Wednesday, October 10, 2012

YouTube for Schools....It's Just a Cut and Paste Away!

We all have different dreams.  I am not sure of yours.  Maybe you dream of a fancy car to drive rather than your rusted out 1975 New Yorker.  Maybe you dream of that student in your classroom finally having that proverbial light bulb pop on during your amazing lesson.  Maybe your dream is simply for some quiet time away from the hectic pace of this world.  I have some different dreams.  Back a few years ago, I had a nerdy tech dream.  My dream was to be able to show a YouTube video in my classroom without the dreaded fear of a questionable recommended video popping up after the fun education video about photosynthesis.  Like most teachers, I just simply avoided using videos on YouTube for many years.  In fact, we banned the use of YouTube at Lakeside to all students.  In the same breath, however, I understood the wealth of content that was out there for our students and teachers to tap into.  So, along came my struggle to find a clean, simple way to use YouTube without all the sinful garbage.

As I sat back in my office chair dreaming of sandy beaches and warm weather, I scanned my Google+ account and out of the blue came a delightful little nugget.  What is this I see?  A video about YouTube with the word Schools in it.  Ah, I have to look closer.  Here's the video that I ran across.

Ah, yes.  The solution to ALL my YouTube problems.  With one quick flip of a switch, I was about to be the hero to all my students and teachers.  I was thinking that I would be able to have a ticker-tape parade through the hallways honoring Mr. Klug as the most amazing person ever.  Yes, that is right, I was about to open up YouTube to our school.  My little dream soon got less filled with flying paper and more filled with red tape.  Ugh!  What steps do I need to take to make this happen?  Then, does it work?

So, I followed all the instructions at and I was hoping for viola!  Well, voila happened, but not in a good way.  I configured our Lightspeed Internet Filter device to allow for YouTube for Schools. Following the directions, I placed all of the videos that I wanted the students to see into my playlist and then made my account have permission to be seen within our YouTube for Schools.  

Then, I ran into a rather interesting problem.  YouTube for Schools works great, but it won't allow students to browse to find any of my playlists.  They can access the videos in my playlist if they have the address, but they can't actually browse for my playlist.  So, without some extra work, the kids have no access to my videos.  Ugh!

So, my solution.  I already have a Google Site.  I highlighted my playlist within my web browser and I simply copy and pasted it into a webpage on my site.  In an easy way, I could give my students the full playlist without them having to do some heavy searching.  It's a bit clunky, but it served the purpose.  

If you look through the help file for YouTube for Schools, it is chucked full of people wondering for the solution.  Only time will tell whether or not Google with fix this problem.  My guess is that when enough people scream, they might fix it.  So, please, scream a lot. My simple dream is to take the clunk out of YouTube for Schools.

Until then, happy cutting and pasting of your playlist.  I'll try to update you if Google makes a change.  Until then, dream away.  I am headed back to that dream about my family, a beach, a lounge chair, a cold drink and some soft Caribbean music.  Oh yeah, reality.  Time to teach!  God's blessings to all!


Friday, September 28, 2012

Getting Blasted with the Firehose

I find it sort of funny that social media is now old enough that I can term it "back in my day".  For instance, I had a discussion the other day with a student who didn't know what MySpace was.  In one of my computer classes, I discussed the "You Got Mail" sound clip that used to play back in the days of AOL.  It's amazing where social media has taken us.  This upcoming weekend, I am celebrating my 20th class reunion.  I ended up being the default coordinator for the event.  Rather than sending out paper invitations, the class was invited to the festivities using Facebook and Google Apps.  It is amazing where social media has taken us.

I remember a discussion I had during a WETMA event at the ISTE convention this past summer in San Diego,CA.  While waiting at the Hard Rock Cafe for some amazing sliders, chicken wings and southern California's best attempt at Wisconsin brats, I began to talk a little bit with one member of the 30 person posse from the Superior School District.  We were chit chatting about all different types of technology related topics.  At the end of the discussion, she asked me if she could add me on Twitter.  My words stumbled for a second.  My response eventually was simply that I didn't use Twitter.  I uttered the comment that I was a Facebook guy and I just didn't see the use for Twitter.  I am pretty sure that comment made her choke a bit on the bite sized morsel that she just popped into her mouth.  Not use Twitter, and you're a tech coordinator?!?!  Let's just say our conversation ended about as quickly as a pretty girl letting down the geeky guy at the high school dance.  Yeesh! Awkward!

I've struggled with the concept of getting teachers, including myself, to dive into Twitter.  I found it hard enough to get teachers to welcome the concept of saving files in the cloud.  Before this, I saw Twitter as a place where you can update your status much like Facebook.  So, in my mind, why would I spend time updating two sites on what type of pizza I was eating tonight?  I was always looking for that little kick in the pants or that push into the proverbial Twitter pool.  For some reason, that push happened a few days ago. It was a day when I was attempting to livestream the video podcast of WELSTech.  As I was listening, oh yeah, I mean watching the podcast, I was intrigued by Sallie and Martin's guest that day.  His name is Chad Kafka.  Chad is a tech coach at the Franklin School District here in Wisconsin.  He chatted during his interview about a couple of hashtags on Twitter that dealt with up-to-date information on Google Apps.  As an official Google Apps junkie and owner of my own Google pillow prominently displayed in my classroom, my ears perked up.  I have been wanting to become a Google Certified Teacher, but I have yet to send in my Google Teacher Academy Application.  Chad mentioned on the broadcast that folks were tweeting a large amount of the information they were receiving from the Google Teacher Academy, and my ears started ringing.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  He had me at "information", so my fingers sprinted to my dormant Twitter account.  So, without further ado, I immediately jumped into what I believed was an ice-cold pool called Twitter. I dove in feet first and found out that the water is not cold, but amazing.  Welcome to Twitter Ted!

I immediately began checking out some of the hashtags that Chad mentioned on the broadcast.  As I dug, I found that there were some amazing professional materials being passed around Twitter.  Thinking of the water analogy I used before, it was as if the technology professional material firehose opened up and I was caught a few feet from the hose.  Wow!  I wish that I would have hours to spend just checking out all of the professional materials being shared between professionals on just the few hashtags I was following.  It was dynamite.  Now, I wondered, how could I watch this information in an easier way than just being on Twitter and hopping between tags.  That is where my free technology item came in.  I searched and I had to look no further than TweetDeck.  Now, I am sure this is not the only program of its kind, but TweetDeck gives you the ability to follow Twitter in one location.  You are able to keep track of your own account's timeline and interactions in columns.  Even cooler, you can create a search column to follow certain pertinent hashtags.  So, I started with the hashtags #appsct and #googlect which linked me into the Google Certified Trainers.  From there, I picked up that many people were posting to #edtech and I added that as well.  Then, I added #welstech and #iste to follow two very good places for tech information.  Like an old-school flip clock, the information started flowing.  This was awesome.  I didn't have to work hard to find the information.  Rather, the information was flowing onto my desktop in record speed.  Where do I even begin?

So, if you are someone who has needed a push off the diving board into the Twitter pool, I will declare to you that the water is fine.  Even if you are not someone who is going to tweet often, you can still use Twitter and TweetDeck as a valuable tool of resource collection, collaboration and learning.  Eventually, you too will be tweeting out the latest finds in your professional life.  Collaboration is huge, especially within our WELS school system.  I don't believe we collaborate enough.  Hopefully, this blog can be another tool for that.

So, consider Twitter.  Now, the next time I am talking to someone at the Hard Rock Cafe about technology, they can enjoy their amazing appetizers and we can continue the conversation via Twitter for years to come.

God bless!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Do You Hear the Jing-ling in Your Ears

Sometimes in the tech world, you stumble upon things.  This stumble was a rather unique one.  I am, what most would describe, an equal opportunity computer user.  I try to give every operating system and device a chance.  Sometimes in this process, I fall in love with certain parts.  When it comes to a Mac, one thing that I have fallen head over heels for is the style of the keyboards.  I find it easier to type on for some reason.  While some of you might disagree, I don't want to dwell too much on that because it is not the point of me bringing this up.  Seeing as I enjoy typing on this keyboard, I decided that I was going to plug this keyboard into my custom built PC.  At first, I really loved it and saw no drawbacks for using this keyboard.  Then, it happened.  I saw that a certain key was missing from the keyboard.  That certain key was none other than the PRTSCN key.  While many people have no use for this key, I am regularly using the print screen key as I am working.  So, now what was I supposed to do?  I was caught between a rock and a hard place.  Do I unplug this glorious keyboard and head back to a Microsoft keyboard with the legs missing?  Do I grin and bear not having my trustworthy friend?  Ah, and then like a glimmer of hope, it appeared.  Jing.  A magical, free tool that after installation, appears like a small sun at the top of my screen.  I am still in awe, even now nearly two months after installing it.

Jing is another genius product by the Tech Smith Corporation that has brought you useful tools like Snagit and Camtasia.  Oh, and did I mention, Jing is completely free.  Yes, you heard that, free!  Jing is a very quick install but it has long lasting uses.  Built in is an amazing capture tool.  Once you activate the capture tool, you window around the item on your screen that you would like to capture.   Then, Jing gives you the option of capturing a still image or a video.  Now, I am a user of Screenr and have used it exclusively for a while now, but Jing has made a new friend in me.  Like the free version of Screenr, you are limited to a five minute video.  The difference with Screenr is that you can view the videos created at Screenr or embed them into your webpages.  Jing will allow you to save the video to your computer as an .swf file. This is created in an Adobe Flash file format.  The .swf stands for Shockwave, which was originally a company that Adobe purchased and took over.   This file will successfully open in media players like Real Player and Quicktime.  You will not be able to place these videos into a PowerPoint or upload to YouTube without converting the files.  So, buyer beware, or shall I say, free downloader, beware.  As for the screen capture tool for a still image, Jing is awesome.  Once you select the image, you have a bunch of choices.  You can place the image on your clipboard to use in another program.  You can also save the file as a .png which works in most programs.  You can also edit the screen capture right inside of Jing. It is a pretty handy tool.

So, I am happy.  My fingertips are elated to be typing on this Mac keyboard and the rest of me is excited to be working on my PC.  All this happiness thanks to Jing.

Have a great week and keep fighting the good fight of technology.  God bless you in this endeavor!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Phone Calls, Sound Problems, and Chimes

Greetings fellow teachers.  I have been looking for a conduit to pass along technology thoughts that could potentially revolutionize your teaching.  After much thought and deliberation, I am deciding to head into the world of blogging.  Although I have blogged before, I have never professionally found a need for it.  Then, I was imagining a way that I could pass along information, good or bad, about the integration of technology in the classroom.  So, that is what brings me here.  So, here goes...

In the life of a tech guy, people often times have you on their speed dial.  After fielding a call from my good friend Brian about some tech issues he was having, I thought I was scott-free for the rest of the evening.  My wife quickly changed that.  As she frantically walked into the door  at home, she describe the mass chaos that had occurred as she was leaving school.  Well, to her it was mass chaos.  She had unplugged something from her computer and, as she stated, the computer errored and said that the sound card was broken. She felt that it was a necessity for the next day that she could hear stuff on her computer.  So, off I went to fix her computer, 30 miles away in Columbus.  I did have a meeting up in Columbus at Zion Lutheran Church, so this act of heroism would be nothing but a slight detour after the meeting.

To make a long story short, I valiantly slayed the beast inside of her computer.  OK, actually, I reset her computer and everything worked properly.  I am still not sure what error she was excitedly describing on the screen, but I thoroughly tested everything and it functioned properly.  While I was testing her sound card, I stumbled upon a program that she was using to keep herself on time in her classroom.  I thought that this program would have completely changed the way that I taught in my grade school teaching years.  The program is called Time Chimes and made by NCH Software.  This simple program allows you to schedule bells to sound throughout the day.  For all the times that I struggled during my grade school teaching years to stay on time, this would have been a lifesaver.  You can set multiple times that the bell will sound throughout the day and change the tone on the bell.  It is a simple, yet effective program for a school that cannot afford a bell system that costs thousands of dollars.

The program is listed on the website for a single-user price of $29.99.  The website offers a free download, but doesn't tell you how long you have the free version for.  I searched and searched and did not see any information on this.  I am currently running this version to test it out, so I will let you know when the free time runs out.  Even so, for $30, this could be an awesome addition for a classroom that has limited resources and a simple teacher computer with speakers.

I am sure that there are a number of programs very similar to this.  I am also sure that there are iPad apps that perform roughly the same task.  I feel that this program is simple and effective.  There is no gigantic learning curve to it.

I just got another speed dial phone call in this midst of this blog.  So, it's off to save the world.  God's continued blessings on your classroom and church ministries.