Crash Course World War IFor the past year or so, YouTube has been trying to promote original, web-only content. It invested a decent amount of money in some of these channels, and social studies teachers have something to show for it: Crash Course World History.

Crash Course World History is part of the Crash Course YouTube channel. Here’s the gist. John Green presents big ideas from World History, broken down into short ten minute segments. One segment was released each week, and the course is now complete with 42 episodes plus 2 out-takes.

The video below is about World War I. Take a look, and then read on below.

I love these videos. I think John Green is funny. Unlike most history “videos” (or documentaries), he’s not boring, nor does he try to be overly serious. While he addresses some very serious themes and issues, and he brings a certain intellectual honesty to the discussion of world history, he is also entertaining. It’s kind of like edu-tainment at it’s best.

I’ve watched a good portion of the World History videos, and I’ve included most of them in the online course I had to put together for my school. They are not by themselves a textbook or lecture replacement, and they’re not supposed to be. At 10 minutes, they are great videos to be shown at the beginning or end of a unit.

Green raises some important questions and concepts in each video, and so this can either be used to preview a unit (and then discuss those questions) or it could be used as a wrap-up to review the major concepts at the end of a unit. It’s also worth asking kids to watch it at home as a review. Since it’s interesting, they might actually be inclined to watch it – especially if you’ve already watched one or two episodes in class.

Although the title is “Crash Course World History,” some of these are pertinent for U.S. History as well. Obviously there’s a lot of curricular overlap between the later part of World History and U.S. History, and, for example, I watched the World War I episode above with my Modern U.S. History students.

The key, as with any video, is to prime the students to know what they need to get out of it. Green talks about a lot in ten minutes, so it helps to give your students a few guiding questions that they should pay attention for. You can then discuss these after the video.

For you English teachers out there, Green is just starting a course on literature. I haven’t watched any of the videos yet, but it might be worth subscribing to the channel and seeing how they come out. If they’re produced as well as the World History ones, then I’m guessing they’ll be pretty good.