Tools to Make Using YouTube Easier

YouTube grows everyday, and with it grows the urge to bring the videos into the classroom. After all, high quality academic content has started appearing regularly on the video hosting site, as well as fun vids that we as teachers just want to share with our students. YouTube itself has even created a whole channel devoted to teachers using YouTube called YouTube Teachers. The channel features videos of academic merit, as well as posting videos about how teachers and students can create content for YouTube and use it in instruction. However, YouTube isn’t perfect. What if you want to show a video without the ads and comments? Or just a small portion of a long video? Or several videos one after another?

On his blog Free Technology for Teachers, Richard Byrne posted a list of Twelve Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students, all free on the web, that are designed to make it easier to use YouTube and which can be especially useful to teachers. He divides the tools into three categories: tools for removing related content from the videos, tools for cutting and remixing videos, and tools within YouTube itself. Some of the tools were more useful than others. I explored all of the tools on the list, and here is some more information about some of my favorites.

SafeShare

Ever wanted to share a YouTube video, but you didn’t want all the fluff of the comments section, advertisements, and suggested videos? Well, there are several tools that can strip those away and leave you with a clean vid, but many require you to download the app into your browser toolbar or leave you with a stark, unpleasant viewing window. SafeShare is a little bit different. It is a web application, and ridiculously easy to use. All you have to do is paste in the URL of the YouTube video you want into the blank, hit “Generate Safe Link,” and you’re done. Easy peezy. However, you can choose “Customize Video,” selecting one of six background themes, change the title, or even adjust the portion of the video you want to play.

This is a great tool for when the extra parts of YouTube could interfere with the instruction you have planned for the video. For example, the comments section of a controversial political speech could limit an in-class discussion on the message of the speech. Below is an example of how SafeShare can be used to bring current events into the classroom with less bias: compare the YouTube Layout with the cleaner layout of SafeShare. To see each video in action, click on the screenshot to follow the link.

Screenshot of Mitt Romney on YouTube

Mitt Romney on YouTube

Screenshot of Mitt Romney on Safe Share

Mitt Romney on Safe Share

TubeChop, EmbedPlus, and Splicd

Each of these tools allows you to cut down a YouTube video to a specific portion you want to show. This is great if you want to show a piece of a really long video, like an inaugural address, movie scene, or other such scene. Feel free to experiment with each tool, but there are some things to know about the limits of these tools. TubeChop is the easiest to manipulate, but the hardest to embed. In fact, none of them will embed in WordPress.com, which means I can’t post my edited videos on this blog. EmbedPlus will work for the paid version, WordPress.org, but the other two don’t work at all. However, they will all embed in PB Works. For a chance to see these three tools side by side, as well as an explanation of how to embed in PB Works, I created a wiki page using all three tools to clip the same portion of a video on Confucius. For other applications, it is important to know that Splicd is the only tool that would embed into a PowerPoint Presentation.

Watch2gether.com

The commenting feature on YouTube is part of what makes the experience so exhilarating. However, the standard comments section is not a viable option for a discussion among your students, since it is open to the public and anyone can chip in. The website watch2gether.com overcomes this by turning any YouTube video into your own personal live chat room. This would be a great tool for developing students writing and discourse skills. It can also be an opportunity for the shyer members of the class to engage in the discussion, since it is impossible to be interrupted in a chat room (though your comment can fall outside the flow of the conversation). Watch2gether.com works by one person going to the website, picking a nickname, and selecting the video for discussion. In the classroom setting, that person would most likely be the teacher. Then, they invite the other members to the discussion by sending them a link to this video and this conversation. When everyone is in the chat room, everyone presses play and starts commenting in the chat window. Below is a screenshot of a discussion a couple friends and I carried on while watching a video about the Fibonacci sequence called “Doodling in Math: Spirals, Fibonacci, and Being a Plant [1 of 3]”.

Screenshot of Fibonacci Chat Session on Watch2gether

Fibonacci Chat Session on Watch2gether

DragOnTape

If you have ever been frustrated by YouTube Playlists, you need to try DragOnTape. This online tool allows you to build a mixed tape of YouTube videos so that they follow one another with no pauses, even allowing for some fading from one to the next, like a DJ blends the ends and beginnings of songs. To be honest, I am in love with this tool. The interface is incredibly simple and intuitive. You can search for video clips without leaving the site, drag them right to where you want them in your playlist, and even trim the length of individual video clips. DragOnTape even gives you a warning system on videos that the search brings up, telling you if a specific video is un-embeddable or not available on mobile or in a specific location. That way, you can make sure that your mix will be viewable to all users. DragOnTape, like the chopping tools, does not embed into WordPress.com; however, it will embed into PB Works and PowerPoint.

DragOnTape is a social site. You have to sign up, but it is free, and then all your work and playlists can be saved. You can also choose to share your videos with the general public on DragOnTape or keep it private to only those who have the link. The privacy settings mean that you could use this tool for students to create their own profiles and playlists, or to create a playlist of student work that was posted to YouTube. Outside of showcasing student work, DragOnTape would be a great tool for sharing a set of videos to introduce a video, or lining up several videos for direct comparison. Below is a great video that introduces DragOnTape and how to use it.

I decided to use DragOnTape to create a playlist for a Shakespeare unit, comparing different actors’ interpretations of the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy from Hamlet. I love how it turned out, and I wish I had an 11th grade English class I could throw this at. Until then, I will just pass it amongst my fellow English Major nerds. As I mentioned earlier, it cannot be embedded in WordPress.com, but it can be embedded in PB Works. Therefore, I posted my To Each His Own Hamlet playlist on my wiki, and you can view it there.

I hope this post has inspired you with ideas for lesson plans, or at the very least has made you want to play around with the tools for your own entertainment. I know I have had a ton of fun creating my examples, in addition to some other works just for me. Which tool caught your fancy the most? How do you think you would use it? Is there another tool you have heard of or used and want to share? Speak up in the comments!

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BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology)

Technology opens so many doors for teaching in both positive and negative ways.  On one hand it creates so many new resources, but on the other it allows access to more distractions and inappropriate freedoms for students.  Some schools, are taking the bad with the good and implementing a new BYOT program or Bring Your Own Technology.  BYOT allows students to bring in their own laptops, ipads, iphones, etc. to use in school as long as the use is appropriate and teacher guidance is provided.  After reading more and more on this new and increasingly popular trend I found that there are so many positives and negatives to this, but if handled correctly and if preventative steps are taken for distractions, I believe this could be a truly successful idea.

One school that I looked at that had a successful BYOT program was the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.  Students raved that they could increase organizational skills by having all papers in one place, not have to carry around heavy backpacks, and take more control of their education so that it was more beneficial to them.  One thing in particular was a student who explained that when he didn’t understand something he could go back in the powerpoint on his computer, rather than having to interrupt the teacher and class and have them go back.

Some may argue that this isn’t fair for students who can’t afford their own technology like some students can, but Doug Johnson, the author of the book The Classroom Teacher’s Technoogy Survival Guide, argues that there are lots of positives to BYOT. He states that in allowing students to bring their own devices, you are also freeing up the schools limited resources so that they can be used by the students who don’t have what they other students may have at home.  In most classrooms, due to constant budget cuts, there are only a few computers and dividing time for 30 students to use them is a major challenge.

Student using technology in a classroom with teacher guidance

There are, however, also many challenges that would be faced in allowing students to bring in devices.  At this point in time there are softwares installed in school devices that protect them and monitor their usage.  It would not only be costly, but would be nearly impossible to install software like this on all personal items of students in a school district.  It would also be a challenge for school technicians to know of all the different applications available and how to fix and use them.  There is also the issue of ensuring students are staying focused and aren’t distracted by social media and other websites or games.

Trusting students is key to this implementation being successful, which is why I think the idea used by a Kansas City school would be a great way to handle a lot of these issues.  They have a policy where children can apply for a BYOT pass.  They had to state how they would be using a given device for learning and promise to use it responsibly.  They then received a BYOT sticker for that device, which they had to show to anyone who asked when they have their devices out around the school.

Technology is being used in all different places in the real world and work force.  If its happening in the real world I feel that we should be preparing students for that in schools. Are we really protecting students in not allowing them to use technology or are we sheltering them and hiding them from the things they’ll face as soon as they’re out of school and working?  What do you think about the BYOT idea?  Do you think the pros outweigh the cons?  What other ideas do you have to keep students safe and focused while still allowing them to use the tools we have today?

Check out this website for some great photos of students who brought their own technology!

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Scribble Maps: Interactive Maps in the Classroom

Have you ever wanted to draw a spot on a map without permanently marking it? To be able to point out a specific place, or route, without ruining an expensive map that you’ll want to use for something different in the future? Well then Scribble Maps is the tool for you! This awesome tool allows you to not only draw on and annotate maps, but also save, print and download your maps onto your computer. These maps can even be embedded onto class websites or wikis.

I first came across Scribble Maps on Richard Byrne’s blog Free Technology For Teachers. In his blog post Scribble Maps – Easily Type and Draw on Google Maps, he provides a variety of uses of Scribble Maps in the classroom stating this tool “could be a good resource for teachers of geography, history or current events.” It could also be used in literature, mapping, or many other fun and creative ways.

Scribble Maps is free and user-friendly, providing a tool that students will use with ease. It is possible to create a map without even creating an account; however, there are more features in the tool box if you create an account (and it’s still free!) Let’s create a map! Once on Scribble Maps, in order to create your first map you press the button Create Map in the top left hand corner. It will bring you to a screen that looks like thisCreate a Map First ScreenThe tool box in the middle gives links to video tutorials, recent maps and other helpful aspects of the website that you can explore which will help you become more familiar with it. After closing that toolbar, you can type the location into the search bar on the top. Scribble Maps is run using Google Maps, which creates an advantage for many students who will be familiar with the layout and already know how to find a location or look up directions.

After finding a specified location, students can add markers, lines, shapes, or even import photos onto their map. Using the top tool bar, it is easy to find and place things on the map, playing with different colors, shapes or objects. Adding markers is very simple. Richard Byrne suggests students could use this to show important historical sites, create a timeline of western expansion, or even places that are important to them or important to their town. On the map below, markers illustrate important places in my day. Titles and descriptions also shows up in the right hand side of the page, making it easier to view and locate your markers.

Markers used to show places I goAnother feature of Scribble Maps is the ability to draw lines: straight, scribbled or connected. After placing the markers, I connected them with lines showing where I go throughout my day. Again, these lines show up in the right hand column. You can drag them to rearrange the order on the column and when you place your mouse over them, it highlights the line or marker on the map for easier viewing. A third tool you can use is text boxes. This will come in handy in the classroom because students will not only point out places, but also describe the importance of them or what they are trying to get across in their map.Satelite Map of Schedule

Maps can be created using different views such as terrain, hybrid, satellite or regular maps, providing many uses in the classroom. The example on the left is a satellite map, giving students a much better idea of what the place looks like. The map below is a regular map.Regular Map of Schedule

It is also very easy to save your map, whether it is with or without an account. When you hit the menu button in the top right tool box, it gives you the option to save. It will ask you for an original Map ID and title of your map. It will then provide you with a hyperlink directly to the map and a hyperlink that will allow you to easily share your map. My map’s directory link will show you the map on the right through the Scribble Map website and my map’s direct link will allow you to interact with the map.

How to Locate Your Map LaterAfter saving your map you can share, email, embed, or print it. Maps can be embedded on websites such as PBworks, but some websites (like WordPress) do not allow embedding that uses javascript (which Scribble Maps does). You can even start working on another map! This is an easy way for students to create their own work and visually understand what they are learning. They can also view the maps other people created under recent maps.

Don’t you want to avoid big bulky, pull-down maps that don’t even stay down half the time? This awesome tool is perfect for the classroom and can be used in so many different ways to help students learn and have fun. Here are a few links to other great ideas on how to incorporate Scribble Maps in the classroom and how Scribble Maps is affecting classrooms:

What role will maps play in your classroom? Do you think Scribble Maps would be effective and engaging for learners? Feel free to share what you think about this tool and how you might use it in the future!

Posted in Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Instruction, Research tools | 10 Comments

Time Search

Have you ever sat through a history class and asked yourself, how can this be better? Well there is certainly a solution to this problem. Time Search  is a tool in which users can find out useful historical information based on a simple timeline. For example, if one wanted to know what occurred in 300 BC, they would simply type the number 300 in the upper left-hand corner and specify whether the time you are looking for is either AD or BC. Once the user clicks on the “Go” button, all the information is readily available and new insight is gained.

Also, if one were to look up something specific such as the inquisition, they could go to the search toolbar next to “timeline sites” bar and put in the inquisition and click “search” to find a wealth of information such as pictures or articles. Not only this, but there are two other options in the same box which are “areas” and “themes”. The “areas” button once one clicks on it will show the different regions of the world if one were to look for a specific place in which a historical event took place and the “theme” button lets one choose a particular theme ranging from arts to war. This would be very helpful if one were to look for something specific to that time such as looking up certain art pieces that were created during the Renaissance era.  Time Search would be very helpful for educators in the field of history considering that it is very much pertained to history only. Even though this tool has a wealth of information in it already spanning several thousand years, the information for each year is somewhat brief so it would also be helpful to also do some general research when possible.

After reading Richard Byrne’s blogpost, I realized that this tool is also incredibly simplistic and very easy to use. It is also possible to view Time Search in their sponsor site, History World. Also, it would also be important to look at Marcus P. Zillman’s blogpost considering that there is also background information such as who created the actual tool, when it was first introduced to the internet, and how many events are actually in the Time Search database which according to Zillman is around 10,000 and it would appear that the numbers are continuing to grow. There does not seem to be a very good video tutorial that I was able to find on the internet, however I do not think one was needed in the first place because the simple fact is that this tool is insanely easy to use and it really is just typing in either a date or the name of an event that took place.

One could also read the “about” page in order to learn more about this tool as well. Personally, I believe this tool is quite honestly fantastic and it’s a good way to find out specific dates of when events occurred. Also, to reiterate what has already been discussed before, there is another blogger by the name of Phil Bradley who has also wrote about Time Search in his blogpost and gives a very brief but to the point overview of what Time Search is and how people can use it.

In conclusion, Time Search is a very unique tool that is very accessible to everyone and no monitoring would need to be done with students considering the fact that there is nothing inappropriate that would be found in this particular tool and all the information is very accurate. I know I will more than likely use this tool in order to help my students better understand when certain events took place!

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Study Blue: The Next Generation of Studying

Have you ever been studying for an exam, test, or quiz, and wondered what other people are studying? Have you ever wanted to be able to share your notes and study guides with another person and see what they have been studying as well? If you are anything like me, I always like to see what other people are doing when it comes to preparing for some sort of test or quiz. Why only study your flash cards when you can study everyone’s flash cards on a given topic? This short video briefly gives you the gist of what this tool is all about.

With StudyBlue you can create your own flash cards and study from your iPhone or iPad, computer, or Android phone whenever you want, no matter where you are.  You can choose to quiz yourself, or look at your flash cards in the format of a review sheet. Another plus of using StudyBlue is that once you create your own flash cards, by default a ton of other flash cards on that topic will come up. These other flash cards have been created by other members of the StudyBlue community. The person has the choice to put only some, or all of the other related flashcards with their own collection if they wanted. The site is extremely user friendly- all you have to do is make an account with your name, school, and e-mail. Once you have done this you have created your “digital backpack”. Once your digital backpack has been created you can immediately start using the site by typing in the topic you want and either define it yourself, or you can scroll down and choose to view someone else’s deck. If you put your mouse over the card you can see a person who has made a deck of flashcards on the topic that you wrote and choose to add it to your own, edit it, or simply view it.

A StudyBlue employer explains how the site monitors your progress

How do you know that you're learning? StudyBlue marks your progress so you can see what you need to improve on

Other great features about study blue include free apps for your phone, or computer that sync with the site so the student is continually learning. In addition to this, StudyBlue marks your progress to makes sure you are learning- every time that you mark a card right or wrong the site keeps track for you so that you can check yourscores for feedback.

After reading Dorene Bates’  blogpost on StudyBlue I learned that there are other ways students and teachers can incorporate study blue into other new technology tools. Teachers can link to flashcards from any type of class website, Moodle, Blackboard, pretty much anything!

Using StudyBlue allows students to work together by sharing materials and resources. ByExample flashcard sharing their information they can combine their efforts to gain perspectives on a a topic that they maybe didn’t have before. Viewing the flashcards that other students have made about the same topic could provide students with a new way to think about and remember the topic they’re studying. Overall, the possibilities that StudyBlue offers are endless when it comes to creating innovative and well constructed study guides. Teachers can use StudyBlue for tests by having the class create a study guide to ensure that they are focusing on the right material, and students can use it on their free time to make studying easier and more accessible. I definitely think that this is a great piece of technology to incorporate into learning inside and outside of the classroom. How do you think you’ll be able to use StudyBlue with your class? Have you used StudyBlue before? If so, have you found any good collections of flashcards?

Posted in Collaboration, Communication, Teacher productivity | 22 Comments

Google Presentations and PowerPoints

Have you ever been involved in a group project?  If so, you know how difficult it can be to gather together in order to work on a presentation.  Now-a-days, it seems that everyone has such busy schedules that it seems nearly impossible to take an hour out of your day to meet at a specific place and work on something that seems trivial; a PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is the most popular presentation tool, but after reading this blog post on Using Google Presentation instead of PowerPoint, I saw that Google Presentations just may make life a little easier for all of us busy bees out there.

When working with Google Presentations, you can personally chat via comments with your fellow group members, which allows for more collaboration among group members, which leads to a better presentation over all.  Below is a video of how collaboration works well among group members within Google Presentations.

If virtual collaboration with group members is not enough for you to enjoy Google Presentation’s tools, then maybe the fact that it is online and saves by itself will be!  With Google Presentations, a student does not have to use a flash drive in order to save information and transfer it to another computer, they can simply just close out of the presentation, and just like that, it is saved!  In Microsoft’s PowerPoint, a student must save all their work and be able to put it onto a flash drive in order to make sure all data is correctly put onto another computer.  Since Google Presentations is all online, it helps us make our hectic lives just a little bit easier.  This being said, there are sites which allow slidesharing for PowerPoint.  The two most popular ones are: Slideshare and Authorstream which allow you to upload your PowerPoint presentation online and then be able to share it with a larger audience.  Below is an example of a PowerPoint presentation uploaded into Slideshare.  It was created by Michael Billera and is called: Symbols of the United States of America.

With these sites, you can put your presentations into blog posts (just like I did above!), Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Using these sites, you can also embed YouTube videos into your presentation. Below is a video discussing Authorstream and Slideshare.

Overall, there are positives and negatives to both Google Presentations and Microsoft PowerPoint.  Based on what the main interest is, these presentation tools can attract different types of educators.  PowerPoint has stronger capabilities, which allows it to have fancier presentations.

If you are looking for a high-tech looking presentation with many different effects, I would suggest PowerPoint, but if you are in a group and working on a project that does not require high-tech, then Google Presentations is the most efficient one to go with.

If you are interested in learning more about Google Presentations and what it offers, I suggest that you check out the Lynda course on Google Docs.  It has videos in chapters 9 & 10 which guide you through the presentation process.

Have you had experiences with both PowerPoint and Google Presentations? Was there one that you particularly liked better?  If so, why did you like it more than the other?

Posted in Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Instruction, Research tools | 17 Comments

How to Use A Drop Box

How much do you use your computer for? How much do we expect our future students to use a computer for? With this push toward technology soon, students will be doing everything using some type of electronic device. However, what happens if students do not have access to a printer? Or, how can you receive all of their work and have it organized? Have you ever heard of a Drop Box?

I’ve never heard of a drop box until the other week when my mom asked me how to use it. She works for a company that has many different stores and they are starting to share documents with a communal drop box. Then, I was at a meeting and they announced we would be using a drop box to share documents as well. So, needless to say, I decided I needed to research this “drop box” idea that everyone was talking about. After researching it, I learned that a drop box is a tool that can be used to transfer documents from one device to another. For example, if I save something on my computer and put it in my drop box, I will also have it on my iPhone or iPad without having to do anything else! You can also share files with others using dropbox! There are different programs to use. The one I will discuss in this blog post is DropItToMe. Overall, this is pretty convenient if you ask me.You can share anything from Word documents to photos.

Here’s how you go about getting your own drop box! Go to dropbox.com and set up an account. Then download the application and you should have a dropbox icon on your computer (Windows users it may appear on your desk top or at the bottom on the toolbar, while Mac users it would appear on the toolbar at the top). When you click on the box, a drop down menu will appear. From there, you can choose what to do.There are options such as opening your DropBox folder or searching your preferences. Here is what the blue box should look like:

This is what the drop box icon should look like when it appears on your screen.

To save a document to your DropBox is simple. When you are done with your document click Save As, then under Places click Dropbox. Once you click that, it will go to your Dropbox and you are good to go! If you have further questions, here is a great tutorial

However, I will give you a warning, if you want to edit something, be sure to edit it within dropbox. For example, if you have a document saved to drop box, open it in drop box then edit it. That edited version will be what you will see when you open the document on any of your devises. However, if you save it to your computer, it will not update. The drop box does not know that other files on your computer exist. So, to save time, always edit your information by opening your document within drop box.

But how can you use it in your classroom? There are a few ways to use this tool in your classroom but one main way is to have students turn in work via DROPitTOme.comThis is a website that allows people to send one person documents. All of these documents will go to a single drop box making it easy to collect things. This is a perfect tool for you to use to collect documents that your students create. With the push toward technology, this could be a very convenient tool for you as well as your students. We’ve all had printer trouble or waited to the last minute to print something only to realize the printer is out of ink. Well, by asking students to send your their documents via DropBox, those problems will not be an issue. To get started go to DROPitTOme.com and create an account. Drop It To Me will not reveal any personal information. Once you create an account you will be given a link. This link will be http://www.dropitto.me/yourusername. This is the link that you will give to students. Whenever they submit their work, they will go to that link. Then, provide an “Upload Password” for your students to use that you will set up. Be sure to make this different from your personal password. Then you will come to a page that looks like this:

This is the page that your students will see when they send you a document.

Students should then choose “Choose File”, select their file, then click “Upload”. Then, you should receive an email notification (if you registered with an email address). It’s as simple as that! However, if you have another further questions, Richard Byrne’s Blog is a great tool. This blog provides helpful hints for those who are just getting started. The particular post I received most of my information is Try DROPitTOme to Collect Assignments ONline. There are many ways to use a drop box in your everyday life as well as in your classroom. Try it out to see if you like it, it’s simple enough to figure out!

Now, knowing what you know about dropbox, what are other ways you can use it in your classroom? Do you think that this would be an effective tool for students?

Posted in Collaboration, Communication, Handhelds-tablets, Teacher productivity | 16 Comments