturing the video can be the solution. Just use a tool like Loom or Screencastify, and record a screencast video and share that with your students. That way, they can see the video, without the privacy concerns of the social media website. For example, last year there was a “Soap Bop challenge” on TikTok that one of my colleagues found, and we used a screencast of the TikTok video for students to watch in the lesson.


Curating videos requires selecting video content and organizing it. When curating videos for my students to watch, I select videos that are short, high-quality, and varied. There are different ways to organize videos, such as YouTube playlists, Google Slides, and NearPod. Curating videos is a super effective way to build your online teaching toolbox.

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About the writer

Sarah Joncas

Sarah Joncas is a music teacher from Massachusetts, USA. She teaches kindergarten through fifth grade general music, fifth grade chorus, fifth grade band, and percussion ensemble. Before becoming a teacher, she worked with technology and educational software.

In 2014, she was named a TI:ME Technology in Music Education Leadership Fellow, which allowed her to attend a music education conference in Texas and explore cutting edge music teaching technology. She has earned degrees in Music Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Boston University. You can connect with Sarah on Twitter or her blog Teaching Music Musings

Looking for More Resources for Music Teachers?

Hello! I’m Katie Wardrobe – an Australian music technology trainer and consultant with a passion for helping music teachers through my business Midnight Music.

I’m a qualified teacher but no, I don’t currently teach in a school. I help teachers through my online professional development space – the Midnight Music Community – where there are tutorial videos, courses, links and downloadable resources.

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I like to focus on easy ways to incorporate technology into what you are already doing in your music curriculum through a range of creative projects. I also run live workshops and have presented at countless conferences and other music education events.

If you want simple, effective ideas for using technology in music education, I would LOVE to help you inside the Midnight Music Community.

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