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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Videos in Google Sites!

Google continues to improve upon the Apps for Education platform, and I was pleasantly surprised to find new options for videos today. YAHOO! Inserting videos in a site used to be limited to just YouTube or Google Videos. Not helpful when YouTube is blocked at school...  It's also been challenging for the last several years to be the only person on campus hosting student videos online because all files flow through me, my computer, and my account. Ugh. Google Docs provides us with space to store such projects, but now they've gone one further and will let us publish them via Sites. Because Sites can be shared and have multiple editors, all the students will be able to PUBLISH THEIR OWN VIDEOS! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

Today our 7th graders finished their 2nd video project of the five they will work on in science class this year. Traditionally, we have had the kids compress their projects to a reasonable size and format, then turn them in via a dropbox on the server. This still works just fine, but a new option has arrived! Actually, several options already exist, but we've had Google Apps less than a year and we're still uncovering great things all the time. Today, I pulled the videos out of the drop box only to discover I needed to compress them further because I had the students save them at a size too large for reasonable web streaming. Once I did that, I thought I might create a web page on my site that would just be a File Cabinet to store them all so students could look at and review each other's work if they wanted to. As I went to do that, I created just a plain new Web Page and tried out the Insert > Video function to see if I could insert a .m4v file straight into the page. The options now include the new and mysterious "Google Docs Video." 
Options for inserting video into Google Sites

So I paused momentarily to upload a video file to Google Docs, then went back to my site and tried to insert it. This is just a screen shot, not the actual video...
an inserted Google Docs video!

It's killing me how easy this is. Now, I've only tested it within my own account where I have ownership and control over all the content. Next, I'll need to try inserting a video in MY Google Docs to a site that is owned by others, but shared with me. If this is to be a useful and efficient way for students to share their videos, I need to make sure it works in the collaborative environments Google Apps affords. I also need to test it on a student machine that doesn't have access around the firewall to make sure things aren't blocked from view. My hopes are high. Stay tuned, because if this works, our students can now post their own original videos to shared sites as a way of turning in their finished project. If someone was in my office with me right now I'd be whooping, hollering and high-fiving (it's happened before). Aside from the frog my kids and I found in our garage this morning, this is THE best discovery of my week.

UPDATE: I put all of the student videos on a single webpage, then logged in as another student from a school laptop to test things out. I quickly discovered that permissions and sharing had to be adjusted in several places. First, and most obviously, my site needed to be shared. It's nothing spectacular...just a place where I test things out, so I set it to be shared with everyone at Charles Wright Academy with the link. Next, as I visited the site as a student, I was able to see the page with all the videos, but when I clicked a video, it said I didn't have permission to watch it. Duh! I forgot that these uploaded files were now all MINE and private only to me. So I went back into my docs and shared all of them in the same manner as my site (people at CWA with the link). If you'd like to check it out, click here. It will prompt you to log into Tarrier Apps if you're not already in there.

No problems with the firewall.  Sweet!

Parts of my test are complete and I now know a teacher could successfully share student work in this manner. The next part of the test, however, is to see if students could post their videos onto a shared site and set all the permissions correctly. I'm going to experiment some more with the File Cabinet as well, because I think it might provide easier access to the video files in a cleaner format.

To be continued...

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