YouTube or not YouTube, that is the question…

October 22, 2007

Here’s a question…

If a student is spending all day watching YouTube videos on a college machine.

If you block YouTube across your whole college network does this mean:

a) that the student now spends all day studying hard and learning.

b) that the student spends all day trying to find a working proxy server that would then allow him to watch the 30 second video, a proxy server which could incorporate trojans or other internet nasties…

c) that the student spends all day searching other web 2.0 video sites (such as blip.tv, metacafe, revver etc… trying to find that elusive video.

d) the student spends all day doing something else equally fruitless, like playing online solitaire, etc…

At the end of the day it might be better to spend some time looking at the reasons why that learner is not motivated about their learning and why they are doing something else.

What are they stuck on? Do they understand where they need to go next? Are they on the right course?

At my college we lifted the global block on YouTube last December, so nearly a year has passed and what is the result?

Well what we have found is that every learner and every member of staff now spend all day watching YouTube videos!

Well no, that is not what is happening, the reality is that YouTube is like any other site on the internet, it is sometimes used for learning and sometimes it is used for fun or for information. In many ways it is used like the BBC website. Some of our learners are creating and uploading videos.

As for undesirable content, well what our staff can do is control the internet at a classroom level, so if you have a class of fourteen year olds you can block access to all of the internet, or allow access to certain sites or domains, or even just specific pages.

Remember that even news sites like the BBC can have undesirable content on them.

So do we have any global blocks? Yes we don’t have a totally open system, there are a lot of sites on our blacklist, but we do have procedures in place that if a site is blocked (or even a request to block a site) then the decision to unblock the site or block a site is made by a member of the senior management team after discussion if required.

YouTube or not YouTube, that is the question. From our experience, unblocking YouTube has not been as problematic as you might think it would be. We certainly have not had bandwidth issues that are sometimes feared. We have the odd individual here and there, but then if we block YouTube they will only go to a different site instead (you can say the same for social networking sites) and we try and identify and support these students.

I’ll leave you with a way in which YouTube is working really well for us.

Firstly students are watching clips from musical theatre in the dance studio that are on YouTube.

Secondly music technology students are recording themselves and then uploading these recordings to YouTube which can then be embedded into other websites such as MySpace, as can be seen in the following clip.

By the way I apologise if you are viewing this from inside an institution which blocks YouTube.

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New Nokia N810

October 22, 2007

I have always been intrigued by the Nokia N series as a potential platform for mobile learning. So much so that I had in fact placed an order for the N800 on Friday.

Of course on Friday, Nokia announce the new Nokia N810, luckily for me the order hadn’t been processed so I was able to change it to the N810.

Nokia N810

The N810 is as you might guess is an improvement on the older N800. Key improvements are a full QWERTY keyboard, a faster processor and GPS.

For me this makes the N810 a real device for mobile learning. For connectivity you either use a wifi connection or a bluetooth connection to your phone, so mobile browsing is possible, especially if you have a 3G phone. You can also play movie, audio and look at photos.

Is it an iPod touch, no, but the phone connectivity does give it an advantage over Apples’ innovative iPod.

You can read the press release and see some nice photos.

Thanks to Handheld Learning Forum.


Send that presentation to YouTube

October 22, 2007

If you are creating a presentation then generally most people use PowerPoint. Personally I now create virtually all my presentations using Apple’s Keynote. One of the many reasons I like Keynote is the way it handles images, audio and video compared to PowerPoint.

One of the features of Keynote that I have always liked is the ability to save a presentation as a movie file. As once a movie file it can be converted in many different ways. For a JISC online conference I did this and then converted into multiple mobile formats. Of course once a movie file you could upload your presentation to YouTube.

In version 4.0 of Keynote (part of iWork ’08) you can now send your presentation direct to YouTube.

Keynote to YouTube

This avoids the need to export the file and then upload to YouTube, you can upload direct to YouTube quickly and easily.

I’ve not yet tried it, but I can see after attending a conference I could upload my presentation and then embed it into my blog or the organisers could embed into their website. It also avoids the problems that you can have with Keynote files as not everyone has Keynote and even if you export as PowerPoint, not everyone has PowerPoint.