Sunday, August 26, 2007

Anytime, Anywhere Access to YouTube Videos

[As posted on]

Ever wondered if you could download YouTube videos to show to your class or to people where you did not have Internet access? Well, read on...

I'd written a post a few weeks ago titled "YouTube...TeacherTube...Video in Education" where I discussed the use of YouTube and videos in education, and wrote that all a teacher needed was a computer with access to the internet. Well, that's still true, but guess what! that access does not even have to necessarily be in the school or classroom. There are ways, and really EASY ways, actually, to download YouTube videos into pretty much any format for viewing on a Windows or Mac or any other machine.

The most convenient tool that I have used is called vConvert - which allows you to do the conversion to a desirable format right on their site at, (all you have to do is copy-paste the url or 'web address' of the YouYube video) and then download the output to your machine which you can then carry on a pen/thumb drive (or 'memory stick') to your classroom or any other room where you could play it on a computer! It couldn't get easier than this!

[I found this useful tip on this blog. Bob Sprankle, the author of the post is an enthusiastic teacher and "Technology Integrator" in Maine, who has kids as young as third-graders creating videos and audio broadcasts (called podcasts) that can then be shared with the world on iTunes or any other podcasting site on the Internet. Thanks, Bob!]

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Kid-Safe Internet Browsing

[Here's another one on Google searching, kid-safe Internet browsing, critical thinking, "topical research" on the internet...Click on the appropriate tags below to see other posts on this topic]

Tired to having to monitor your children's Internet activity? Unable to monitor your child's time on the Internet? Concerned about what your child may run into on the Internet?

Consider installing a "Safe Internet Browser" for your child. Instead of trying to control what sites your child visits on the Internet via google searches; or being worried about inappropriate ads and other windows "popping up" on the screen, just rely on an Internet browser which automatically restricts the sites your kids can visit, and what your kids can do while on the Internet.

Buddy Browser (which happens to be one of a few "children's Safe Internet browsers" available for free), boasts of the following features (among others) --

  • Secure and Safe Kids Browser without popup windows (No spyware or adware)
  • No Internet Chat Rooms
  • Safe Buddy Messenger for Kids
  • No Internet Surfing
  • Kids Safe Search
  • Individually Reviewed Quality Sites for Kids
  • Educational Learning Channels - Science, School, Nature, Animals and More
  • Privacy Assured
  • 100% Free!

I think this could be a useful option for young kids (elementary school), not just from a safety point-of-view. Kids spend (waste?) a lot of time doing aimless Internet searches ("researching a topic") as they put it, which is not effective and that requires a lot of critical evaluation of websites and material that kids are usually incapable of doing. Having a list of pre-approved sites to go to for "Internet research" (the sites available through Buddy Browser are exhaustive and kid-friendly) would not be such a bad idea anyway!

Perhaps it could be argued that kids need to learn how to sift through the vast amounts of information and make sense of it - as a 21st Century skill. I agree with this need, but also think that kids only above 12 years or so - (i.e. starting in Middle School) should be taught this skill and made to hone it through their various projects.

Until that age, a kid-safe browser such as Buddy Browser should suffice for exposing kids to the Internet

Is Google Killing Intellect?

The latest Businessweek has a discussion/debate on whether "the search engine makes it so easy to get data that users forgo deeper study?"

Sure, Google can deliver facts and figures at lightning speed. But is it turning users away from other avenues of learning such as books, scholarly magazines, lectures, and classes? Hear experts Jakob Nielsen (FOR) and David Alan Grier(AGAINST) discuss the question "Is Google Killing Intellect?", and respond to student comments.

(I have to preface whatever I write with stating that I am a technophile and I usually embrace technology in every shape and form... ) I personally have started to push my children and students more towards the library these days simply because I am beginning to get leary of the whole "Wikipedia culture" of getting information that is unfiltered and very often grade- & level-inappropriate. I ask my sons to first browse all the encyclopedias and other reference books we have at home for "basic" information on a topic and go to the Internet (which to them is synonymous with going to the Wikipedia most of the time) only for specific pieces of information that they don't find in books/magazines. The richness of the images that accompany the text in most encyclopedias and the fact that the information is somewhat "contained" is something I find comfort in. (Finding a decent alternative website to WIkipedia is also oftentimes high on my agenda and I strongly suggest teachers of kids in elementary school, if not middle school as well, to do the same.).

But the truth is that kids today do need to learn how to scout cleverly for the information they need, and make sense of huge amounts of information, evaluate the information critically, and to use the Internet and Google to their advantage. Little kids (younger than 12-13 years of age) are incapable of performing effective searches anyway, so the process must be scaffolded for them.

Clearly, there are pros and cons to extensive use of Google, which is why it makes for an interesting debate!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Digital Natives" are not geeks, they're just "interested" in technology

[Also posted on]

This article that I came across on today was a bit disappointing, if not totally surprising.

A recent global study spanning 16 countries undertaken by MTV and Nickelodeon, in association with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions found that "Despite their technological immersion, digi-kids are not geeks." The study challenges traditional assumptions about their relationships with digital technology, and examines the impact of culture, age and gender on technology use.

The study, 'How Kids and Young People Interact with Digital Technology', found 59 per cent of 8-14 year-old kids still prefer their TV to PCs and only 20 per cent of 14 to 24-year-old young people globally admitted to being 'interested' in technology.

They are, however, expert multi-taskers and able to filter different channels of information."

My own personal take on this is that although they have been found to not be "geeky" in the traditional sense i.e. program and hack "code" with ease, they are comfortable enough with technology to be creators of digital content (without realizing it at times, I guess). Every time a kid shoots a picture on his/her camera and posts it on the net or remixes a piece of music for an MTV competition, s/he is treading into realm that was the domain of geeks before...simply because technology has progressed enough to allow them to do these things without much trouble.

An India-related report in the study - "Young people in India are among the fastest in Asia today to embrace digital technology to express themselves and connect with multiple communities. While the growth of mobile and digital technology in India is driven largely by the urban youth, we will gradually see this trend move beyond the urban youth and involve the youth in the rural regions of the country."

The study also found that - "friends influence each other as much as marketers do. Friends are as important as brands. Kids and young people do not love the technology itself. They just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained and digital communications such as IM, email, social networking sites and mobile/sms are complimentary to, not competitive with, TV and that TV is part of young peoples' digital conversation"

Hardly surprising, given the statistic that MySpace had 100 million registered users as of December 2006 and that the average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day!

The study apparently looked at 21 technologies that have impact on the lives of young people: internet, email, PC, TV, mobile, IM, cable and satellite TV, DVD, MP3, stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HD TV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, DVR/PVRs, and hand-held games consoles.

So what are the implications of these findings for educators in India? Should these tools not be leveraged for learning as well? And why are only media companies concerning themselves with these trends? Why not our boards of education curriculum planning committees and policymakers and NCERT as well?