Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making YouTube Work for YOU

YouTube is a great resource for classroom videos, as this example shows. Isn't it cool how each President "morphs" right into his successor?

Here is a way to download YouTube videos as .mp4 files directly from the YouTube page! You may have found other ways to download these videos, but usually they are in the .flv movie format that doesn't work well on a Mac computer or iPod. The following method converts the video at the same time it is downloading. Try following the steps below, but I would be happy to help any Buhler staff member set this up. Our own Dayna Richardson is happily downloading YouTube videos on a regular basis with this technique!

First, drag this to your toolbar: GetYouTube

Here you see the Get YouTube video link on the toolbar after it was dragged there using the link above.

When you want to download a YouTube video, stay on the YouTube video page and just click on the Get YouTube video bookmark as in the picture above. Now you should see a new option below the embeddable code on the YouTube page in the right column. This option is Download as MP4, and you can see it here:

Try clicking on the Download as MP4 link to see if the download begins. If it doesn't, CTRL-click or right-click and select Save link as or Save target as and enter a proper name for the video. Be sure to use the .mp4 extension when you enter the filename.

YouTube's MP4 files have a higher resolution with stereo sound, and they can be played with applications like iTunes and QuickTime. Not all YouTube videos can be downloaded as MP4 files yet, and if that is the case the option will change to download as FLV. If that happens, I have some other methods for downloading and converting the YouTube video. Just give me a holler!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

File Size Matters

When we add photos, audio, and video to a document or presentation, the file size increases dramatically. In other words, the more engaging we make our materials, the larger they become!

Of course, this can create serious problems when we want to share these documents and presentations with others. Most email servers do not allow us to attach large files, and even smaller email attachments can bog down an email server and slow mail speed.

One great way to share large files is This service is free and easy to use, with no registration required. Just type in the email address of the recipient, browse to attach the file from your computer, and click Send File.

It will take a few seconds to upload your file, and you should not leave the web page until that process is completed. When the upload is finished, your recipient will receive an email with a link to download the file you have sent. File size problem solved!

If you have trouble uploading a document, you may need to compress ("zip") the file first. Just CTRL-click or right-click the file on your computer and select Compress. Upload the new file that has .zip on the end, and now will recognize the file type and send it on its way! Amazingly, you can even send an entire folder at once if you compress ("zip") it first.

Try using to share documents and presentations! I'm sure you'll love it!

(Be sure to check Mary Frazier's awesome blog at for more great ideas!)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Karaoke in the Classroom?

My partner Mary Frazier and I are always looking for innovative ways to engage students and teachers in learning. When we were planning for a teacher workshop a few days ago, Mary noticed her stack of karaoke CDs and had an aha moment! We could have teachers perform karaoke as part of a Keynote (or PowerPoint) slideshow. Mary created a fabulous version of DoWahDiddy for use in the iPod workshop. Of course, she told me that I would be the one to lead the karaoke activity, which means that she was delegating the job of looking silly to me! Oh, well. It was fun and we knew we wanted to try it again in other situations and for other purposes.

Last week, then, when I was preparing to present Google Docs to the Buhler High School staff on our PD day, I knew that I could liven things up by creating a song for us to share. I decided that Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" could be adapted easily into "I Love Google Docs," and I enlisted a few wild and crazy BHS gals to help me lead the singing. They got the staff going, too, clapping and sharing a few laughs.

Couldn't we do this easily in the classroom? Students could create new lyrics for any content, from explaining a scientific principle to encapsulating the storyline or characterizations of a story/novel. Why not have them develop songs for learning and remembering math concepts? Or they could present information about historical figures in social science classes. Foreign language students could translate the original lyrics or abandon those completely and create any second-language content they choose.

I think this would be an awesome (and EASY!) way to engage students in learning, and we know that music is a powerful learning and memory tool. What ideas can you add to my list of possibilities? Please share by posting comments on the blog page Remember, Aerosmith tells us to "Dream On," John Lennon urges us to "Imagine," and Extreme reminds us that it's ALL "More Than Words." I have lots of songs to share! Have fun with karaoke in your classroom...

(Note: To post a comment, click on Comments at the bottom of the blog entry. Type your comment, click to check Name/URL, type in your name, then click on the button to Publish your Comment. Thanks!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Magic Audio on Your Laptop

You may already listen to books, articles, or podcasts on your computer or iPod. Now, by using the free site, Read the Words, you can create an audio file out of any words you choose. The Read the Words web page provides many options for entering words to convert to audio: you can type text directly (up to 80,000 characters), upload a Microsoft Word document or a PDF, or even enter a Web site address or an RSS feed. In addition, you can choose from several reader voices and three languages--English, Spanish, and French.  Finally, you can change the speed of the reading as well. 

Once you have entered the text and created the file, the audio can be played on the site, embedded in a blog post or web page, downloaded and played right on the computer, or loaded onto your iPod.

Of course, this could help students in your classroom in many ways. Struggling readers could listen to content and even load it on their iPods or mp3 players to take home. Read the Words also could be an easy way to create podcast audio files to share with others.  

What ideas can you think of to use with YOUR students? Please add your comments and ideas here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Out of the Ordinary?

I have always believed that one person can make a difference, but sometimes we become cynical about our power to make changes in our lives and in our world. For example, people often shrug off their responsibility to vote or recycle, believing that one vote or one bag of recyclables won't be enough to make a difference. Teachers can become cynical, too, clinging to the habits of the past out of discouragement with current situations. Sometimes we forget our higher calling, the reason we became educators in the first place - to make a difference in the life of a child or young adult.

Perhaps we are using the wrong metaphor to think about our lives and our influence on others. If we think about our individual efforts as placing one small stone on the foundation of a building, we can become discouraged, much like Sisyphus, whose task throughout eternity was to roll a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down. In contrast, if we remember that tossing that same stone into a pond produces ripples, we see that even one small action can make a big difference. I prefer to think of our lives as creating ripples in the lives of others, especially our students. For teachers, the extent of our influence often isn't realized for years, but those ripples, like the sunrise and sunset, do occur without fail and give us a constant, visual reminder that we have indeed made a difference.

Of course, literature and movies reveal this truth all the time. I recently attended the Music Theatre of Wichita performance of Les Miserables and once again was reminded of the eternal truth that one life of self-sacrifice can transform the life of another. And the movie Pay It Forward, though not a classic work of literature, is equally profound in its message about the power of the individual action. Indeed, as William James reminds us, we must "Act as if what [we] do makes a difference. It does."

This blog, then, is dedicated to the idea that we can make a difference in our classrooms by making small changes that have a ripple effect upon our students, in their learning and in their lives. Through simple ideas about integrating technology into daily classroom learning experiences, we will transform ordinary into "out of the ordinary."