YouTube Safety Mode with Google Apps for Education

Yep, this is a thing. If your school is Google Apps for Education and you guys leverage the huge power of YouTube in your teaching then maybe you have fallen victim to the YouTube Safety Mode automatically being turned on. Basically what happens is that this feature seems to suddenly be turned on and certain YouTube videos are blocked (even though they are educational in nature). It’s frustrating because teachers don’t have the ability to toggle it off or on – it’s just on and a nuisance.

OK – here’s the trick – when my school ran into this I reached out to Google for assistance – here was their reply.

So basically what this very polite email says is that YouTube is not a core feature and therefore not covered in their support. The images this rep refers to are directions on how an individual can turn it on or off on their personal account. With our people, it was not an option and kept pointing them back to the Google Apps administrator – me.

After an exhaustive search through the Google forums I came across a plausible answer to this problem. For our school we had Safe Search (through the Chrome app settings) turned on for all users. What I did was switch it off and this fixed it. I was also able to verify this on a support page from Google – check it out below.

A bit of a risk I agree but well worth it since a lot of our teachers use YouTube, but why Google bundles Google search and YouTube search together is a bit of a mystery – especially since this was not always the case.

So check out the video above which shows how easy it is to change this setting. Remember though, only your Google Apps administrator can do this so please talk to her/him to make the change.

Security vs. Stability

It’s a tale as old as time.

At my school, we have been struggling with WiFi stability since we started our BYOD program. It is certainly something a lot of other schools can relate. We’ve been able to trace our problem down to three separate issues. Two of them were configuration issues that were done improperly from the start but the third is an Aruba server that handles our access to our network. This is the point of our discussion.

Our school uses Aruba to handle security to the network. The server we use is faulty – plain and simple. We have bypassed it so Aruba engineers can work on it and not cause any disruptions. When we implemented the bypass our WiFi network became quite reliable. Not perfect but usable and you can count on it in most cases now. We do have security on our network but it’s not the most robust.

With Aruba we get a few perks – check out the list below.
– Reports for IT

– The ability to shut down a user completely (except their smartphone with a data plan of course)

– The ability to view and track users throughout the network

– Limiting the number of devices a user can use

Now, it’s not all sunshine and unicorns with Aruba either.
– Lengthy time to get all users on our network (it usually takes about 2 weeks). Without Aruba it can be as little as 3 days

– Can’t just turn it off if there are problems

– Reliant on outside engineers to service it. The bypass we created was done primarily in house and we can work on it if needed

– Daily IT helps people get connected with new devices (removing older devices and helping to on board the new device)

– Costly

Eventually our Aruba will be sorted out and ready to be switched on. In theory it will be seamless, but the question is – do we switch it on? Do we trade ease of access for a little more security? Do we trade the ability to troubleshoot or issues in house for a more powerful service that requires outside configuration and support?

What do you think?

What I like about Prezi

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Prezi so I thought I would make a quick Prezi about what I like about it. This is by no means a review or a how-to document. That stuff will come later so hang tight. The biggest thing I like is how easy it is to use. I haven’t made a Prezi in about two years and it was like slipping back into a comfortable shoe. Check out the Prezi to get a taste of the review to come.

Technology is frickin’ awesome

Still not interested in technology? Still think that technology is impersonal and keeps people from connecting with one another? The video above shows just how important and how technology can change lives and connect people in various ways. Love it!

This is a great video to show students to show them that technology just isn’t hiding behind a computer and pounding away on a keyboard. Check out how people are helping each other at the Collective Project and Limbitless Solutions..

Blendspace – The review

I don’t like LiveBinders – period. I think it is a lousy way to share online resources with people. However, I do like Blendspace. If you have a bunch of online resources to share with your class (or anyone for that matter) then look no further than Blendspace to fulfill your needs. Here is the quick review, it is very visual, easy to organize and easy to add materials. Other people can contribute and you can share it in a variety of ways, even print it out if you want! Still unsure – then keep reading to get my full review. I think you’ll find it a great resource as well.

Signing up

I don’t know why I do this section anymore. It is dead simple to sign up for Blendspace (and just about any other service). On the homepage in the top right hand corner you have an option to login or sign up. Click the Sign Up button.

Then it will ask if you’re a teacher or a student – I obviously picked teacher.

Then it asks for the same old information as any other site, or if you have a Google account or a Facebook account – you can sign up with that which makes it even easier.

If you sign up with your Google account, it will ask you for permission and I imagine the same is true with your Facebook account.

The Dashboard

When you login you are welcomed to this very simple to navigate screen.


Here you can find lessons you’ve made, lessons that have been shared with you and featured spaces. Of course this where you would go to create new lessons as well. I love the fact that everything is just a click away. No need to dig and click and explore. Nope – you can find it all in a click which is great. It makes the learning curve of such a service very manageable and even those people who are afraid of time vampires (programs/systems that take a long time to learn) can feel comfortable and at ease.

Creating a lesson

Blendspace calls their spaces lessons. To create your first lesson, click on the New Lesson button. Blendspace will take you to a new window where you will see six empty cells – this is the bulk of the workspace. On the right hand side is where you can add/search for content (more on that later) and of course there is a place where you can add a title.

For this example we are going to make a lesson about creating podcasts. To add your first resource look to the search area along the far right hand side. Here, Blendspace gives you quick access to a bunch of resources such as:

- YouTube
– Google (images by default)
– Flickr
– Educreations
– Dropbox
– Google Drive
– Upload your own file or link to a website and more
 

 

 

 

 

Once you pick a service, just search and then drag it over. Check it out in the badly pixelated GIF below – watch it to the end :)


Now repeat the process over and over again until your lesson is complete.

Another nice feature is the ability to enter notes and descriptions for each resource in your lesson. This is especially helpful when the resource may just be an image or something that looks like it is from left field.

Classes

Another nice feature about Blendspace is the ability to create classes. This is how you share specific lessons with specific people easily and quickly. To create or view your classes, select Classes from the dashboard.

When you get to your classes page, you have two options. You can create a class or view your current classes code and members. To create a class, simply give it a name and click the Add Class button.


When you create a class Blendspace will automatically give you a code. Give that code to students or other teachers. For a person to join they will need a Blendspace account first though.


You also have the options to show all your students your lessons. Now this does not mean they can edit them though.

Collaborating and sharing lessons

OK – I really like all the other features of Blendspace but this is the one that puts it over the top for me. The ability to share lessons and to allow others to collaborate.

I’m going to go ahead and open up my Podcast lesson. Let’s say I want to share it with a class and I want someone to be able to collaborate on this lesson with me. What I need to do first is click the Share button near the top.


Now I get this great sharing box. Here I can easily share it with any of my classes by just clicking it. There is no save or refresh button, it just happens in real time – very cool. You can even easily share it to your Edmodo class, Twitter, Facebook, etc. To be clear, when you share a lesson, those people can view it, not edit it.


Now I want to share it with another educator because we are teaching the same unit. To do this I just click on the Collaborate button. Then I add their email.

The person (or people) will get an email. All they need to do is log into Blendspace to find the lesson added to their list and they can then start working. Here is what is so awesome here. Whenever someone makes a change in Blendspace, everyone will see it in real time. It just updates – automatically!! No need to logout or refresh the page. It just happens. SWEET!! :o

One more option is the ability to change the privacy of. It’s pretty straight forward and not confusing about how that works. Check out the image below.

Other options

I’ll touch on these briefly. Blendspace has some other nice features such as changing the theme (gray or colored tiles). Both look good in my opinion. You can also change the templates which is just the design. So if you don’t like the squares in a grid set up you have some choices.

You can also present your resources in a slideshow format by clicking on the Play button at the top and even print out a PDF version of your lesson. It’s pretty simple but effective when talking with a class or team. The print out is not bad either, because it has all the original URL’s for the links and a QR code to quickly go to the lesson itself.

Using it in class

Obviously, you can collect resources and then share it out to your students but there are other uses too. What if you’re planning a unit with your team? This would be a great place to collect, collaborate and share out resources.

Students doing a research project? This is also a good organization tool. Often students get too much information or not enough. Here, you the teacher can actually take a look of what they have collected and have a very good idea of the state of their paper or where they are going with it.

Conclusion

If you are looking for ways to share links and online resources with your students or colleagues – this is your solution. There are plenty of choices out there but you (like me) want something that is easy to organize, not a vomitous mass of links, and is visually appealing. I can’t think of anything better than Blendspace for this task. Whether you agree or not, put it in the comments below.

Also, check out my Blendspace below to get an idea of what it can do for you.