Downloading temporary offline copies of web videos with 4K Video Downloader

Up-front disclaimer: This post is being written to fulfill the terms of a promotion.

As an ESL teacher, I often show authentic videos in my classrooms. For example, recently, to complement a textbook unit whose theme was marketing and advertising, I showed an authentic video from YouTube in which a marketing consultant talked about the challenges which DVRs have introduced to television advertising.

However, I’m wary of trusting the reliability of video streaming websites. Buffers can freeze, connections can drop, and intrusive unskippable advertising can rob the class of 30 seconds or more. With those issues in mind, I prefer to download videos in advance rather than streaming them directly from the source website. Of course, this works most easily when the rights holder of the video provides a download feature and explicitly allows and encourages people to download copies for offline use. If I want to show my class a lecture from TED.com, for example, I can easily download it as an MP4 file for lag-free, bufferless, 100% reliable classroom viewing, because all TED talks are Creative Commons licensed for free distribution.

However, even when rights holders do not provide a download feature, it’s fair use to download a temporary copy of an authentic listening passage for classroom use. YouTube, the 800 pound gorilla of the online video world, does not offer an official downloading feature– presumably because many of the important rights holders of content on YouTube (such as music labels) forbid video downloads for commercial reasons. This is understandable, but the one-size-fits-all approach stymies educators’ fair use rights.

There are plenty of unofficial programs and web browser extensions which enable educators to download videos from YouTube, but my personal favorite is 4K Video Downloader by OpenMedia LLC. It’s a lightweight stand-alone application, which is great. By comparison, most other video downloader programs are installed as browser extensions– and I prefer not to weigh my web browser down with a bunch of extensions and plugins that aren’t needed 99% of the time.

Beyond the fact that it’s a quick, streamlined application, what I like about 4K Video Downloader is that once I’ve configured it to my desired settings (video resolution, output folder, etc), all I need to do is paste a YouTube link into the application to begin a download. From there, the program does its job quickly and reliably every time.

The advertising in the program is minimal, so I haven’t paid for the ad-free version. However, given the current free license promotion, I thought it would be worth it to say a few words about the program.

4/3/2 in the 21st Century: Formative Assessment of Fluency through Digital Recording

Hello, Three Rivers TESOL! See below for my presentation and related resources.


Abstract

Maurice (1983) pioneered a 4/3/2 fluency activity for intermediate to advanced learners in which each student speaks on the same topic three times in shrinking time frames: four minutes, three minutes, and finally two minutes. Shrinking the time frame places pressure on students to use time economically by avoiding hesitations and increasing fluency of speech. While Maurice’s original activity had students speaking with partners and involved little teacher or student assessment of performance, the ubiquity of cheap digital recording technology (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) enables teachers of the 21st century to reconstruct the activity as a formative self-assessment with teacher feedback.

In my version of the activity, students watch a humorous short film full of concrete, reportable events two times (Eggleston, 2000). Students then record themselves narrating the events of the film for two minutes, after which they listen to the recording to notice their hesitations and self-assess their fluency. Students then record the same narration in one minute thirty seconds, followed by listening and self-assessment. Finally, students record the narration in one minute and again listen and self-assess. Students discuss and reflect upon their experiences, especially on the extent of self-perceived improvement. The teacher collects the final recording in order to review it and provide written feedback targeting hesitations, word linking, or other fluency-related performance targets.

Works cited:


Here are some more videos appropriate for this activity:

Four short videos to help your language students improve their fluency

Enjoy!

Efficiency is overrated: the importance of resilience in classroom tech

As excited as I get about the possibilities of new technologies and cloud services, one lesson I’ve never allowed myself to forget is the importance of contingency planning. All the efficiency in the world is worth nothing if you don’t also have resilience.

For example, videorecording is incredibly efficient and effective. In principle, on days during which my students give speeches, I could just set up a videorecorder on a tripod, hit the “Record” button, and walk out for the day. However, if the recorder failed, I would be completely unable to assess my students’ performance! There’s no resilience in that setup. So when I do videorecord important student speeches, I use two video recording devices while simultaneously taking fastidious notes. (I also used to have an audio recorder going at the same time, but even I had to admit that that was overkill!)

Current case in point: an ELI student has to give an important presentation later today, but his USB drive containing his PowerPoint file failed. A teacher sent him to me to see what help I could give him. Upon plugging in the USB drive, I saw that the file allocation table had likely been damaged, because the system was unable to mount the drive despite being able to detect it.

I reformatted the drive and began running Recuva on it. As I type this, the process is 54% complete, with an estimated time left of 10 minutes. Here’s the screenshot I took a bit earlier:

There are no guarantees, but Recuva is pretty darn good at rooting out lost files.
There are no guarantees, but Recuva is pretty darn good at rooting out lost files.

Hopefully we’ll be able to get this student up and running! All of his files will be jumbled up and possibly unnamed, but with a bit of luck, we’ll at least be able to find the PowerPoint file.

So to go back to my original point: using a single USB drive is pretty darn efficient, but it’s not so resilient. If I were in that student’s shoes, I would have copied the presentation onto two USB flash drives; I would have made it available online, preferably accessible via a bit.ly URL; and as a last resort, I would have paper handouts of the slides ready to go as well. Tap-dancing due to technical issues is never pleasant, but if you make sure to plan resiliently, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that if Plan A doesn’t work, you still have Plans B and C to fall back on.

(Incidentally, this topic reminds me of one of the most embarrassing moments of my grad student career: I made a mistake while photocopying my handout for a presentation. The original printed copy was two-sided, but I absent-mindedly set the photocopier to “one-sided to two-sided” mode, effectively deleting half of my handout’s pages! And the first I knew of it was when someone in my audience raised their hand and said there was a problem with the handout. I learned a big lesson that day: always, always double-check your handouts!)


 

Postscript: The ending to this story wasn’t as happy as I’d hoped it would be. I was able to recover tons of files, but they were all images, videos, and sound files. Recuva did not detect any PowerPoints or other documents. Oh well.

Building and Sustaining Classroom Community Through Technology (“What I learned at TESOL” series)

In this video, Hillary Schepps presents work by Bophany Huit & Denise Maduli-Williams on using technology to foster a classroom community. This presentation was part of a series of short talks given at the University of Pittsburgh English Language Institute. Participants shared interesting material they had encountered at the TESOL 2014 convention.

Hillary’s notes follow:

Talk originally given by Bophany Huit & Denise Maduli-Williams (City College of San Francisco, USA) at the 2014 TESOL Convention on March 27 in Portland, OR.

http://tinyurl.com/TESOL2014HuotMaduli

Before the class starts:

 

Day 1:

  • Cell phone policy
  • Breaking free of the classic icebreaker with your Smartphone

 

During the semester:

  • Use Courseweb for discussion board, e.g. “Your life in six words”
  • http://voicethread.com for videos and spoken discussions
  • http://www.blogger.com for weblog; share videos, photos, and text
  • Surveys: immediate feedback and 3-2-1

 

After the class ends:

  • Keeping in touch with Twitter

 

Useful websites:

 

Useful Apps:

  • Google Translate
  • Photocircle
  • Voice Memos
  • iTunes U
  • Skitch