Although there is clearly a lot of junk on YouTube, I continue to be amazed (admittedly at the infrequent times I am able to explore the site) at the high quality of some of the videos hosted there.

For a few months I’ve been downloading FLV (Flash-player) versions of YouTube videos so I have them offline to use and play during educational workshops. There are undoubtedly other ways to “grab” (download) videos from YouTube, but these are the primary ways I know to do accomplish that goal in my order of preference (as explained below):

  • The free Unplug plugin for FireFox lets you download/save embedded FLV or other media files on any webpage, YouTube or otherwise. (I love the fact this solution is free and cross-platform.)
  • The YouTube downloader is a free website you can use to enter the URL of a YouTube video, and then download the FLV file to your hard drive. (Again free and cross-platform since it’s web-based, but it just works with YouTube, not other sites like TeacherTube.)
  • ZamZar is a free website letting you download videos embedded on different sites, like YouTube. I have just used this once or twice. I’ve heard some people complain the ending of their videos are sometimes clipped off when they use ZamZar, but I haven’t experienced that problem.
  • TubeTV is free Macintosh-only software for downloading YouTube and Google Video files, and converting them into formats compatible with iPods and Apple TV.
  • TubeSock is Macintosh and Windows software for downloading YouTube videos. ($15 commercial software)

Do you know of other good solutions? Armed with a USB flash drive, videos from YouTube or other websites can be downloaded with software or websites like those above and brought to school for use by teachers as well as students. (That’s right, students too.) Does that scare you? Did you know the iPhone has a specific application for directly watching YouTube videos, over an available 802.11 wireless network OR over the available EDGE cellular network completely OUTSIDE the school’s content filter?

User created content is NOT going away in the 21st century. It is and will continue to grow at a geometric rate. Do the administrators in your school district understand this? Does your school board? Are they discussing this now, and how they are going to work with teachers as well as parents and students to create accountable cultures at school and outside in the wider community for all behavior, both offline and online? Or, are they (like most school groups I work with) basically just blocking YouTube and other user-created content sites and hoping this “problem” is going to go away? Do your school policies support the goal of helping students learn to “become the web filter?!” If not, they should.

In many cases, we not only need better policies, we need more conversations.

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