Monday, September 6, 2010

YouTube vids without ads and suggestions

There is no doubt that YouTube has some pretty strange stuff. At times, very inappropriate for a classroom or any educational setting. However, there is plenty of very good, educationally sound material on YouTube as well. There are a number of reputable news outlets that utilize YouTube for posting their stories. Additionally, as we enter the mid-term election cycle, there will be a bevy of political content available as well (which could be good or bad!).

A member in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community suggested a website that will allow the user to enter the URL to a YouTube video and it will return a substitute URL (kind of like Tiny URL if you know how that works) that you can set a link to, email to yourself (or others), post to your blog (or other social networking site) and display the video without ANY of the ads or alternative content or suggestions.

It is called "Safeshare" - I've tried it and it seems to work quite well. I was able to paste the URL of a YouTube video into the box and voila' I had a new URL that opened in my browser and played the YouTube video without any of the extras - that can often be a deterrent to showing the videos in a classroom. Here is an example.

I have not tried this behind a firewall that blocks YouTube, so I don't know if it will bypass a filter. I am NOT an advocate of bypassing a filter anyway. However, if your school does allow YouTube, this is still a very useful utility to prevent any questionable content from accidentally being displayed when you want to use a YouTube video in your classroom, or, perhaps include it in a distance learning environment.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Cool" online tools group in Thinkfinity Community

Hi everyone...

Just a quick post to plug an online group in the Verizon Thinkfinity Community. It has been very active during the summer and the participants have some great examples of and ideas for using web 2.0 type online tools. Take a look! The group is called, "Online Tools for Educators" and, of course, joining is absolutely free and will NOT result in any spam or other unwanted correspondence.

HTML5 Video

I started working on this post in June -- and then Summer hit like a freight train! It proved to be one of my busiest summers yet with work occupying more than its fair share of the time. No big family trips, but lots of small excursions here and there. All-in-all, it was good! Now, back to the reality of the school year...

I've been playing around with HTML5 lately, especially as it relates to video. We've been wanting to provide opportunities for video streaming at ECMECC without the cost of a commercial system. Budgets just aren't going to allow for that kind of expenditure. The issue that has been most problematic has been that of cross-browser and cross-platform support. We tried an implementation of Darwin Streaming Server, but it uses the RTP protocol which requires a plug-in such as Quicktime or RealPlayer. Not all modern browsers are supporting plug-ins the same way, then there is the issue of installing said plugins. We also tried some other methods of streaming including some open-source flash players. Great in many cases, but not supported on the iPhone, iPad or many other mobile devices.

Enter HTML5, the still evolving next generation of web development code. Now supported on most browsers and compatible with many mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad, HTML5 looks to be a promising (and relatively simple) way to stream video to the world. If I've done things right, the video below (the first generation of the popular "Did You Know" video) will play in nearly any browser on nearly any platform. If it doesn't work, give me a break, I'm still learning :-)

Below the video, I've inserted a few links to resources on video streaming with HTML5. I'll keep you updated on our progress!

Dive into HTML5 - A good basic guide to HTML5
Best HTML5 Media Players - A blog post with information on many HTML5 media players
HTML5 Tag Reference - A reference guide to HTML5 tags from W3Schools

Enjoy - and hope you all had a great summer!!