Geek Alert! - Warning: This post is pretty tech-geeky (unless you actually know something about computers, in which case, you'll wonder why I'm making such a big deal out of something so simple...)
I teach a Computer Applications class to 7th and 8th graders as an IA. It is a half-year class. For the first marking period of the class, the students do a lot of exploration and learn a bit about doing internet searches, editing photos and sounds, using PowerPoint, word-processing and other basic computer applications. For the second half of the course, I have each student choose a topic, then build a project that includes aspects of everything he or she has learned over the course so far. This generally means a PowerPoint that showcases other types of work.
One of my 8th graders is fascinated by a one-celled organism called euglena. This particular student is extremely tech-savvy and enthusiastic. (He knows much more than I do about many computer applications.) While searching online, he found a website with a short movie featuring these one-celled organisms. He really wanted to include this movie in his PowerPoint. (I don't have a problem with that, as long as he cites his source - he's not going to try to make money with this or anything.)
Unfortunately, this was easier said than done:
The website simply has a window that shows the movie. When you go there, a box appears in the middle of the screen and a moment later, there is a short movie running there. There aren't any options for downloading the video.
I addressed this in a typically over-elaborate and complicated way. There is a command called "View Source" that allows you to read the computer code that a webpage is written in. (See the picture on the right.) By reading the code, this student and I found out the actual filename of the video, then used Zamzar to convert and download it. (See previous post for information on Zamzar.)
It was only later, that I realized there was a simpler way of doing this.
I could have just right-clicked.
On the any pc-type computer mouse, there are usually two buttons. the "left-click" button that you almost always use with your index finger and the mysterious, almost threatening button on the right that most computer users never use and try to avoid because it confuses them.
The right click is your secret best friend.
Clicking anything with that right-hand button will open up a window of options in any given situation that you never dreamed about.
Including, in this case, the option to just download the darn video without having to search through all that code.
(As it turns out, though, this particular movie is a Quicktime movie - meaning that it is Apple-based. PowerPoint is PC-based and the two don't get along. I would have still needed to use Zamzar to convert the Quicktime movie (.mov) to a format more suitable for PowerPoint (.mpg). Did I just make your eyes glaze over? I'm really, really sorry. I'll try not to do that again.)
Once I had actually downloaded the euglena video though, there was a second problem - it was an insanely large file. Yes, the video was "short" compared to Citizen Kane or something, but it was over nine minutes long and really, really huge - 26 megabites: way too big to fit easily into a PowerPoint presentation.
There had to be another way of finding euglena video footage that was a little more user friendly.
As it turns out, there was. Is. Er... whatever...
On a whim, I looked up the word "Euglena" on YouTube. "What are the odds," I asked myself, "that anyone would be geeky enough to actually post footage of a single-celled animal-like alga on YouTube?"*
As it turns out, quite a few. My student and I are somewhat spoiled for choice vis-avis euglenic video footage.
So I guess the main lesson to be learned from all this is, K.I.S.S. - "Keep It Simple, Student". Or Teacher. Er...whatever...
* When I asked my wife this question, she pointed out, "You would."
Sadly, she's right.