YouTube in the Classroom: Practice What You Teach

youtube: practice what you teach

If there’s one question I get asked a lot from educators, it’s how to download YouTube videos. There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this, but truthfully, there aren’t any good reasons why you should. I realize that this may not be a very popular post with some people, but I feel like it should still be written. In essence it comes down to this. Can you download videos from YouTube? Yes. Should you? No.

Why Would You Want to Download Videos from YouTube?

The number one reason why educators want to download videos from YouTube is an unreliable Internet connection. This may be at school, or at a conference where they are giving a presentation. Either way, they don’t want to stand at the front of the room waiting for a video to buffer. It ruins the flow of a presentation and inevitably leads to you losing the attention of your audience.

Other reasons for downloading a YouTube video include the desire to archive your own copy of the video just in case it ever gets removed from YouTube by the person who uploaded it, or by YouTube itself. Some teachers may want an offline version of a video for students who don’t have high-speed Internet at home, while others may just be using software like Apple’s Keynote, which doesn’t let you natively embed YouTube videos in your slides.

What Do the YouTube Terms and Conditions Say?

As a user of the site, you agree and are bound by these terms. In Section 5, Your Use of Content, they say:

Content is provided to you AS IS. You may access Content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the Service and as permitted under these Terms of Service. You shall not download any Content unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the Service for that Content. You shall not copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, or otherwise exploit any Content for any other purposes without the prior written consent of YouTube or the respective licensors of the Content. YouTube and its licensors reserve all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service and the Content.

Here we can clearly see that it would be against YouTube’s terms and conditions to download content from YouTube without a specific button or link on their site that permits you to do so. Why would they have this condition? YouTube is owned by Google, and Google make a lot of their money from advertising. The more you visit YouTube, the higher their site visits are, and the easier it is for them to sell advertising on videos. You might not like to see ads on your videos, (few people do), but YouTube is a free site, and this is how they pay to keep the service alive and available for everyone to use.

So, I Can’t Download Anything From YouTube?

You can download your own content from the Video Manager page. Admittedly, you probably already have an offline version of your video, but if you deleted the original, it is good to know that you can download it again if you need it. Simply go to the Video Manager from your channel page or by navigating to www.youtube.com/my_videos. Click the down arrow next to the video you want to download and look for the Download MP4 option.

Download from the Video Manager

Is it Illegal to Download Videos from YouTube?

I’m not a lawyer so the advice that follows should absolutely be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt. Downloading videos from YouTube may not seem like a crime if you think of it in the context of ignoring (or being unaware) of the YouTube terms and conditions, but you could potentially be in breach of copyright. After all, the original creator of the video retains ownership of the copyright associated with that work if they upload it with the Standard YouTube License.

This gets a little dicier when you consider that some very large corporations put some of their very expensive intellectual property on YouTube. Movie studios upload trailers, record companies upload music videos, and media companies upload original content. We all benefit from these great offerings, but you can be sure that none of these corporations would approve of you downloading their content for your own use, so you are very likely in breach of copyright.

What’s the Harm? Everybody does it, right?

Unfortunately, lots of people do. In fact, some of the biggest offenders are the speakers and headline keynotes that you enjoy listening to at your favorite EdTech conferences. I’m not going to mention any names, but I see it a lot and I’m sure you do too. Do they get permission from the original copyright holder to download and show those videos? Some do, some don’t. So this brings us to an important classroom concept that, as educators, it is our sworn duty to reinforce with all of our students; digital citizenship.

We need to practice what we teach. We are role models for our students, so we need to act in the way that we would want them to act. This, to me, is the biggest reason why we should not download videos from YouTube. It might seem like a small thing, but it sends a message that it’s okay to bend the rules. It can easily lead to other transgressions like not citing image sources or using 13+ products and services that you are not old enough to use without parental permission. (By the way, did you know that YouTube is a 13+ service?)

What Should I Do Instead?

YouTube is an amazing resource, of that there is no doubt, but you needn’t abandon it altogether. If you are using it in a school that does not have the most reliable internet connection, have a plan B. Technology is great when it works, but we all know that it all fails at one time or another, regardless of the device or service that you rely on. Plan B is a great example for students, so embrace it.

If you are giving a presentation at a conference, remember PowerPoint 2013 (and later) lets you embed a YouTube video in your slides. Google Slides let you do the same, and so does Prezi. If it works, great. If not, you too need a plan B. One that includes an ethical use of media. You could leave a link to the video on your slide so the audience can see it later or you could try to contact the original creator of the video to procure and get permission to use an offline version of their work.

Conclusion

I have no doubt that there may be some of you who have read this post and did not know that you were not supposed to download videos from YouTube. That’s okay. How many of us have clicked “Agree” on 47 pages of terms and conditions without ever reading one word? I know I have. I’m not perfect. No one is. I am sure there are posts in this blog that lack a link or a citation to sources that should have been cited, but it wasn’t deliberate, and I genuinely try to be the best digital citizen that I can online, just as I am sure you do too. There are things I forget, or just don’t know, but I’m human, I’m still learning, and I will always take feedback on how I can improve. So the next time you think about downloading a YouTube video, be it for educational purposes or otherwise, think about the example you are setting for other teachers and educators.

Use IFTTT to Post from Instagram to Twitter!

Instagram to Twitter

Do you post your Instagram photos to Twitter? If you do, you have probably noticed that the image does not show up. You only get the caption and a link to view the original image on Instagram. Your followers have to tap (or click) the link in order to see what you just posted. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a simple IFTTT recipe, you can have all your Instagram photos appear as a native images that are embedded in your Twitter feed for all to admire. Here’s how.

What is IFTTT?

If This Then That (IFTTT) is a service that lets you connect web-based accounts to automate one or more processes that may otherwise take you much longer to complete. These processes are called recipes. They are a list of instructions that, once activated, will run automatically in the background. There are recipes for all kinds of useful things, but the one we will look at today solves the problem of your Instagram photos not appearing in your Twitter feed. The recipe, and a link to add it to your own IFTTT account, is below.

How Does it Work?

When Instagram posts your latest update to Twitter it adds an instagram.com link to your Twitter feed. This gives a direct link to your image on Instagram, which is great, but no one on Twitter sees your image unless they follow the link. The IFTTT recipe above replaces the instagram.com link with a pic.twitter.com link – Twitter’s native image sharing service. It may sound like a small change, but it allows your Instagram images to appear as native images in your Twitter feed. Check out the before and after shots below to see the difference.

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Clips: A Free Video Editor for iPads & iPhones

Clips free video editor ipad

iMovie is a great video editor for the iPad. Wait, let me restate that. iMovie is a fantastic video editor for the iPad. However, for many people it just seems a little intimidating. I can absolutely see that. It does so much, and you can be extremely creative with it, but if you don’t have the time to learn all that it can do, you might never take full advantage of what it offers. Sometimes, simplicity is best. Today, simplicity comes in the form of the Clips Video Editor for iOS.

Clips is an interesting app. It does not have a plethora of video editing options, but that is kind of the point. Simplicity, remember? Clips comes in two versions – a free version, and a pro version which is priced at $4.99. What’s the difference? A small Clips watermark will appear in the bottom left hand corner of on any video that you produce using the free version of the app. Nothing too distracting as you will see in my sample movie below.

If you have used just about any video editor before, you will be familiar with the horizontal timeline approach that is a popular feature of many mobile and desktop editors. In Clips, however, the timeline is vertical. This takes a little getting used to, and is no doubt a nod to the vertical format we mostly use with our phones, but once you edit a few videos portrait style you will soon get used to it.

So, video clips are stacked on top of each other and you can choose how much of each one you want to show by dragging the bars at the beginning or end of a clip towards the middle. Need to rearrange the order of your clips? No problem. Just drag and drop them. There are only two transitions right now – a cross-fade or a hard cut – but remember the mantra here; simplicity.

clips video editor screenshots

For audio fans, you will be glad to know that the option to record your voice over the top of your video is indeed an option with the Clips Video Editor, just like it is in iMovie. You can also choose one of the built-in music tracks to accompany your videos where necessary. There are currently eleven tracks to choose from, which might not seem like a lot, but it is more than iMovie has, and the variety of genres is sufficient that it should cover most scenarios. You can also add music from your iTunes library.

All in all, it is a great option for schools because the free version is a full featured app, no account is required to use the app, and your finished videos can be saved to the camera roll. iMovie might be free with newer iOS devices, but if you are using iPad 2s in your classroom, you are still faced with the $4.99 price tag ($2.49 on VPP if you buy 20 or more). The Clips Video Editor is free!

Still wishing you took the time to learn iMovie? Watch my video below for a quick crash course on the basics of editing video with iMovie for iPad?

Review: Surface 3 vs. iPad Air 2 in the Classroom

On March 31, 2015, Microsoft announced the Surface 3. It’s smaller, and less expensive than the Surface Pro 3, but it still does all the things that you would expect from a tablet PC that runs the latest version of Windows. The base model is priced at $499, the same price as an entry-level iPad Air 2. So, the obvious question is, can the Surface 3 succeed where other tablets have failed and actually overturn Apple’s dominance in tablet based classrooms? I’ve been lucky enough to be able to go hands-on with one of the new Surface 3 devices, and I am already a seasoned iPad user, so here are my thoughts and first impressions on how they compare.

On paper, both devices are very evenly matched. The Surface 3 is a little heavier and a little thicker than the iPad, but it does have a larger screen that will help account for some of that weight. The battery life is identical, as is the amount of RAM in each one, but the Surface has more storage, more ports, and a better front facing camera. You can see a full comparison of the specs between the two devices in the table below. The device I was sent from Microsoft was a 64GB Surface 3 with 4GB RAM.

ipad air vs surface 3 specs

Of course, spec sheets only tell half the story. After all, if you are thinking of investing in a device like this for your classroom, there are other things you will want to know like how durable will it be, and can you count on it to do what you need, when you need it?

The iPad is an extremely reliable device and, in a decent case, it is able to withstand a fair amount of abuse. The Surface 3 is also a great device and is very comparable in build quality to the more expensive Surface Pro 3. I haven’t seen any protective cases for it yet, but I am sure that there will be some released in the near future. One nice feature, is the 3-position kick stand that is built-in to the back of the Surface 3. It makes typing, with or without the keyboard, much easier. If the stand is pushed too far back, or is accidentally sat on, it will automatically detach to avoid permanent damage, and allow you to re-attach it. The iPad has no kickstand, but many third-party cases do offer this option.

The iPad has access to thousands of high quality educational apps in the App Store, many of which are designed specifically for the iPad and for use in the classroom. The Windows Store does not have anywhere near as many apps, but, on the flip side, the Surface 3 will run anything on the web, including content powered by Flash or Java. What’s more, it will also runtraditional desktop software like Office, Sketchup, Photoshop Elements, Google Earth and just about anything else that was designed for a regular Windows laptop. Professional software like Adobe Photoshop or Premiere will run on the Surface 3, but performance will not be as good as it is on something like the Surface Pro 3 or a high-end ultrabook which is better equipped to handle such tasks.

Almost all of Microsoft’s press images picture the Surface 3 with a keyboard and pen, but it is important to note that it comes with neither. The Keyboard is an additional $130 and the Surface Pen is $50. That takes the base price of the Surface 3 up to $680, but you don’t get a keyboard or a pen with an iPad either and that doesn’t seem to deter schools one bit.

So, is the Surface 3 a realistic proposition without a keyboard and pen? In Metro mode, it works really well. Apps and touch gestures are intuitive and designed to work well with a touch device. In desktop mode, it is less of a success. For instance, if you tap in a text field in desktop mode, the keyboard will not appear unless you summon it manually from the system tray. This will hopefully change when Windows 10 (a free upgrade for the Surface 3) is released this summer, but right now the desktop mode works better with the Type Cover.

Surface 3

I enjoy using the Surface 3 keyboard. It is a little noisy to type with compared to a regular laptop keyboard, but it feels good and isn’t too small for regular sized hands. It is backlit with LED lights and has useful shortcut keys for things like screen brightness, mute and play/pause. It can be used flat or angled for better ergonomics. Nonetheless, I didn’t find the trackpad as responsive as I might like, especially with two finger scrolling, but you can easily add a USB or Bluetooth mouse if necessary. So, minor quibbles aside, it is a nice option to have. I am typing this post on the Surface 3 and I hardly notice any difference compared to the experience on a laptop.

The Surface Pen is the same pen as the one on the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pen is no ordinary pen and is not comparable to any iPad stylus. It has 256 levels of pressure sensitivity and a fine point for precision work. The harder you press, the darker and thicker the line is that you draw. It also has a handy button on the top that will automatically launch OneNote with one click, even if your Surface is in standby. OneNote is ideal for handwritten notes, something that current research is telling us is more effective than typed notes.

In addition to OneNote, Fresh Paint is an app that is ideal for the Surface Pen. It will quickly bring out your inner artist and would be great for sketchnotes or other drawing projects. When the pen is active, it is the only thing that will make a mark on the screen. No onscreen wrist guards or other adaptations are necessary. The pen is available in blue, red, silver and black and is powered by one AAA battery and two watch sized batteries.

surface pen

The Surface 3 is a more affordable version of the Surface Pro 3. As such, it is being marketed as an ideal device for schools, and in many ways it should be. The Surface 3 is light, portable, it has a front and rear camera, and it runs on a flexible operating system that will run one of the largest software libraries available to any device. In the summer, there will be a free update to Windows 10 that will include specific optimizations for hybrid devices like this. So, look for the Surface 3 to become even more capable than it is right now. The build quality is excellent, it has a great, full HD display, and a battery that should easily last a full school day.

However, as with all new devices there will always be some question marks. For instance, how well will it run three years from now, (as it will likely need to in a budget conscious school environment)? Will the keyboard and pen (and pen battery life), hold up to the rigors of classroom use? Will schools be satisfied with just the tablet version at $499 or is the $680 version with the Type Cover and Surface Pen needed? Will the app ecosystem develop enough educational apps to compete with other devices or will the web suffice?

Personally I really like the Surface 3. I can’t answer any of the questions above because I can’t predict the future. However, I can see a lot of potential in this device for use in the K-12 classroom and I know there are many teachers that would understandably love to get a device like this into the hands of their students.

Are you intrigued by the new Surface 3? Do you have questions that have not been addressed in the review above? If so, feel free to leave a comment below and I will address as many as I can.

How to Create Custom YouTube Thumbnails With Canva

youtube thumbnails on canva

Looking for a quick and easy way to increase views on your YouTube videos? If so, custom thumbnails are for you. With Canva you can create a thumbnail for YouTube videos that is guaranteed to catch the eye when your video appears in search results or is embedded on a website. Here’s what you need to know.

YouTube recommends that your image be 1280 x 720 pixels, that it is less than 2mb, and is either a JPEG, PNG, GIF or BMP file. Thankfully, this is easy to replicate in Canva using either the web interface or the iPad app. Simply select Use custom dimensions, enter the pixel measurements above and hit the Design button.

use custom dimensions canva

From here, pick the tools that will give you the look and feel that you want for a video thumbnail. Take advantage of the text elements that are provided, or get creative with your own. Think about bold, clear text or icons that can will catch the eye and be easily read at a glance. Be sure to leave a small margin at the top and bottom of your image because this is often covered with the the YouTube player when your video is embedded on a website. If your video is part of a series of videos, or you want to create an identity to match your school colors or brand, you can easily incorporate that into your thumbnails in the same way that districts like CCSD59 in Illinois do with their videos.

create custom thumbnails

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How to Set Document Alerts in OneDrive for Business

ONEDRIVE for business alerts

Working collaboratively in the cloud is a great convenience, and something that you can do very well in Office 365 if you use OneDrive for Business, as many schools do. However, sometimes it is nice for teachers (and students) to know when others have changed or modified a document that they co-author. To achieve such an outcome, you can set up document alerts. Here’s how.

1. Navigate to your OneDrive for Business page and find the file that you would like to set up an alert on. (You can set an alert on any Microsoft Office document).

2. Select the document by clicking on it, and then click the Files tab in the top left-hand corner of your screen to open the Files ribbon.

files tab in onedrive for business

3. Look for the Alert Me icon on the middle of the toolbar, (it looks like a bell). Click Alert Me and then choose Set alert on this document.

set alert on this document

4. The pop-up window that follows gives you a number of options as to what you would like to be alerted for and how often. These options include:

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How to Share Files, Photos & Links via Gmail on iOS

gmail default for ipad

One of the more popular posts on my blog of late was a post I wrote about how to make Gmail the default mail app on the iPad. It worked great, but it was a workaround and you couldn’t help but feel that there must be a better way. Well, today there is, because Google updated the Gmail app to make it do (almost) everything that you need it to do in order to use Gmail as your default mail app on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. Here’s what you need to know.

First, you need to make sure that both your iPad and the Gmail app is up to date. This only works if your iPad in on iOS 8 (or later) and version 4.0 of the Gmail app (or later versions). You can check your iPad software version by going to Settings > General > About and looking for the Version number. For Gmail, navigate your way to the App Store, and tap Updates to see if an update is available. Once you have that under control, we can begin…

1. Open the app that you would like to have Gmail available as your default mail client to share links, files or other information. Examples of apps might include Safari, Chrome, Photos, Flipboard, etc.

2. Tap the Share icon and swipe to the right-hand side of the top row of sharing apps until you see the More option, as in the image below:

share more icon ipad

3. Tap More, and scroll down through the list of apps until you find Gmail.

4. Tap the toggle switch next to the Gmail app to turn it green and activate Gmail as a sharing option on your iOS device.

5. The three horizontal lines to the right of the toggle switch will let you drag the Gmail app further up the list so that it is more readily accessible when you need it to share. Once you have it where you want it, tap Done.

activate gmail sharing ipad

That’s all there is to it. The next time you find a website you want to share, a photo you need to email, or a file you want to attach to a Gmail message, simply go to the share menu in the app you are working in, and tap Gmail to open a new email.

So, no more workarounds, no more headaches, and no more wishing for things to be different, because Google has made the changes that lots of people wanted to see and updated their app so that you truly can use it as the default email app on your iOS device.