I have become interested in various ways to markup online content to assist learners. YouTube offers developers an annotation feature allowing multiple the inclusion of information in several different formats. However, the YouTube author must turn this feature on and add the annotations. What about situations in which a teacher may want to layer annotations on a video that the teacher did not create?

VideoAnt, one interesting approach developed at the University of Minnesota,  offers an easy way to time-stamp annotations. To annotate an existing video, you enter the address for the video and then click an icon to stop the video and open a window for the annotation.


Sample VideoAnt of a YouTube video.

I have questions about how fair use applies to content offered in this way (I created the video I use in my example). If someone created YouTube content as an income source based on showing ads would layering annotations and then offering the combination limit payments to the creator? I am still searching for an online commentary on this use of online video.

Layering guidance

I have been thinking about a way to support learners processing of online content. I have decided to describe this as layering guidance. I like the physical imagery of adding information on top of information with the intent of guiding a learner.

I decided this concept applies to a number of services educators can utilize. in the video that follows, I attempted to use and DocentEDU to demonstrate what I mean.


Educational funding slow to recover from economic downturn

Some years ago we were visiting friends who live in an Atlanta suburb. They were describing the conditions in their local public school and to us they sounded horrible. I remember thinking that the strategy seemed to be to put as little into public schools as possible and allow the wealthier parents to spend money to send their kids to private schools allowing these parents to invest directly in their own kids.

My personal experience has always been with the way state-supported higher education is funded. I also think issues related to the cost and support of higher education get more attention. The results of this attention are now always positive (from my perspective), but various positions are argued in public. The funding models are also obviously different. State funds from tax revenue provide some support for institutions at both levels, but k12 support relies mostly on local property taxes and higher education on tuition and contributions for the rest.

Recovery from the economic collapse has been painful. I was less aware of how K-12 budgets have suffered. Both government and local support have been slow to respond to the needs of students. Schools have been asked to meet higher standards with fewer resources.

Both articles linked from this post focus on the politics of this lack of support. The U.S. News and World report article contains this statement highlighting the heavy burden placed on funding for education.

“When families face tough budget choices, parents’ first priority is to protect the kids,” First Focus President Bruce Lesley said in a statement. “But Congress is actually cutting funding for children more than twice as fast as spending overall.”


Explain Everything Expands

Explain Everything has long been a personal favorite when it comes to recommending a general-purpose authoring tool for K-12 students. I have not paid attention to more recent developments for this product line. This is my effort to catch up.

Explain Everything was originally a product specific to the iPad. There was a tool for using Macs to render projects into video, but authoring activities were unique to the iPad. The number of platforms able to author with this product has now been expanded. Users can now create using Windows, Chrome or Android.

Offerings have also been differentiated as the basic version (iOS only) that allows externalization via a video for sharing and a product with additional features including real-time collaboration (promised) and hosting (the Discover Portal).



I must try to separate my personal use of the tool from the potential for the classroom (multiple users). Here are a couple features/issues to consider. First, how do you think about purchase vs. lease of a product. If you teach with iPads, you can still own Explain Everything. A teacher with iPads could also use the leasing option ($2.67 per user per year – minimum of 5 users). The leasing option is required of Windows, Chromebook and Android users. Does this matter? I am not certain how to analyze the situation in order to respond. Try this – say you assume you would use a purchase for three years. Multiple the lease price by three and the total is very close to the cost for purchasing the more capable version of the iPad app. For those not using iPads, I would say leasing makes sense. However, these folks really have no options. The real decision must be made by educators who use the iPad. Is the difference between the classic and more featured version meaningful to these teachers and how strong is their commitment to the product? For occasional use, the classic version probably makes the most sense.

Finally, what about a functional version for Macs?

Drafting Board

Argumentation and the value of argumentation in developing critical thinking skills has been a favorite topic. Every time I watch coverage of the present presidential race with all of the charges, counter-charges, and fact checking, I think about what it takes to digest all of this and make an informed decision. Most of my previous commentary was based on the research of Deanna Kuhn and what to me seems like debate.

iCivics takes a different approach with a focus on argumentative writing. They have developed an online tool called Drafting Board that takes scaffolds the process of developing a sound argument. A variety of possible issues and background material are also provided. iCivics is a free resource (they would appreciate contributions).