I discovered to my delight this spring semester, that kids will happily watch YouTube videos as homework. As far as they’re concerned it’s an easy and enjoyable assignment, even if I tell them that I will give them a quick quiz on it the next day. I did have to be careful about video length, since I am not supposed to exceed 30-40 minutes of assigned homework per day. The payoff for me is that I don’t give up so much class time showing it myself in the traditional manner. Another huge benefit of finding videos that I use anyhow on YouTube is that students who are absent can watch the video more easily, often even before they are well enough to return to class. While I’m sure that posting video clips taped off of TV (with the ads dropped) is illegal, I’m hoping that using them is not. In quite a few instances, the school already owns a library copy.
Not all such documentary videos on YouTube are of equal quality. You really need to find ones with decent video quality, and where the multiple parts are easy to locate. I was lucky enough to identify one user, Spartan307, who posted a whole lot of ancient history videos of excellent quality and without all of the ads. Here is a sample from his “channel”: