Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015-05-01 Instructional Technology Newsletter

Instructional Technology  News and Useful Tips
May 1, 2015
Contents: Free online art books from two great museums; GMail - much more than an email handler; WeVideo adds desktop recording; An answer to problems with embedded video in Blackboard

Instructional Technology News

Two Museums Make Art Books Free Online

The Getty Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have each provided an online catalog of art books free to the public. The two catalogs, approximately 250 books from The Getty and over 700 from the Metropolitan, cover recent publications across many art related areas. Included are books on specific styles and movements, as well as books on related interests such as art conservation. The books are available online for free or you can conveniently purchase a physical version.

To see the two catalogs, go to:

Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

The Many Talents of GMail

If you read your email in GMail, you are already aware that it is a versatile application that can help you do far more than simply send and receive email. For example, I use GMail as a complete communications hub. Click on this link to see a graphic of some of the capabilities in GMail that I use every day. The screenshot shows some of the available extras:
  • the folder view (of course)
  • quick links to view messages by their status
  • a mini-view of my calendar
  • a popup view of my tasks
  • the communications sidebar which allows me to chat, call or videocall anyone in my contacts
  • the link to the rest of the Google Apps for Education suite
  • and finally, in the message itself, the unique GMail capability to let me schedule an event based only on the text in the message - no specific invitation required. Here you see a suggestion for lunch. Clicking on the time in the message opens a window to schedule the conversationally suggested time into my calendar.
Each of the side items are configurable and can be switched off or hidden, and others added.  

GMail is a great email handler, but it is also much more. If you have additional tips and tricks, please send them on to me so I can highlight them in future issues.


WeVideo Adds Desktop Recording

New from my favorite video editor this week is the ability to record your desktop. I haven't gotten a chance to look at it yet but thought I would mention it for those of you who are either using WeVideo already or are recording your desktop using different tools.

I will be reviewing it in an upcoming issue.

Question of the Week

Why do some of the videos that I have embedded in Blackboard play while others do not?

I have worked on this with the Librarians and we believe that we understand it. We think that this is occurring when a video is embedded using a non-secure link, i.e. a link that starts with "http" rather than "https". Browsers are supposed to warn the user or reject the non-secure item when the surrounding page is a secure page. The entire Blackboard site is secure and so is liable to incur this problem.

There are proabably a lot if things interacting at once. Various combinations of secure/nonsecure links, different browsers, different browser upgrade levels, and different user settings probably explain why only some videos have problems for only some students.

Recommendations: Embed your videos using secure links. All Google Drive file links are secure, so URLs for videos hosted there should already have the corect format. YouTube was not always secure, but it is now. Non-secure YouTube links will appear valid if you try them out because they are translated by the YouTube site into secure links. However, the embedding site will still see the link as non-secure. I don't know the security history of other video hosting sites such as Vimeo.

An alternative to changing the embed-code is to include a link to the video right above the embedded version. This way, if a student does have a problem seeing the embedded version for any reason, she can still use the link. The link will work just like the embedded version except it will open the video in place of the Blackboard content instead of displaying in situ.

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