Tag: YouTube

60 Seconds to a Better PLN

VERY quick video follow-up to the previous blog post and podcast. Hopefully, this will answer some of the questions I’ve received from a few Twitter newcomers.

Take Control of Your Professional Learning

One of the most under-utilized aspects of the evolution of today’s Internet resources within the education field is its ability to empower teachers, administrators, and parents to create highly personalized, up to date opportunities for professional learning. Time and money restrictions have reduced the opportunities for those educators in many schools and districts to take days away from the classroom to sharpen their skills or learn of the latest research. As such, we have an increasing responsibility to take matters into our own hands. Fortunately, there are countless resources available today to educators who desire to grow in their knowledge and skills. Even more fortunately, these resources can be accessed for free and in forms that save precious instructional time, being available 24/7 to anyone with an Internet-connected device. The following are just a few tools that are available to get started.

  1. Online journals. Journals are a valuable tool for professional learning, as they provide insights into what is happening in the educational research field. While many academic journals require often substantial subscription costs, the number and quality of free, online journals has grown substantially in recent years. For example, SAGE Education News offers free access to some of their most read journal articles. ASCD offers free online articles from their International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership. The Education Research Global Observatory has a great list of open access journals covering almost every aspect of education.
  2. YouTube. Far from being solely the domain of talking dogs or tragic skateboarding mishaps, YouTube has thousands of educational videos that deal with current issues in the field or provide quick opportunities to learn new skills. Educational professional development companies, such as Simple K-12 (educational technology) or Kagan Professional Development (cooperative learning) have channels where educators can get a quick professional development session and free access to training that might incur significant costs if attended in person. Countless video tutorials are available to learn any technology tool or classroom skill imaginable, as well. 
  3. Podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to take professional learning on the road. In either audio or video formats, podcasts allow educators to learn about current trends and hear from some of the best leaders in our field via mobile devices, such as smart phones or tablet computers. This type of professional development has become a favorite of mine, as I can sneak in an episode on a trip between campuses or to the grocery store. A few good examples to get started include TEDTalks Education, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Teaching With Smartboard, and the November Learning Podcast Series. All are free and available on iTunes.
  4. Twitter. While certainly filled with mundane or simply entertaining content, Twitter remains a powerful resources for connecting to other practitioners in our field. A good way to get started is by creating an account and following educators who are recognized as excellent sources of educational information. Lists of good educators to follow are here, here, and here (Word doc–also includes some great tips). Once following, get in the mix and participate in the conversations being held and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Learn how to use hashtags (e.g. #edchat, #edtech, #edreform) to help you filter through topics to find just what you need.
  5. Free online newsletters. Numerous examples of these exist. You just find the sign up link and set your preferences, and updates are emailed to you daily, weekly, or monthly. Currently, I use SmartBrief to get updates on EdTech and ASCD. eSchool News is another I subscribe to that gives updates on issues and research in education. Tech & Learning has been a long-time resource, with blog posts, how-to articles, and more in the field of educational technology. Edudemic has articles covering a wide range of educational issues, technology, and more from kindergarten through university level.

Creating Custom Video Channels

One concern I have heard expressed by teachers with regard to the use of video sites such as YouTube, TeacherTube, etc. in the classroom is that students tend to waste a lot of time searching for relevant (or irrelevant) content. One solution is to create a personalized channel that contains the videos which the teacher wishes to focus upon as resources. The two resources described below allow teachers to create lists of favorite videos, customize the look of the channel, and more. When working on a project or conducting research, students need only to visit the teacher’s channel to find a previewed list of useful resources to get them started.

YouTube channels offer users a wide range of tools. Visitors can view videos uploaded by the channel owner, favorited videos, or channels being followed by the owner. They can also view the owner’s profile information, “friend” the channel (if they have a YouTube account), leave comments on the channel, view recent activity, and more. To create a personalized channel, a YouTube membership is required. New accounts automatically have their own channel. The following video provides a great explanation of the general tools for customizing a YouTube channel. More information may be found on the YouTube support site.

Below is an image of my own site. The large, featured video displays my most recent upload. to the right is a list of other uploads and favorites. By clicking on the Favorites link, students can view a complete list of all of my favorite videos, the ones I want them to focus on.



YouTube is a fantastic resource for teaching and learning. However, the obvious reality is that many schools’ filtering policies do not allow students to view YouTube videos while at school. Sites such as TeacherTube, SchoolTube, and Edublogs.tv offer alternatives that are usually unrestricted. A site I just discovered that offers the ability to create a video channel using mutliple sources is Vodpod. Vodpod allows users to create customized lists of favorite videos from a multitude of sites (I successfully tried YouTube, TeacherTube, and Edublogs.tv.) as well as uploading and sharing their own videos. The interface is extremely simple, using a toolbar button to add a video from the site where it is housed. Users can tag their videos, add descriptions, and choose from six templates to customize their display. The image below is from my own new channel.



Vodpod is a powerful tool on several levels. First of all, it is an extremely easy-to-use tool for creating a database of your favorite videos. Secondly, it creates a channel that is clean and easy to navigate. It also opens videos in a popup window, rather than simply linking to the host site, meaning students are less likely to be distracted and have their attention wander. The customized site comes complete with its own, custom URL, making navigating to the site easy for students. Finally, its compatibility with school-friendly video sites makes it much more practical to many educators.

Both of these resources offer valuable benefits for the classroom teacher. These include less time off-task, better reliability of resources, and less worry about inappropriate content.

Letter to a Parent

Not directed at anyone in particular…

Dear Parent,

You are, first of all, the type of caring parent every child needsleaping child and deserves. You want what is best for your son or daughter’s healthy growth and bright and happy future. You wish to protect them from as much of the harmful, ugly badness that permeates so much of the world. Thank you for loving your child so much–such attitudes produce strong, successful students!

Recently, you discovered that your child’s school has the Internet, and even more shocking, you found that anyone could get into YouTube through a simple search. You also quickly tested the site and found that objectionable videos could be accessed by merely typing in the right search term. Justifiably, you are very concerned about this scenario. You wonder how a school can allow such potential harm to befall its students. You even begin to consider what steps might be taken to remove this horrible threat. Should other parents be recruited and organized?

Before you go farther in your commendable zealousness to protect your child, please consider several points in favor of keeping such a frightening site unblocked.

  1. Educational content. YouTube has thousands upon thousands of outstanding educational clips and full-length videos, from such reputable producers as NASA, National Geographic, and the BBC. It is an excellent resource for today’s student to find videos that supplement written materials in their research. Taking this to an even loftier perch, YouTube EDU now offers actual videos of courses being taught at the biggest and best universities on the planet. You’re child can begin learning from Ivy League teachers while in elementary school!
  2. Global connections. YouTube allows users to create personal accounts and channels. A teacher might use such a channel, for instance, to share student videos with a world-wide, authentic audience. A viewer in China might be provoked to leave a comment or ask a question, leading to real dialogue between students on opposite sides of the earth. It happens everyday!
  3. Creativity. YouTube offers students a place to become inspired and motivated to express their own creativity. It also offers a unique and very relevant platform for putting their creativity on display. Creativity, it is fair to say, is a skillset that receives far too little attention in classes today, yet is vital to student success and opportunity beyond the classroom.
  4. Digital wisdom. Filters, vigilant teachers, and monitoring software work wonderfully in our district to create an atmosphere that discourages or even prevents students from getting into “trouble” while using the Internet. These tools are worthless, however, when the student is on his own. At home, at the library, at a friends house…these are the places where research shows a student is far more likely to experience harmful or inappropriate content on the Internet. By teaching responsible use and allowing enough freedom for students to demonstrate integrity while online, schools become partners in bringing up young people who will use the Web safely and respond appropriately when danger appears. Research also has demonstrated the value of such an approach over tightly locking down the Internet filter.

Most of all, please remember that we love and care for your child, too. Our goals are similar to your own, and we wish nothing more than to see your young man or woman grow up happy, healthy, and safely. We also wish for them to be successfully able to cope with the evolving, increasingly digital stream of information and communication that they will be faced with, and we believe being proactively educational is preferred to simply locking the gates to keep the wolves out. Part of being a citizen in this century is knowing how to utilize its vast resources ethically and responsibly, and we wish to be a partner in assuring that.


Your Child’s School

BISD 12 Second Tech Challenge #2

Today’s new 12 Second Tech Challenge is now available for viewing. You can view it below or at this link. Remember to leave a comment here when you’ve completed the challenge. Oh, and why not include a link to a video you found during the challenge? Thanks, and good luck!

BISD 12 Second Tech Challenge #2 on 12seconds.tv

BISD Educator Spotlight

Who says that teaching stops when the bell rings? Josh Grizzelle, a 5th grade science teacher here in Birdville, is using Web 2.0 tools to take advantage of “teachable moments” whenever and wherever they occur. Among the tools Josh is using:

  • WetPaint wiki–This serves as Josh’s class website and hub of student information. The wiki includes curriculum information, assignments, student video projects, external links, videos for reviewing concepts, class materials, discussion threads, and more.
  • YouTube channel–One of the coolest things about the resources Josh has made available to his students is that most were created by either Josh himself or his students. On his YouTube channel, visitors can see examples where Josh took advantage of opportunities such as a lizard he encountered locally, a trip to Yellowstone, or an expedition to the Big Bend area of south Texas. Rather than letting such events pass by, he used a video camera to create a teaching tool, passing on knowledge to his students as he learned it. Youtube
  • Student videos–Assessment is, of course, an ever-present reality. In our district, focuses on programs such as Continuous Improvement place even greater (excessive might be more accurate) emphasis on assessment. Students can grow numb to the repetitive pre-testing, formative testing, and post-testing. In Mr. Grizzelle’s classroom, students are given the opportunity to forego the paper-and-pencil drill each six weeks period. Rather, they create videos to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts. The videos are hosted on Josh’s YouTube channel and embedded into his class wiki.

Josh’s students are applying and gaining many critical, 21st century skills, including media literacy, creativity, collaboration, communication, initiative/self-direction, etc. They are also very likely to be much more motivated to create and use technology-rich, real-world products, as opposed to the resigned compliance so typical of many students being force-fed traditional curriculums, assignments, and assessments.  The level of technical ability required to do the things Josh is doing is relatively small, by the way. The main commitment is the time it takes to do initial setup (of the wiki and YouTube channel), ongoing maintenance (similar to writing lesson plans, creating materials, etc.), and some time to edit/publish video projects. The payoffs include engaged, highly-achieving students and a wealth of resources available 24/7.

The Power of Self-Expression

One of the most amazing things that technology affords us today is the platform it provides for creating and sharing powerful works of self-expression. Through digital storytelling, we and our students can produce compelling works that are meaningful, humorous, therapeutic, touching, and thought-provoking. A quick search on YouTube of recent submissions produced these gems. Enjoy!

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