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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Avoiding the distractors of YouTube

YouTube is full of incredible videos for education.  In its native page, however, it is also full of distractions: ads before the video starts, suggested videos along the right side, and comments below.  Potentially, all of these may have inappropriate material, especially when considering elementary students.

Here are two main ways to get around this: using embedded codes, or using an alternative site that shows a "clean" version of the video.

Embedded Codes

When you go to a video on YouTube, go below and click on the Share tab.  By default, the first tab (also labelled Share) is shown first, which has a URL.   For most instances, copying and pasting this is fine, but the URL will bring you to the "official" YouTube page in all its glory...and distractions.

Instead, click Share and then click Embed:

Copy and paste this code.  If you use Schoology, the same place you would paste the URL for the video will also accept this embed code.  The difference for the student is that the video will play inside of Schoology and not launch to a new page or tab outside of it.  Also, no ad will play at the beginning, and since you are only seeing the video, you will not see the comments or the videos alongside yours.

*If you want another level of control, you can also turn off the suggested videos at the end of playing the video.  (This means the only thing a students will see at the end is a chance to replay the video.)

In your "Embed" tab as shown above, click on "Show More":

Next, uncheckmark the first box for "Show suggested videos after the video finishes":

The embed code will now be altered to reflect this change.  Copy the embed code as before and paste it into Schoology.

Alternative Sites for Viewing

Another option for a "cleaner" interface is to copy the YouTube video's URL and paste it in another site.  There are multiple options on the Web where you can watch the YouTube video in the same way as above: no ads, no comments, no suggested videos.  Two that I would recommend is View Pure (and thanks to Donnie Piercey for his blog entry about it!) and Safeshare.TV.   Once you paste the original YouTube URL in these sites, a new URL is generated.  This View Pure or Safeshare link is the one you want to copy and paste into Schoology, your email, etc.  When a student clicks it, they will be taken to this clean interface version.

There is an important caveat for both of these options, however.  When either embedding or filtering, YouTube will not allow a site or system to block the YouTube logo in the lower right of the video frame.  If a student clicks on it, a new tab/page will open that is the video's original page on YouTube.

For a more detailed video on both of these options, please view below.

*Update 2/25/16: I added the directions for going to "Show More" and turning off the suggested videos at the end.  Thank you Yasmine Fleming for the tip!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Edtech Share Fair 2016 Tickets on Sale!

Just a short post to announce that the FREE tickets to our second annual Edtech Share Fair are available now!  (You can read about Edtech Share Fair 2015 here.) The event is Wednesday, March 23, 4:00 to 5:30 pm EST, and is open to educators both inside and outside of our district.  The Edtech Share Fair will be held at Southside Elementary; we will start in the campus's Blair Center and move into the school itself for the presentations.

More information on the Smore flyer below.  To order tickets, you can go directly to the event's Eventbrite page.

Mark your calendar and we'll see you there!

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Worksheets are a nasty, nasty word in education.  Fair or not, they epitomize the "one size fits all" approach to mindlessly giving out the same photocopied work, year after year after year.  However, like other maligned educational words and phrases that have fallen out of fashion (like "direct instruction"), we must be careful not to throw out a good tool that has been used poorly in the past . . . especially if they get a twenty-first century upgrade.

Which brings us to the focus of this entry: Wizer! (That's pronounced like "wiser," as in "I hope to become wiser in integrated technology as the years go on.")  These self-described "blended worksheets" can become another powerful formative assessment for your digital classroom, despite the pedigree of the dreaded W word.

How does it work?  You need an account to either make or take Wizer worksheets, but registration is free and you can even use your Google account as a sign in.  (GAFE users, take note!)  Once logged in, look in the upper left of the page to access your previously created worksheets or to create a new one.

Once you choose to create a new worksheet, you must choose a theme.  (Like Google Forms in the beginning, there are a narrow amount of choices with some seasonal influences - I saw a Valentine related choice, for example - but you should be able to find enough variety.)  Next, you will see various ways of editing the worksheet at the top and right side.  At the top, you can indicate the grade level of the work or tag it with indicators.  Down the right side, you can save the worksheet as you go (there doesn't appear to be an auto-save), preview what it will look like to students, change the cover photo, and last but not least, edit the color and font of the worksheet's title.  The wording of the title itself is easy to click and edit, which will automatically give the worksheet its name when you look under "My Worksheets" in the top left.

In the body of the worksheet, you can choose various Tasks. Perhaps by design, the top row of choices are interactive, and the bottom row are more passive/informational.  So you can choose from interactive options such as matching, multiple choice, labeling a picture, and open response questions to more passive embedded material such as YouTube videos, pictures or links.  Another plus is how simple it is to edit Tasks and change the order of their appearance on the worksheet.

I'm particularly impressed with "Fill On An Image" and "Matching," which among online formative assessments are fairly unique choices.

For a video on how to create a Wizer worksheet, see below:

After the worksheet is completed, you go to the upper right to toggle the Publish button, and now you can "Assign to students."  From here, you can create multiple "classes" to assign the same worksheet for the sake of organization (and control turning on or off access class by class).  You can provide a link to the worksheet (in an email, a Schoology Assignment/Update Post, etc.) or directly integrate it with Google Classroom.

Note that you can choose to give or not give "Automatic feedback to students."

Once students complete the worksheet, you can go to your worksheet and click on "Assess Answers" in the upper right. Right/wrong answers (like multiple choice) will be automatically graded for you, and you can toggle through student submissions to manually grade Tasks such as open responses or override Wizer if it says a student was incorrect.  There is even a space for teacher comments. Once saved, all of this will be available to students when they next log in.

For a video on how to assign worksheets and assess student answers, see below:

Note that by default, all published worksheets are available in the public "gallery" on the home page of the site, which can be shared or copied to their own account by other users.  However, you can make your worksheets private by going under "My Worksheets," finding the worksheet you want to change, clicking the three dots button, and clicking on Make Private.

How could you use it?   The beauty of Wizer can be summed up in a sentence: it's a formative assessment that is easy to navigate with Tasks that could be used K-12.  If you are worried about the "one size fits all" of old school worksheets, why not make multiple versions and differentiate?  (You can copy one of your existing worksheets and edit it accordingly.)

Downsides?   Questions are automatically a point per answer; you cannot customize the values. There is no way to search public worksheets (currently, you can only browse the ones shown on the home page), but since worksheets can be tagged when created, I believe this is a feature likely to come down the pike.  While already packed with several Task features, I look forward to using other tools in the future such as drawing or audio.

Wizer is getting user input for which Task will be added next.

All in all, Wizer is a great new free online formative assessment that is already impressive.  If it continues to grow and improve, this could easily become a favorite in my toolbox.

Be sure to share a Comment below if you've used Wizer already or after you give it a try!