Using Film Clips in the Classroom-United Streaming

Special Contribution from Ray Blair, Battleground Academy, Franklin, TN

[Editor’s note: United Streaming has since become Discovery Education streaming and remains a subscription-based service. You might also try video-sharing services such as YouTubeTeacherTubeSchoolTubeVimeo,SnagFilms and others. Free history and social studies video clips are also available at PBS VideoBBC Motion GalleryHistory Channel Video GalleryLibrary of Congress: American MemoryNew York Times (on YouTube),National Geographic VideosBrain PopHartcourt SchoolsGeography at the MoviesEducational Mini Movies,, and other sources. – Tom Daccord]

Free Online Video (full length and video clips)

The Integrated Use of Video

In reality, the use of a film in its entirety is often a poor fit for the classroom. Ideally teachers should use a variety of activities during a class. Lectures, then, stop being a pure activity of reception and focus on one media, a chalking and talking teacher, and they become adventures that have portals to exotic locations and intellectual acmes. Most teachers probably have long wished for easy ways to break up their periods with short video segments. Like many things in teaching with technology, once you come up with the “wouldn’t it be nice if” moment, it is very likely that the idea has previously been developed and made available on the World Wide Web. My quest for ways of showing short clips has taken me to the Discovery Education service called United Streaming, available at It has been the best and easiest tool for me to use as I collect a series of video clips to work into my integrated lecture/discussion presentation. I found immediate success with this practice as enhanced the usual lecture and discussion of Adolph Hitler with a clip of his inauguration speech in 1933. Clips of seemingly less interesting content, such as reenactment of the fur trade showing the tools of the mountain men, have improved a day of instruction.

Finding Videos and Video Clips

To find a video on United Streaming the user has a search function at the top of the home page. Simply type in a few key words and decide whether you want to focus on a specific type of content. Then click on go and retrieve your results.United Streaming Home Page

Users have the ability to further refine searches. The search can be refined by subject and grade level to better focus in on the exact content for which you are looking. After you find a film that you are interested in you can click on the title of the film or the video clip that seems to be of interest to take a closer look. When you click on the movie title, you are directed to the following screen.United Streaming Video Screen

In the middle right section of the screen is the information needed to proceed with your search.Video Screen

For searching for something shorter than a class period, go into the video segments for this movie. You can get there at least two ways: by clicking the “video segments” tab or clicking the hyperlink in the section that reads “this video contains 15 segments.”

When you have a video that you want to save for later use, it is time to decide how you want to use the content. The option that relies most on the services of United Streaming is to save media content into a folder in your “my content” folder in the United Streaming web site. The advantages here are that you do not have to use any memory on your computer or server and a well-organized set of “my content” folders allows you to access needed material quickly and effectively. Saving this material in your “my content” folder is the best way to stream movies from United Streaming during your classes.

There are some pitfalls with streaming. This system leaves the presenter most subject to technical difficulties. To view, you must be connected to the internet and streaming directly from the internet can be interrupted more easily that viewing from a server or hard drive. Also, the use of streaming is limited to viewing from the site and you cannot incorporate you movie segment into a software program such as PowerPoint.

My preferred method is to download the clips I want to use to my personal educational files. The way to do this is to locate the movies and clips you want for future use and click the diskette icon near the desired media.

While looking at the video segments section of a movie, each segment has one of these blue diskettes to the right of the segment title. Click on the save button and save the clip to a folder. My suggestion is that you save the video inside the “My Videos” folder that comes standard in Windows “My Documents” folders. Then make the folders that you think you need to easily access these videos later.

The simplest way to use these clips from your computer is to go to your file and play them. I use Windows Media Player and it works quite well. One advantage of using the clips in this way is that your Media Player allows you to move through a file clip and quickly skip to a part that you want to show.

Another effective way to use these downloaded clips is to integrate your clip into an electronic presentation. I commonly use PowerPoint with a varied slide style and I insert a slide with an imbedded clip at a desired place. To embed a video in a PowerPoint slide make a blank slide, click on insert, click on movies and sounds, click on movie from file, and browse for the correct video clip.

Additional Features

On the top bar of the home page, there is a link on the middle right that is labeled “Teacher Center.” Inside the “Teacher Center” there are several features worth a brief description. The “Writing Prompt Builder” is a tool for using images and creating assignments to trigger a writing assignment. The “Calendar” option is an interesting section that organizes United Streaming media by date. “Thematic Focus” is a type of library of bundled media, lesson plans, activities, and assignments that are intended to be used as an educational unit. The “Discovery Educator Network” (DEN) is one of the ways that Discovery Education is building an electronic professional community.

The two services I anticipate will be especially useful to me are the “Quiz Builder” and the “Assignment Builder.” The quiz function will allow you to use pre-made quizzes, modify those, or make one from scratch. Media can be attached to the quiz. The questions can be set to show up in a random order. The quiz builder is a very versatile tool that is ready today to allow for a paperless evaluation given through the United Streaming service. Should I seek to use United Streaming to help me create complete assignment sections or create self-paced units for my students to work through individually or in groups, the “Assignment Builder” section looks like it could be a very useful tool. It allows a teacher to create and or collect material into a combined unit of instruction.


The United Streaming service has become a valuable part of my educational technology tool kit. While I hope that it keeps growing and improving, it is a very effective teacher’s aide at present. It has helped me create more seamless, integrated lecture/discussion sections in class and has helped dramatically reduced the number of times I have to prod my students to return from wherever and get back on task. Learning this service now will help many teachers become familiar with internet based educational tools. More specifically, as United Streaming grows and provides improved and more sophisticated services, becoming familiar with this system sooner rather than later, will make it easier to be ready for the more sophisticated and bundled packages like the assignment builder when you find that you need to or have to create integrated multi-media educational units.