Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip: Being Smarter with YouTube -- Turn Off the Lights

Many teachers & educators like to use YouTube and other video clips to support learning and instructional goals, but one of the downsides to showing a clip for an audience (via projector) is that sometimes you get content that you didn't necessarily want to display (especially if you're working with a class full of kids).  A typical YouTube clip has "suggested" videos on the sides, comments at the bottom, and other content like ads.  CNN.com and other sites with videos have similar layouts (extra content).

One easy solution if you're using the Chrome browser is to install the "Turn Off the Lights" extension (although it's available for other browsers as well). Once installed, the Turn Off the Lights icon -- which is a light bulb -- appears in the right side of your URL bar in Chrome (right next to the star or bookmark icon).  When you go to a YouTube window or an article with a video on a news site, you can click on the light bulb icon and it will darken everything on the screen except the clip, effectively hiding distracting or questionable content.

Before Turn Off the Lights is enabled
After Turn Off the Lights is enabled
You can also customize how this extension behaves with web pages & video clips.  Right-clicking on the icon will give you a menu with "Options."  For example, you can opt to leave certain parts of the YouTube page visible (like information about the clip), you can have customized backgrounds or effects, and you can also tell it to automatically dim whenever you go to a certain site. If you want to have students focus on certain parts of a page, you can have a spotlight effect so that your  mouse can "light up" certain parts of the page while the rest remains "lights out."

There are other tools that accomplish similar effects with video, but Turn Off the Lights is easy to use and has solid customization choices.  If you show videos to audiences and would like to focus their attention on the actual clip, it's a great option.

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