Friday, February 12, 2010

Finds of the Week: February 8-12

It has been a snowy week here in Central PA, but that doesn't stop the web! This week, how to convert files online, text-to-speech, and collecting and sharing bookmarks.

1. Online Video Conversion - Many schools (including A-C) do not allow access to Youtube. Bummer. But don't let that stop you from using these sites educationally, as there is a wealth of great videos that can be used in your classroom. Vixy and Zamzar both will allow you to enter the URL of any Youtube video so you can download them for use in your classroom. Be aware of fair use rules if you do this, as these videos could be copyrighted! Make sure to provide proper citations.

When working with Vixy, all you need to do is enter the URL of the video you want to convert in the field, choose your format, and convert! For your work computer, you will want to convert to a MOV file, which will open in QuickTime. You can choose other options, based on what you will be using the video for. Vixy will automatically give you a download link, and you'll have the file on your machine for use in class. Make sure to save the file with a new name and location. I have found that Vixy does not always work well while at school due to the firewall.

Zamzar works a little differently. When you go to Zamzar, you will begin on a regular file conversion page. This allows for you to convert any number of files, which is helpful for when students create a document or other file at home on one piece of software and want to work with it at school with a different piece of software. To convert a Youtube file, you will have to click on "URL" under Step 1, or go directly to the URL conversion page. In Step 2, choose what you would have the file converted to. Again, Zamzar supports image, document, audio, video, and a few other conversions. Zamzar does not provide an instant link, as the file is sent to their server to be converted. Once converted, an email will be sent to the address you provide in Step 3. This could take some time, depending on the amount of files that are being uploaded to their servers at the time. This can be done at school or at home, as long as you have the URL to the video you want.

Another easy way to convert Youtube videos is with Kickyoutube. This cannot be done at school, as it is blocked by the filter. But if you have viewed a Youtube video at home that you want to use in school, just add the work "kick" in front of the "youtube" in the URL. For example, if you are viewing a video at, just edit the URL to look like instead. It will give you options as to how you would like to download it. Choose your option and download!

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas

2. Carryout Text - This is a site that is in beta, and while they are, the services will be offered free. The beta could end at any time, at which point the entire service could become a pay service, or there could be a tiered service, where parts could remain free and others would become pay services. Until then, this is a great site you can use to convert any text into audio. It is as simple as pasting text into the converter, pressing "Submit to Process," and waiting for Carryout to do its thing! This is a great site that can be used for those that have trouble reading, or for students who are taking a long bus trip to a sporting event and need to stay caught up on class content. The flow is still a bit choppy, but it works quite well.

Areas of use: Across curricular areas; especially helpful for struggling readers and audible learners

3. Social Bookmarking - Don't be scared off by the word "social" here. These two services offer many perks for educators (and individual users) by allowing for bookmarking of websites online as opposed to inside a browser.

First, we will explore delicious. delicious allows for you to create a site that you can bookmark websites you like for use later on. Once you create an account, you download the delicious toolbar and button and you're all set. From a site you want to bookmark, just press the "Tag" button in your delicious toolbar, enter the data for the site, including a description and tags. Tags are used to help group things together that for similar interests. For example, if you go to my delicious page, you can click on "web2.0" in the right hand column, you will get a series of sites that fit into the Web2.0 window. When tagging, you can even tag a site that a fellow user might find useful. If you find a site that you think I would like, tag it with "for:misterlamb" and a message will be sent to me with the info. This could be helpful in a class where you gather current events. Just have students tag their current event to you.

diigo is very similar to delicious in the fact that it is also social, but it is organized in a different way. With diigo, you will download a toolbar and tag sites like you do in delicious, but in diigo, you can also set up groups, so when sites are saved, they are made accessible to all in the group. Having a class group set up could be very helpful to share resources. If you use it for current events, you could have students check to see what others have tagged to make sure to eliminate any duplicates. Or if a student finds a great resource for a class, it can be made available to all immediately.

Areas of use: Across all curricular areas; great for sharing resources with colleagues, students, etc.

All of these are great tools and have even more applications in your personal life and classroom that discussed here. As always, any A-C teacher is more than welcome to contact me and set up a time where we can explore and discuss these tools together.

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