Shrewsbury EdTech

Tech resources for Shrewsbury Public School educators

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Crash Course: History and Science Videos

John and Hank Green are two brothers from Montana who started an educational YouTube channel one year ago called “Crash Course”. Most of their videos are around 9-12 minutes in length and focus on specific topics related to one of their six main courses: World History, US History, English Literature, Biology, Ecology, and Chemistry. The videos are entertaining and informative.

John Green produces the history and literature segments while his brother Hank focuses on science. Hank recently announced that would be starting a new course on Chemistry. The first Chemistry video was released one week ago. It focuses on the atom’s nucleus and already has over 120,000 views!

World History Highlights: 

  • Rise and fall of the Roman Empire
  • Five pillars of Islam
  • Dark Ages
  • Renaissance
  • Capitalism, Socialism, and Imperialism

English Literature Highlights

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Great Gatsby
  • Catcher in the Rye

US History Highlights

  • Colonizing America
  • Natives and the English
  • Natives and the Spaniards
  • More to come…

Biology Highlights

  • Animal and Plant cells
  • Photosynthesis
  • Heredity
  • Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Evolution/Natural selection
  • Human systems (muscular, digestive, etc.)

Ecology Highlights

  • History of life on Earth
  • Community Ecology
  • Ecosystem Ecology
  • Ecological Succession

Chemistry Highlights

  • The Nucleus
  • More to come…

How can these videos help you? 

We all know that any educational video is going to be aimed at a certain audience. After having watched numerous Crash Course videos, I would say their target audience is high school students and older. Younger students can definitely understand the material presented and find it entertaining, but I would give some of their content a PG-13 rating.

These videos are great for you all to watch. The two brothers do a great job of making the information entertaining and interesting. I would recommend them if you would like to review some material or maybe learn more about a new topic. However, you should screen the video first before showing it to students. Most are okay, but some can be a little inappropriate for younger students.

Personally, I am very excited about their upcoming Chemistry course. The first video (embedded above) on the atomic nucleus is excellent. It is relevant, appropriate, and gives a great overview of important concepts my students need to know.


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An Easy way to Webcast

Before we get to this week’s tech tip, a quick plug for some professional development running in the fall:

21st Century Teaching and Learning

In each session, we will focus on one 21st century teaching method or learning strategy. Then, each month, in a seminar format, one group of teachers will collaboratively present a lesson to the larger group, demonstrating use of the strategy in the classroom setting. You can read the details about the class, and how to sign up here:

Come join us!

Now for the tech tip….

With all the talk about flipping classrooms, and making our class presentations / content available beyond the classroom walls, wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple, one-button way to narrate and record a presentation – like a powerpoint – from our computers?  There is:

With Screencast-O-Matic, there is no big file to download and install, nothing you need to do beforehand – not even register, if you don’t want to… and it’s totally free!  Here’s what to do – this video shows how simple the tool is to use…
Here are the basic steps, spelled out:
First, have the presentation or website you want to narrate open – if it’s a Powerpoint, just have Powerpoint running, if it’s an online presentation, have the presentation (or whatever it is you are looking to narrate) open in another tab in your browser.
Next, on another tab, go to screencast-o-matic.
You’ll see something like this:    

The “Start Recording” button is towards the top right.

Once you click the button, you’ll see this screen…

And then you might be prompted to run the actual little program from their website.  Just click “run.”

This will give you the recording tool.  The dotted line is the actual area you will record – you can adjust the size to any size you need.  If you click on a different tab, or minimize your browser window, you’ll still see the box – it will record whatever is on your screen, inside the box, as long as you don’t close the Screencast-o-matic tab itself.

All you need to do now is plug in a microphone (if you have one) and hit that little red record button at the bottom of the dotted box.  Pause when you want to pause, and preview it when you’re done.

Once you are done, all you need to do is choose how to publish it, give it a title and a description, and you’re done!  Share the link with your students, and they can view it at any time.

Looking to do more with it? For 15 dollars a YEAR, you get a lot more features – you can create videos of any length and save them to your hard drive (the free version allows 15 minute-long videos), you can publish to Google Docs, and do a lot more editing…

Here is a webcast I created using this tool:

SO… give it a try — and let us know what you think!

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Using YouTube in Your Classroom

Most educators today will agree that YouTube contains a wealth of educational information. Unfortunately, many teachers are hesitant to show YouTube videos in class because they run the real risk of exposing students to inappropriate material. Even if you know the video itself is appropriate, you have had no control over the comments for the video or the “related videos” shown to the side… until now.

ViewPure is a great website that basically strips all of the unnecessary junk (comments, related videos, suggestions, etc.) away and just shows the video you want to watch.

To use ViewPure, copy the link of the video into the site’s “purifier” and click “Create”. This will create a unique link for this video free of any distractions. This link can be shared with students if you would like them to view a video from home.

To make it even easier, ViewPure’s website has a “purify” button that you can drag to become a permanent part of your web browser’s address bar. This button does the same function as described above without having to visit the ViewPure website. Just open a video on YouTube, then click on the “purify” button in your address bar to remove all of the extras.

 Before ViewPure: Notice all of the clutter…related videos, comments, and extra information.

After ViewPure: All of the clutter is gone! There are a few links at the top which allow you to share the video with others.

Additional Resources

Learn about the “YouTube for Schools” community! There is plenty of helpful information on why and how to use YouTube in your class. You can submit or search for content-specific “playlists” of videos. For example, check out my Chemistry Playlist. These are all of the videos I have saved that I find useful to show during my chemistry classes.

12 Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students

This “Free Tech 4 Teachers” blog post gives additional suggestions for removing clutter, as well as tools for cutting and remixing YouTube videos, and editing videos within YouTube itself.

I have my own YouTube channel, manage a few science playlists, and “subscribe” to authors of videos I find helpful (such as Bill Nye, Steve Spangler, and Discovery Channel). If you are interested in using YouTube more in your class and have questions about any of its features, I would be happy to help you out.