Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blocked YouTube

My school district blocks YouTube. I understand why. I still don't like losing access to many video's I use in my classroom. There is a wealth of valuable content mixed in there with some of the more questionable not-appropriate-for-school stuff. Most of the videos I post on this blog can't be watched at my school by either my colleagues or my students.

What's a teacher to do?

I download the videos and then burn them to CD. I use a free application available for the Mac platform called TubeTV for this task. It's worked for me reliably and my only complaint is how long it takes, roughly 5 minutes for every minute of the original. I don't think that is a problem with the program but a reflection of my internet connection at home and the size of the movies I'm grabbing. It is also a reflection of the impatience of an old man, we are talking video files here. Once converted to an .m4v file, it is available in iTunes and I can easily burn it to disk from there.

My school librarian recommended another option a few weeks ago. It's an online service called zamzar.com. Give zamzar the url of the video you want to convert, pick what format you want it converted to and give it an email address. As soon as it's finished converting you'll get an email with an url from which you can download the video. You have 24 hours from the time the email is sent to get the file before it is deleted.

The nice thing about this system is you can do this all at home and then download the video at work. It does have a 100 mb file size limit for the free version so you won't be able to convert any really large files. You can buy into a plan that lets you convert larger movies and gives you some online storage. How fast it converts your request depends a lot on how busy they are at the moment. They prioritize their paying customers first. This can be a slower process than using TubeTV. I ran a test on the same movie I converted using TubeTV and it took 30 minutes from the time I set it up before I got an email in my inbox. This isn't a big deal if you are setting things up at home and then downloading the film the next day at school.

So, don't let a pesky block stop you from including some great content in your classroom presentations.

[Image: Mashup of famous Orson Wells shot from the Third Man (1949) and the YouTube logo captured from their site: http://www.youtube.com/]

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