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.
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.
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.
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]”.
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!