Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Teaching with Online Videos

Thanks to YouTube et al, creating a lesson around a video is one of the easiest and popular ways to teach kids esl. But getting the videos from the Internet into a more presentable form, like a Power Point file, requires a little bit of extra work, especially when your class room is state of the art, circa 1980. In some previous lessons I've used downloaded videos and figured out a process of getting videos from my home Internets into my classroom presentations.

Downloading Videos

If your school trusts you with a live Internet connection that directly spews into your classroom, you're in luck. Others end up with either no Internet or a crippling firewall that does not allow any fun at all. Downloading the videos to a CD (or whatever) at home and bringing it into the school side steps this problem completely.

Finding the video is straight forward but while some sites let you download the video directly, others aren't as generous. So far the easiest and most fail-safe way that I've found to download videos from the Internet is through DownloadHelper, an extension to FireFox. I'm already using FireFox and its other extensions so I'm partial to DownloadHelper in a keep it in the family kind of way, but there are some valid alternatives, like the web-based VideoDownloader site. But so far DownloadHelper has proven the most reliable thanks to the massive list of video sites that it has been tested against.

Playing Videos

Most of the videos on the net are in the flash video format (*.flv files) and there are tons of options for playing these files and you'll have to convince your school that it's okay to install at least one of them. I convinced my school to install K-lite by simply installing myself and not telling anybody about it. So far nobody has complained.

Now, K-lite is a Swiss army knife of video manipulation and is really intended for people who know about encoding and codecs and other computer geekness but it's super easy to install and use. There are multiple versions of K-Lite and the standard is a good entry point since it'll install the the FLV codec as well as Media Player Classic, a simple movie player that is free the bells and whistles featured in other applications.

Embedding Videos into Power Point Slides

Embedding flash videos in Power Point files creates a nice smooth transition from slide to video and back to slide. Embedding videos into Power Point slides is fairly common problem and easily solved by other people. Unfortunately most versions of Power Point do not support the *.flv file; they do, however, support embedding Windows media video format (*.wmv files). And quite fortunately, you can convert between one and the other thanks to the good people at media-convert.com.

Videos in Power Point are not really embedded, but linked. This means that if you want to share your presentation you'll need to be sure that you also share the video files and that they are placed in the same folder as the Power Point file.

There are some alternative methods to using videos but so far my favourite ones are the video tutorials done by reponzo01:

Connected to the Internet:

Not Connected to the Internet:

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