Making lemonade

I am teaching a grad class for the UND program in Instructional Design and Technology this semester. I have had the opportunity both before and after retirement to teach a course a year for this program and I truly enjoy the experience. This class theoretically combined on-campus and off-campus students using technology services that allow all to meet in a kind of virtual classroom. Because I no longer live near campus, my courses are now all online.

The technology for the class has not worked very well this semester. The U made a decision to move to a product that operates within the Blackboard environment (Collaborate Ultra) and for what remain mysterious reasons after week two. We have yet to have a class when we can all get the system to work. Last week was particularly problematic because I could not launch the class remotely. Tech people tried to help and even took over my system remotely but nothing would work.

I had enough and fell back on something I knew I could count on – Google Hangouts. I had used this system before with a grad class consistently mostly of K12 educators based my belief that you learn about technology by using technology and Google products would be available to K12 educators (and others) after the class ended. This would not necessarily be the case for a CMS such as Blackboard. I sprung Google Hangouts Video on the class without warning and had a functioning session without problems.

I have since decided to move the Google Hangouts for the semester. I will let the U tech people struggle with Blackboard Collaborate. I thought I would create a simple tutorial related to Hangouts video calls so that my group and others might take advantage of more of the features provided.

I must say I prefer the previous version of Hangouts to the present arrangement. The previous version of Hangouts allowed me to create a “circle” for my class, start a session and share it with a circle within Hangouts, and record the session for distribution to those unable to attend or those wanting to review the session. Google has changed some things. I cannot find a way to share the present version with a circle and the recording feature is now a function of YouTube live. I prefer the old system and I have what are reasonable alternatives.

So for the uninitiated, you being by connecting to

You should encounter a screen that looks like this. I have X’d out the history of past hangouts I have used. I use video call for my class. If you must deal with more than 9 people in real time, you will have to make the effort to use the YouTube Live alternative.

Video call should bring up a screen allowing making use of your camera and mic and a couple of other things. In the lower left-hand corner, you should see an icon that will launch chat. I will get to that later, but you may want to make use of chat and video/audio with a group. The dialog box appearing in the middle of the screen allows the originator to invite others. In the previous version, this is where I would take advantage of Google circles. I prefer not to have to enter addresses for all members of my class, but I use the copy link to generate and copy a unique URL to the clipboard. I then send this link to all members of the class using any email system. Note – you will not see this link immediately as it is copied to the clipboard. Just assume the address is there and paste when you generate the email invitations.

Students click on the link they receive and show up in the video session.

The video Hangout call allows many features those of us who use online class systems are used to having available. In the upper right-hand corner, you should find an icon that launches the drop down you see here. You can launch that chat tool and screen sharing from here.

Screen sharing offers two options – share the entire screen or share the active window of an application (e.g., PowerPoint, the view from a second browser).

The chat pane is fairly standard and should appear on the left of the video pane. Participants can carry on a chat while others are speaking.

Here is my work around for recording. I simply launch Quicktime (I tend to use Apple products) and record the section of the screen that Hangouts window. I save out recording in 720p and then upload to YouTube for sharing and archiving. The upload takes some time for a multi hour class, but I do not have sit and watch while this is happening.



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. is a Google app that is used to annotate video. The app runs within a browser. Comments related to a video (e.g., a YouTube video) are time stamped. When finished, clicking a comment cues up the associated section of the video.

My first thought when reviewing the app was that it could be used in place of the expensive software qualitative researchers use to annotate video. It might also be thought of as a way to take notes from video – say the type of video used in a flipped classroom scenario. Like several products that allow students to annotate a simultaneous audio recording the product would allow the student to review parts of the video that require more careful thought. The system also makes a great way to evaluate and share thoughts on a video product under development.  The file resulting from such an analysis can then be shared.


Videos are what students want and not what they need

Online video, free or paid, seems to be where online education is headed. Increased bandwidth has moved us beyond the printed word (with some images) and we seem convinced that this is an improvement. I must admit that we (Cindy and I) have come to a similar conclusion and are creating more video demonstrations for our instructional content.

I borrowed the title for this post from a subheading in an offering from Scott Young. He provides insights from his own experiences learning computer science from MIT online resources. In analyzing his own learning and reflecting on why video is so popular, he proposes students are used to lecture (hence video lectures) and videos offer an “easy” experience. He proposes that he actually benefits more from text and from working his way through projects.

The Scott Young analysis reminded me of similar analysis I have encountered previously:

  • Ellen Langer  developed a concept she call mindlessness and as I remember she was initially focused on television (video). The idea was that there was a personal perception of learning, but this was an experience that could be had without the contribution of effort.
  • Fred Keller (1968) proposed an alternative to lecture experience in an article entitled “Goodbye teacher ….“. His concern was a little different and involved the lack of flexibility in this experience. A learner experiencing content that was already understood could not speed up the presentation and a learner struggling to understand could not slow the presentation down or review what had just been encountered. In proposing PSI (the personalized system of mastery instruction), Keller argued for a text-based approach which he felt offered greater learner control.

In fairness, video-based approaches such as that offered throughout he Kahn Academy provide video in short segments so the segments can be replayed if necessary.

Perhaps the lesson in all of this is not to become locked in to any given content format in that each format has both limitations of advantages.

What claim are you disputing?

Most folks who read this blog probably are aware of the story of  Salman Kahn  and the Kahn Academy. The TED talk version of the story with my embellishments follows – so Kahn, a hedge fund manager, begins creating short YouTube videos to tutor his nephews who are struggling with math. Others stumble across this content, find it quite helpful, and encourage Kahn. The viral avalanche continues, money people such as Bill Gates notice and contribute, and Salman ends up with an online success.

Some object. Just what is the focus of the concerns. Salman did not begin to subvert teachers or their role. He began because kids were not getting it based on their classroom experiences. To my knowledge, no claims were made about the teachers. Kahn is obviously very bright and entertaining. I think the style ends up being repetitive, but I also understand the research on worked examples and would suggest that at least the math content fits within this approach.

Kahn does have a more complex model than I think most realize – take a look at the site and you will find the videos (now in many content areas), problems to work, and opportunities to volunteer to be a coach. So, if you are critical based on some notion that this is about replacing humans with video, click the volunteer button and be a human.

The Kahn video content has become somehow mixed together with the “flip the classroom” movement. Students could prepare from watching video and then come to class prepared to discuss, request help, etc. I suppose video could be used in this fashion.

Perhaps the point is that these are just resources and tools. There is the opportunity for flexibility here. You are not paying for an approach that locks you into a given strategy. Wait – come to think, you are not paying at all. No one is after your job. You are in control. Make your own video content students can use when they are at home attempting to complete the problems you assigned. Too much work?

There is this online site that offers video content some students find helpful (but this is where I began)

YouTube Isolates Educational Content

YouTube has been willing to offer everyone the opportunity to serve video content. Being open to everyone has been both a blessing and a curse. It seems we have very different opinions regarding what represents useful and entertaining content. In education settings what might be funny or entertaining to someone in some other context ends being inappropriate and distracting. Since schools cannot control which videas are available, a common solution has been to block access entirely.

Google has responded with YouTube for Schools. The idea (at least as I understand it) is to isolate content from YouTube Education in a way that allows schools to    move this content through the filter in a predictable and controllable way. You might want to start with this page for the official description.

Sometimes teachers need to advocate – this site offered for teachers may provide some encouragement.