Category: Video Share Your Screen… and Have a Video Conference Call

As readers of my blog know, I’ve been a big fan of for screen sharing. While doesn’t allow others to control your screen like does (yet?), does have video conferencing. Let’s take a look at how works.

Go to, and click the big “Share my screen” button in the center of the page. Your web browser will give you a popup asking if you really want to share your screen. Say yes. [Tip: If slows down your computer, close all of your other web browser tabs. I found that with the 9 tabs I had open, Chrome slowed down so much, I couldn’t do anything.]

In the center of the screen with be the URL you can share with whomever you’d like. As long as you’re in screen sharing mode, this URL will connect whoever has the URL to your computer screen. At the very bottom of the screen, you can see that is sharing your screen. When you’re done, click the blue “Stop sharing” button. If you just want to communicate via microphone, click the mic icon in the top left corner of the screen. If you want to communicate with both audio and video, click the camera icon.

Here you can see I’ve turned my webcam on. Clicking the microphone icon will mute the mic. Clicking the camera icon will ‘mute’ the camera. At the bottom of the page, you can see that I have someone who has accepted my invitation. The location is determined by IP address. Don’t be surprised if it’s not where the person actually is. It should be close, though. To the right of the location is the IP address. Now I can invite my collaborator to share their microphone (by clicking their mic icon) or both their mic and camera (by clicking their camera icon).

When the person accepts, their webcam image shows directly below mine. In all of these screenshots, I have the webpage up on my screen. I could have switched to my Word document, my email, a spreadsheet, or even just my desktop. Whatever I see on my screen is what others will see on their screen. Important note: If you have dual monitors, both monitors will be seen by those with whom you are sharing your screen.

The URL is a one-time use only URL. After I stopped sharing my screen, this URL no longer worked. The next time I share, will generate a new URL. If you upgrade ($9.99/month or $99.99/year), you will get your own custom URL and the ability to password protect it. In other words, I could send people to, and give them a password to get in.

Your mobile experience may vary. I tried connecting to the shared screen using Chrome on my Android tablet, and all I got was the main page.

The developers are actively working on this product, so look for new features in the coming months.

KeepVid: Save Online Videos

You like to show the occasional video in your class. Your favorite ones are online. And sometimes, just often enough, your classroom loses its internet connection. Or maybe one too many of your favorite videos have suddenly disappeared from the internet. To be on the safe side, you want to download the video to your own computer or flash drive so you can show it without needing internet access.

KeepVid is the tool for you. Visit the website, enter the web address for the video, and click “Download.”

When this service runs, your browser will warn you that you may be doing something dangerous. Assure it that you’re not. A list of file format options will appear. Pick the one you’d like. Your options will vary a bit depending on the nature of the video you’re downloading.

If you choose a file format that’s not compatible with, say, PowerPoint, use CloudConvert (see this post) to transform the video into a compatible file format. Which ones are compatible with PowerPoint? MP4 is fine depending on the software you have installed – specifically Apple’s QuickTime. I’d go with MP4. If it works on the computer you’ll be presenting on, great! If not, use CloudConvert to change the MP4 file to something safe, like WMV. (Mac users: MP4 should work with Keynote.)

Why would I choose MP3?

If you want just the audio from the video, select this option.

What’s SRT?

This is a file format used with subtitles. If your video is subtitled, this option will download the subtitles.

I chose “Download SRT” with a subtitled video of an Obama/Romney 2012 debate. This is what it looks like when I open the file in Word.

This is essentially reverse engineering how subtitles are added to video. You can use software to create subtitles just like this and merge the subtitles with the video. KeepVid lets you pull out the SRT subtitle file.

Add the bookmarklet to your browser.

On the KeepVid page, click on the box on the right and drag it up to your browser’s bookmarks toolbar.

When you’re on a webpage watching a video, and you decide you’d like to download it, just click the “KeepVid” link in your bookmark’s toolbar, and you will be redirected to the KeepVid homepage. The URL for the video will already be entered in the box. Just click “Download.”

Easy, right?

VLC Media Player: Take Stills from Video

The VLC Media Player is arguably the best video player out there. All the cool kids use it. And it’s free. It’s cross-platform. That means that whatever you’re running, e.g., Windows, Mac, Linus, Android, iOS, VLC Media Player will play.

While this media player has many more features than the average user will ever need, it has a few that are especially noteworthy.

Custom bookmarks

On the playback menu, you can add custom bookmarks to your video file. If you’re a keyboard shortcuts sort of person, CTRL+B.

The “Edit Bookmarks” window will open. Go to the spot in the video you want to bookmark, and click the “Create” button. Want to create additional bookmarks? Repeat as needed.

To navigate to a particular bookmark, double-click on it.

Jump to a specific time

If you’d rather not use bookmarks, and you know the time in the video you want to move to, on the playback menu select “Jump to Specific Time.” Or CTRL-T.

In the popup window that appears, enter the time and click “Go.”


Want to take screenshots from the video? On the video menu select “Take Snapshot.” The image file will automatically be saved in your pictures folder – or at least that’s where they are saved for me. The file path will flash briefly in the video window.

Each snapshot follows this naming convention: vlcsnap – today’s date – time in video.

To change the default location of where snapshots are stored, on the tools menu select “Preferences” (or CTRL+P).

In the popup window click on the video icon. At the bottom of the window, you can browse to the folder where you’d like all future video snapshots to go. If you don’t like vlcsnap as the prefix amended to the filename of the image, change it to something else. You have two choices for image filetype: png (default) or jpg. For saving images from video, jpg is probably a better file format. Read more about the difference.


While you’re in preferences, click on the hotkeys icon (bottom left). Here you can see all of the keyboard shortcuts and change them to your liking. My favorite: Space to pause the video; space to resume play. No fumbling with the mouse!


Want to skim the video? On the playback menu, mouse over speed, and select “Faster (fine)” or just plain “Faster.” “Faster (fine)” will increase the speed in smaller increments. Every time you click on it, the video will speed up by a tenth – 1.1 times faster, 1.2, 1.3, etc. Clicking on “Faster” jumps you to 1.5 times faster, then 2.0, then 2.5. Keyboard shortcuts are very handy here. As the video is playing, to speed it up slowly, “Faster (fine)”, use ]. To slow down slowly, use [. To do the big jump “Faster,” use +; “Slower,” use -. Interestingly, on my keyboard, the + sign up with the numbers didn’t work, but the + on the numeric keypad did. And = will return the video to it’s normal playing speed.


Try it out. Our IT people have it installed on all of our campus computers. You may already have it and don’t know it.


Watch the video featured in this post.



Inserting a YouTube Video in Word Document

One of my colleagues asked how to insert a video into a Word document. Here are excellent instructions for inserting a YouTube video. If his instructions for getting the “Developer” tab don’t work for you, see these instructions.


Screencast-o-Matic: Easy Screen Recorder

If you have Tegrity, Camtasia, or Camtasia’s lightweight little brother Jing, and you’re comfortable with those, no need to venture into new territory. Unless of course you are looking for a quick screen recorder without the bells and whistles with a 15 min. recording limit. (The Pro version gives you much more power at $15 per year.)

Make sure your microphone is ready to go, then visit Screencast-o-Matic, and click “start recording.” No login needed. Say yes to any dialog boxes that might pop up. And then you will get this dotted box.

Anything that is inside the box screencast-o-matic will record. To resize the box, click and drag any of the little squares.

Check the volume on your microphone by looking at the meter on the toolbar. Click the down arrow next to the meter to choose a different microphone.

Click the WebCam icon to choose your WebCam and turn it on.

Your WebCam video will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen. Even though it is outside of the recording area as designated by the dotted box, the WebCam will still be recorded.

Click the record button (red circle). When you’re done recording, you can grab the red triangle at the bottom of the WebCam window to resize it. Click and grab the WebCam video to move it where you want it to appear in your screencast.

Now choose where you want to publish it.


If you publish to Screencast-O-Matic, you will need to register. You only need an e-mail address and a password. Add a title and description, add any notes you would like, add captions, and choose your options. If you publish to YouTube, add a title, description, tags, choose whether your video will be public or private, add captions, and choose your options. If you publish to “video file” the video will be downloaded to your computer in one of four file types: MP4, AVI, FLV, or GIF. Add notes, captions, and choose from the remaining options.




I opted to publish my video (titled Screencast of Screencast-o-Matic) to the Screencast-o-Matic website.

Once available on the Screencast-o-Matic website, visitors can add additional notes, make comments, download the video, or get an embed code.

Here’s a video I just recorded, placed here using the embed code.

Applying Psychological Science: Practice at Retrieval

A group of psychological scientists have identified 25 principles of learning. Of those 25, this group identified 9 to explore in greater depth as they relate to instruction. In this series of posts, I’ll look at each in turn, discussing some of the relevant technologies that can be used to take advantage of those principles.

The first in the list: “The single most important variable in promoting long-term retention and transfer is ‘practice at retrieval’—learners generate responses, with minimal retrieval cues, repeatedly, over time.” In short, if students are going to be able to retrieve what they learned later they have to practice retrieving now (the testing effect), and they have to space out that retrieval (the spacing effect). Practicing retrieval for 4 hours straight is not as effective as spacing those 4 hours out over the course of a couple weeks or more.

The authors make 4 recommendations.

  1. “During lectures, ask students questions to elicit responses that reflect understanding of previously introduced course material. This serves the dual purpose of probing students’ knowledge, so that misconceptions can be directly and immediately addressed in the lecture.”

    Ways to do this.

    1. 4-question technique. Dietz-Uhler and Lanter (2009) found improvement in quiz scores by asking students four questions following an in-class activity.
      1. “Identify one important concept, research finding, theory, or idea in psychology that you learned while completing this activity.”
      2. “Why do you believe that this concept, research finding, theory, or idea in psychology is important?”
      3. “Apply what you have learned from this activity to some aspect of your life.”
      4. “What question(s) has the activity raised for you? What are you still wondering about?”
    2. Fill-in-the-blank, content-based questions. Gier and Kreiner (2009) found improvement on exam scores when students were periodically asked to respond to fill-in-the-blank questions over course material during class.
    3. End-of-class questions. Lyle and Crawford (2011) found improvement on exam scores in a stats class when their students were asked to respond, unassisted, to a few questions over the day’s material at the end of class.

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Pen and paper. There is nothing wrong with this old school technology. Depending on the size of your class and how often your class meets, you could be wrangling a lot of paper.
    2. Student response systems. If you don’t currently use a system. Try Socrative (max 50 students, free). This tool is easy to use and allows both multiple choice and short answer questions. The data is downloadable via an Excel spreadsheet.
    3. Forms in Google Docs (read more about how to use this feature). Give students the URL to the form via a link on a website or in your course management system, a shortened URL (I recommend, or a QR code for your mobile users (read more about QR codes). Students enter their names, their email addresses, their class time, and then whatever questions you’d like them to answer about the course material. The data is dumped into a spreadsheet that you can download from Google Docs. When I do this, I add a column for my comments and a column for my grade. Then I create a form letter in Word, link it to my spreadsheet, and do a mail merge to send my feedback to students (read more about mail merge here).


  2. “On homework assignments, have students retrieve key information from lectures and readings. Chapter summaries, for instance, may include study questions that ask students to recall major points or conclusions to be drawn from the reading.”

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Forms in Google Docs (read more about how to use this feature). For each reading assignment, I ask students to answer four questions. The first two questions cover the content. Question 3 asks what was the most difficult part of the reading and what questions they may have. Question 4 asks what was the most interesting thing they read. I use the mail merge procedure discussed above to send my feedback to students. This is my first quarter using this approach. On the first exam, I saw no difference in exam scores compared to last quarter. I saw a statistically significant jump in exam scores on the second exam – a full letter grade. In my perception, students wrote more and wrote better responses during the second section of the course leading up to the second exam. That may be due to my feedback, to my asking better content questions that require more synthesis of information, or to something else entirely.
    2. Word documents. If your students submit assignments by attaching them to email messages that you get in Outlook, I highly recommend SimplyFile, an Outlook add-in (read more here), to quickly file the messages in a folder so they’re out of your inbox. And then use EZDetach, another Outlook add-in (read more here), to save all of the attachments with student email address and student name appended to the filename to your “grade these” folder.


  3. “Encourage group studying in which students actively discuss course topics. In these groups, students have an opportunity to explain difficult course concepts to one and another, engaging in ‘practice at retrieval.'”

    Useful tech tools.

    1. Doodle (read more here). A lot of students say they’d like to form study groups, but they don’t quite know how to do it. Create a Doodle poll that asks students to mark the times they’re available for a study group. Students can see who is available when they’re available. Let the students take the initiative to contact those other students.
    2. TitanPad (read more here). For students whose schedule or location makes it difficult to get together, they could use this tool to explain concepts in their own words or provide their own examples. Groups of students can work together on the same ‘pad’. With the time slider feature, you can easily see who contributed what and when if you’d like to assign a participation grade.
    3. Google+ hangouts with video or Skype. These are good tools for students who’d like to get together to study at a particular time, but are unable to be in the same place.

  4. “As with probing questions during lectures, test questions offer another opportunity for ‘practice at retrieval,’ thus, potentially enhancing knowledge of the material being tested. Ideally tests should be cumulative and test items should probe for understanding of the material.”


    In terms of test performance, it doesn’t matter if you give a paper-and-pencil test or a computer-based test (Frein, 2011). Whichever you use, I encourage you to look at how your students perform on each question. If a lot of students missed the question, what incorrect answer did they choose? This will give you valuable information about common misconceptions.

Whatever changes you decide to make in your course, I strongly encourage you to track the impact your changes have made on student learning, however it is you choose to measure it. Your institution may be interested for their assessment reports to their accreditors, and I encourage you submit your results for publication in a peer-reviewed journal or a conference that’s interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). This site provides some resources for locating those journals and conferences.



Dietz-Uhler, B. & Lanter, J. R. (2009). Using the four-questions technique to enhance learning. Teaching of Psychology, 36(1), 38-41. doi:10.1080/00986280802529327

Frein, S.T. (2011). Comparing in-class and out-of-class computer-based tests to traditional paper-and-pencil tests in Introductory Psychology courses. Teaching of Psychology, 38(4), 282-287). doi: 10.1177/0098628311421331

Giers, V. S. & Kreiner, D. S. (2009). Incorporating active learning with powerpoint-based lectures using content-based questions. Teaching of Psychology, 36(2), 134-139. doi:10.1080/00986280902739792

Lyle, K.B. & Crawford, N.A. (2011). Retrieving essential material at the end of lectures improves performance on statistics exams. Teaching of Psychology, 38(2), 94-97. doi:

QTT: Download TED Videos

Quick Tech Tip: In a previous post (November, 2010) I suggested using Zamzar to download TED videos. Since then TED has added this functionality themselves. Below the video, click the “DOWNLOAD” button.

That will call up this window.

Right-click on the version you want, and select “Save link as…” Choose where you want to save the file, and the video will be saved on your computer. No need to have an internet connection to watch it. Save it in your Dropbox folder to have it available on all of your devices.

Videodropper: Download YouTube Videos Directly to Dropbox

UPDATED 5/17/2014
Videodropper is now Orchard, which is nothing like Videodropper.  If you’re looking for a video downloader, check out KeepVid.  This blog post explains how it works.

UPDATED 6/24/2012
A visit to the website shows that the service is no longer available.  It has been replaced with a mysterious message. “We’re working on something new. Want to be the first to hear?” with a place to enter an email address to get updates.  

UPDATED 10/13/2011.
My sincerest thanks to the developer for posting his comment below.  I tried the service again this morning, and it worked perfectly.  Dropbox even downloaded it to my computer within a few minutes.  The videos download as flv files.  If you’d like to convert the videos to a different file format, go to, upload the file and choose the you’d like to convert it to.  This is going to be a great service!


I have written before on how to download YouTube videos using ZamZar. For Dropbox users, downloading videos may get a whole lot easier. The key word is “may”. This product has a lot of potential, but it’s not ready for primetime.

Richard Byrne (Free Technology for Teachers) posted on his blog about a new service called Videodropper. (Word of warning. This Videodropper is at is a porn site.)

When you visit the non-porn Videodropper, you’ll be asked to connect your Dropbox account to this service. (You can probably imagine what your options are when you visit the porn Videodropper. Let’s just say that that’s beyond the scope of this blog.) Following the link takes you to your Dropbox account where Dropbox asks if you’re okay letting the non-porn Videodropper add stuff to your Dropbox. Once you have granted permission you get bounced back to Videodropper.

Go to YouTube and choose the video you’d like to download. Copy the URL . Go back to to Videodropper and paste the URL into the box, and click “Send to Dropbox.” (Don’t use the link you get using the YouTube “Share” button. At this writing, Videodropper didn’t recognize the URL.)

Videodropper will acknowledge your request with this message.

“Test Your Awareness: Whodunnit?” is the name of the video I want downloaded. That link is clickable on the Videodropper page.

The video will be put in your main Dropbox folder. Once there, you can move it wherever you’d like. For me, the video was available in my account at, but it didn’t sync with my computer so it never appeared in my computer’s Dropbox folder. I had to download it from my account, then move it from my downloads folder into Dropbox, where, weirdly, it automatically earned the Dropbox green checkmark, acting like it was there all along. I then uploaded an image file to, just to see if I was having Dropbox issues, but that file synced into my computer’s Dropbox folder without incident.

Then I thought I’d try it again to see if it was a one-time issue. I went back to Videodropper, entered another YouTube URL and clicked “Send to Dropbox”. I was returned to the opening Videodropper page. Where I’m invited to log into Dropbox. So I click that again, and it takes me to where I just was, the screen that tells me my previous file was successfully added to my Dropbox account. I entered the URL again, and zing, back to the opening page I go. I was using Chrome to do this, so I thought maybe it’s a Chrome issue. Now I try Firefox, where I have the exact same experience.

One more browser: Internet Explorer.

I get some new options on the screen. Check out the “Download” and “Play Now” buttons. I’m hopeful.

I enter the new YouTube URL, cross my fingers, and click the partially-obscured “Send to Dropbox” button. And… back to the main Videodropper page I go.

In short, Videodropper only let me download a YouTube video to my Dropbox account once. Choose the video wisely. If you get it to work more than once, please let me know!

YouTube: Link to a Specific Time

Here’s a quick tip for YouTube users.

Let’s say that you’d like to show a YouTube video in class, live from the web. (See this post to learn how to download YouTube videos to your computer for viewing offline.) You link to it from your PowerPoint slide. Once your browser loads and the video begins to play, you remember that the first 5 minutes aren’t relevant to your lecture. You use the controls at the bottom of the video to advance to the spot.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just create a link to the YouTube video so that it would take you to the right spot in the video?

Pause the video where you want it to start, right click anywhere on the video screen, and select “Copy video URL at current time.” It will seem like nothing has happened, but the URL has been copied to your computer’s clipboard. Go to your PowerPoint slide (or anywhere else you want to paste it), and paste.

Here’s the link for this video at 5 seconds in, (For the curious, at the end of the link t=5s is what causes the video to start 5 seconds in.)

[Thanks to Amit Agarwal and his Digital Inspiration blog for this tip!]

Zamzar: Download TED Videos

Earlier this week I posted information on how to use to download YouTube videos. I’ve since had some inquiries from readers regarding downloading TED videos.

To download any video using, you need to locate the video file itself. With the TED videos, this takes a little extra effort.

Go to the webpage that displays the TED video you want to download. Click the red share button below the video. Then click the copy button next to “embed this video.”

Open Word, or your email program, or anything that will let you paste and view a healthy chunk of text. After copying the ’embed this video’ code, this is what I get when I paste it. Do not be frightened. If you wanted to put this video on your own webpage, say, inside your course management system, this code would do it. But since we want to download it, we only need to find one thing: The URL to the video file. You’re looking for something with a video file extension, like avi, flv, mp4, or wmv. TED uses Flash video, so the extension will be flv.

<object width=”446″ height=”326″><param name=”movie” value=””></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true” /><param name=”allowScriptAccess” value=”always”/><param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”></param><param name=”bgColor” value=”#ffffff”></param> <param name=”flashvars” value=”vu=;[Remaining code deleted.]

To download this video, go to, select the ‘Download Videos’ tab, and paste the highlighted URL above into step 1. Follow the rest of the steps, and the video will be downloaded to your computer to use when you’re offline.