A Blackboard 9 – YouTube Mashup Problem

As of this writing (January 28, 2011) the YouTube Mashup tool in Blackboard version 9.1 (at least our implementation of it) is broken.  If you attempt to add a YouTube Mashup to a content area–or if your or your students attempt to add it through the visual textbox editor, you will receive the following error.

It does not matter whether you attempt to find the YouTube video using search terms, or search directly on the video URL, you will receive this error.  End of story.

It is pure speculation on our part–though perhaps not unfounded–but we believe the cause must be that YouTube has made certain changes to their API and Blackboard has not yet addressed those changes.  At least, as I say, in the implementation we are running.  These are matters for developers, not normal mortals.  We simply live with the consequences.  Any videos you have embedded using the Mashup tool prior to this change will still work, but until it is fixed by Blackboard, you will not be able to use the Mashup tool to add new YouTube video content.

There is, however a workaround, but with a caveat.

YouTube has also changed the default embed code they use,switching from the old flash object code to code that uses an iframe.  You will find it documented at the YouTube API blog.

Do not use this iframe embed code to embed YouTube videos in a Blackboard content area.  It will break the page in unpredictable ways,from, at the very least, making menus inaccessible, to, at worst–at least the worst we have seen so far–making content areas uncontrollable and breaking access to items within content areas.  Whatever you think of iframes, they do not play nice in Blackboard, at least not for now, so do not use them.

The workaround that does seem to work is to use the object code, which is still available from YouTube, but you need to look closely to know how to get it.

When you click the Embed button at YouTube, beneath the code the checkbox for suppressing the related videos, etc. appears, and a new item has been added to it that says “Use old embed code.”

Select it, and deselect the “Include related videos” box.  Set the player size option you want, and then copy the object embed code.  This code you will be able to successfully embed in Blackboard as you always could.

Here is a screen video that explains in detail the problem and temporary workaround.

Convert Embedded YouTube to Thumbnail in Bb9

Here is the post I intended to blog on yesterday.  The video below describes how to take a YouTube video that you have embedded in a Blackboard content area as a full player–that is, where you have pasted the object code into Blackboard 8 so that they player displays in a content area and then have imported that content into Blackboard 9–and convert it to the new Blackboard 9 thumbnail view, which is a much better way to “embed” videos.  It is not really a matter of conversion as it is of recreation, as you will see:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.7333776&w=425&h=350&fv=thumb%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Fe86e3681-251a-4a4b-9882-0624f2dfedcc%2FFirstFrame.jpg%26containerwidth%3D640%26containerheight%3D386%26content%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Fe86e3681-251a-4a4b-9882-0624f2dfedcc%2FYouTube02.mp4%26blurover%3Dfalse]

How to Embed aYouTube Video in Blackboard 9

Even though the Blackboard 9 Learning On-Demand web site has a pretty good video on embedding a YouTube video using the new mashup tool, I have decided to make my own.  Not because it needs more explanation or is particularly difficult, though a little more explanation is useful, but because what I really want to get at–and will post on tomorrow–is how to convert the already embedded YouTubes you have in your imported Bb 9 courses to the new thumbnail view, which I think is far superior to the old fully embedded view.  In order to get there, however, I felt that a foundational video on how to embed a video in Bb 9 in the first place was in order.  Enjoy the video and stay tuned for tomorrow’s post (Play time = 6:27):

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.7327852&w=425&h=350&fv=quality%3Dhigh%26bgcolor%3D%23FFFFFF%26thumb%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Ff149d00d-9042-4f92-9f53-38541fbb413d%2FFirstFrame.jpg%26containerwidth%3D640%26containerheight%3D389%26content%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Ff149d00d-9042-4f92-9f53-38541fbb413d%2FBb9YouTube01.mp4%26blurover%3Dfalse%26allowfullscreen%3D]

Create a video from your PowerPoint 2010 presentation

This post will briefly describe how to create a video from the new built-in tools in PowerPoint 2010.  There are other ways to get PowerPoint on the web, but since PowerPoint is meant to be a speaker’s aid, it is best that your narration and the movement associated with each slide–its animations, effects and transitions–be displayed to the online student via video.

First, it goes without saying, create your PowerPoint presentation.  Open it in PowerPoint 2010.  If it was created with an older version of the program, click File > Convert to convert it to the new file format.

Narrate your presentation.  That is, sit in some comfortable environment where there is not a lot of ambient sound and give your presentation just as you would if speaking to a class.  Use the Slide Show menu to get this started.

After you finish narrating–remember that you can return to the Slide Show > Record Slide Show command to Clear previous attempts and try again–click on the File tab > Save & Send > Create a Video.

Now, configure the video.

You must first choose a resolution.  These are your choices:

Next, tell PowerPoint to use the timings and narrations you have just recorded.  (Don’t be confused by that dialog that says”Seconds to spend on each slide” followed by the 5.00 control.  This will only apply if you choose NOT to use your own narrations and timings.

Now click Create Video.  You will have to specify what to call the file and where to put it on your system (and it is wise to include the resolution you have chosen in the file name), and then your computer will go to work.  Get a cup of copy because video production is processor intensive and will take a good long time, depending on the resolution you have chosen and the length of your presentation and narrative.  Several short videos are better than one long one.

You will see a progress bar in the status bar of PowerPoint to indicate how it is getting along.

That’s it!  You now have a WMV version of your presentation including your narration and animations.  Place it where your students can get at it.  If you work at Palomar College,we recommend you place it in your Palomar web space and create an external link to it in your Blackboard course.  Alternatively,you could always upload it to YouTube and simply link out to it or embed it in Blackboard or anywhere else you wish.

I think you will agree it is a great new tool and has the potential for bringing your PowerPoints on the web to life.

Here is a YouTube example I created for this post.

Tech Camp Agenda

Summer Tech Camp, August 3-6We will be conducting our annual summer tech camp August 3-6.  Don’t bother signing up because it is fully subscribed.  (Sorry).  It is still over 5 weeks away, but I thought I would review the tentative agenda we have pretty much agreed on so that attendees, and perhaps those planning similar events at other schools, will have some insight into what we are doing.

Our inspiration for tech camp this year is the TED talks concept.  If you are not familiar with ted.com, rush to that web site without delay to be exposed to the best and brightest people in the world in the fields of technology, entertainment and design (T. E. D.).  These “fields” are interpreted very broadly, so that many scientists (and after all, what science does not embrace technology), philosophers (or perhaps “thinkers” is the better modern term), philanthropists, even politicians,are included.  What TED does is give people 18 minutes (or less,or on rare occasions somewhat more) to present their best ideas.  The presentations are fun, dynamic, often enthralling, always enlightening, and sometimes profound.  What they share in common is the use of projected images, video and dynamic speech to present ideas or tell great stories.

In tech camp, therefore, our goal will be to create a 10-15 minute presentation–no more, sorry, professional talkers–just like a TED talk where professors will take a concept they want to present to their students and develop it using technology tools.  Here are the rules for the talk.  It must:

  • Use PowerPoint as a presentation tool
  • Include pictures and other graphics
  • Include PowerPoint animations
  • Have an embedded video (think YouTube) or a Google Earth tour
  • Include a self-produced video (we will be using Flip video cameras)
  • Include a chart or charts illustrating data points, if appropriate, or SmartArt illustrating a concept, or both
  • Have an accompanying illustrated handout created in Word and saved as a PDF
  • Have a Blackboard component containing the teaching materials developed during the talk
  • Not to exceed 15 minutes

Four days sounds like a lot to dedicate to the development of a 15 minute talk, but when you understand that you must also learn various technology tools along the way, and describing it as I have above, it sounds more like a challenge.  We hope it will also be fun and interesting.  Most of all, we hope what you learn, and what you develop, will translate into a great learning experience for your students.

My colleague Dr. Haydn Davis will be contacting all participants sometime over the next month to clue them all in directly and provide more details, but for those who just can’t wait, I have sketched out the order of events below.


First and foremost you must decide on the topic of your presentation BEFORE tech camp begins.  Put on your thinking caps.  Is there a difficult concept you teach that needs an in depth explication?  Or is there something you are keenly interested in and would like to communicate in a dynamic way?  Whatever you wish to present on, you must come pre-armed with your concepts.

You will also need accounts with the following web services:

  • YouTube
  • MS Live, with an MS Live SkyDrive
  • Jing/screencast.com
  • Twitter

Day 1 (Aug. 3)

On Day 1 we will show a couple of brief TED talks, and then present one of our own that will become the basis of our workshop activities over the four days of camp.  Throughout camp we will be asking you to Tweet spontaneously (this will be managed by Tweetmaster D – of our staff).  We will also be asking participants to blog about their camp experiences in a camp blog.  Don’t worry, this will all be explained when you get here.  Rest assured there will be prizes for best Tweet and best blog entry each day.

We will launch into activities by first covering computer basic basics.  Yes, you heard me.  It is often the most basic concepts about file management, keyboard shortcuts, saving and manipulating files, and keeping track of URLs that cause us the most difficulties.  So we will take the time to cover these briefly.  We will be using Windows 7 and be saving materials to USB flash drives (we are going to give you one) and SkyDrives.

We also want you to know about the Palomar resources available to you.  So Chris Norcross will guide you in access to your:

  • Blackboard site
  • Web space
  • SkyDrive
  • Media respositories

During lunch each day (the camp will be catered), after eating, we will have a lunchtime presentation.  On day 1 there will be two brief ones.  One on Twitter, by Tweetmaster D, and one on Evernote–a browser-based note taking program–by Chris Norcross.

The afternoon of day 1 will be given over to instruction in web search technology and resources, the idea being that you will be doing research for your presentations on the web.  We will cover:

  • Google search – sites, images, news, maps, videos
  • Google blog search
  • Google Book Search
  • Library (our own library) journal database searches and links
  • Google data inspector
  • WolframAlpha – a powerful, scientific search tool unlike anything you have used

To close day one we will devote time to learning how to use Jing and screencast.com to capture images and videos.  We will also do a quick demo of SnagIt, a super powered screen capture tool.

At the end of each day there will be valuable technology giveaways relevant to the topics taught that day.  I don’t want to reveal at this time the exact prizes, but you will be pleased.  On day four we will base the giveaways on best presentations.

As with all worthwhile academic enterprises, there will be homework assignments.

Day 2 (Aug. 4)

Still with me?  Day 2 will be given over to instruction on how to use PowerPoint and how to use the Flip video cameras.  Even if you are an old PowerPoint hand, there will be something new for you here because we will be using the Office 2010 version of PowerPoint, with many new, slick features.  The first brief session will be dedicated to PowerPoint basics and familiarizing ourselves with the new 2010 features, the second will emphasize animation and video embedding.  I will conduct the PowerPoint sessions.

Using Flip video cameras is great fun.  David will conduct the Flip workshop.  At lunch on day 2 Haydn will be presenting on Using YouTube.  At the close of the day we will ask you to record a video introduction to your presentation.

Homework will be to complete gathering all materials for your presentation.

Day 3 (Aug. 5)

On day 3 we will concentrate on the accouterments of your presentation.  I will present a one-hour workshop on Word 2010, with emphasis on producing your presentation handout.  A well formatted, illustrated handout will be our goal, saved as a PDF document in order to upload it to Blackboard.

The rest of day 3 will be given over to using Blackboard itself, and particularly using Blackboard in the context of the presentation you will be building.  During lunch Haydn will be presenting on “Cool Blackboard Features of which you were unaware.”  However unlikely it seems that the words “cool” and “Blackboard” could be used in the same sentence, Haydn promises to surprise us.

Day 4 (Aug. 6)

Day 4 is presentation day.  We will begin with a couple of demos on PowerPoint techniques and a session of using Camtasia, a screen video program that is amazing.  We will then split up for an hour-and-a-half into one of three tracks:

  1. Independent work with staff assistance in order to finish work on your presentations
  2. Hands-on Camtasia work, for those who wish to make a screen video out of their presentation
  3. Hands-on Google Earth work, for those who wish to include Google Earth assets in their presentation, or are just curious about this great program and have finished up work on the presentation.

During lunch on day 4, I will give a quick demo of some of the great features of Google Earth.

Finally, on the afternoon of day 4 we will ask for 6 presentations from workshop attendees.  As they are presented, we will make Camtasia movies out of them, for later use in Blackboard.  Prizes will be given for the two best presentations with additional prizes in other categories.

That’s pretty much it.  It should be a fun and full four days.  Watch your inboxes because Haydn will be contacting you soon.

The Great Haydini

Flip video cameraLast Friday we conducted a really fun workshop on using the Flip video camera.  The workshop was also supposed to have also contained a module on using Windows Live Movie Maker to edit together several  videos, but, of course, there was not enough time to include that element in a 2-hour format.  This post will concentrate on lessons learned, and give a little advice to those who might want to use the Flip video camera for academic projects.  Tomorrow I will post the various “how-to” screen videos related to the Flip camera itself, using the FlipShare software that comes with it, and using Windows Live Movie Maker–for those who wanted to see an example.  First, sit back, relax, and prepare to be amazed by Dr. Haydn Davis, Professor of Magic and Mystery:

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.5475383&w=425&h=350&fv=thumb%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Fb4fb6ba0-96b3-4542-b97c-0e946d3b8c27%2FFirstFrame.jpg%26containerwidth%3D640%26containerheight%3D480%26content%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fcontent.screencast.com%2Fusers%2FTerryPalomar%2Ffolders%2FDefault%2Fmedia%2Fb4fb6ba0-96b3-4542-b97c-0e946d3b8c27%2FFinalMagic.mp4]

If you care a great deal about video quality, you are no longer reading this post.  For the other 99% of us,here is the story.

The workshop was intended for those who had never used the Flip video camera before,but were curious and were equally curious about its use in academic settings.  The Great Haydini stunt was done so that they would all have something to photograph.  I edited the video presented here from three separate cameras.  The quality is not great.  True.  It could be much better.  True.  But it does get the point across, which should be take-away lesson number 1.  The Flip is exceedingly easy to use and makes it easy to quickly capture, edit (in very basic ways) and upload video to YouTube or, in this case, a video service of my choice:  screencast.com (presented here via VodPod).

Before the participants were given the cameras to use–and I was very surprised to find that three of them actually brought their own Flip video cameras to the workshop, and a much earlier version than the Flip Mino I expected to use in the workshop–they were shown an introductory video on using the Flip.  The video discussed a few basic dos and don’ts, like do turn on the camera and give it a little pre-roll time before beginning to shoot your subject, and don’t shoot into a backlit sccene (like someone standing in front of a bright window) and don’t wear stripes or checks unless you want those hallucinogenic Moiré effects.  What the video does not discuss are maybe the two most important take-away lessons from our workshop related to using the Flip camera:

1.  The audio it picks up from across a room is not great.

2.  The camera’s field of vision is rather narrow.  In order to take in a wide scene (more than a simple head shot) you need to be far away enough from the subject to make number 1 a problem.

For the sake of the movie above, I had to enhance the sound in a video editing program.  The audio levels as they came from the camera were unacceptably low, and there certainly is no audio enhance features in the very basic editing software that comes with the Flip.

With those two points out of the way (but not forgotten) the Flip was a big hit and is a terrific product.  Our department checks out Flip cameras to faculty members for their student projects, and we’ve seen some excellent ones.  The cameras are so easy to use.  Believe it or not, there is not a single word on the back of the Flip camera where the controls are located–they are that universally designed.

We currently distribute two models of the Flip camera, the original Ultra and the Mino.  This semester we hope to add another crop of MinoHD models to our circulating inventory.  The primary difference between the Ultra and Mino is that the Mino contains a sealed battery charged via USB, while the Ultra runs on AA batteries which need to be swapped out periodically.  To find out more, take a look at the outstanding specs page at the Flip camera web site.

The most problematic part of the workshop, in fact, did not involve the Flip camera at all, but rather YouTube.  One of the exercises we planned (and actually performed) was to upload each individual’s Great Haydini video to YouTube.  Before that could happen, all but a couple of the workshop attendees had to create a YouTube account.  My advice to those planning a Flip workshop is to communicate with your participants in advance, if possible, and request that they make their YouTube accounts before the workshop begins.  What seems so simple in the office gets tangled in the classroom.  We had to spend about half an hour on this activity rather than on the more substantial learning activies we had planned (like learning a bit about Live Windows Movie Maker).

After YouTube account creation, the next most problematic part of the workshop involved those cameras that individuals brought to the workshop.  I did not realize that they would be bringing them, but that’s not a big deal, since we are used to improvising during our workshops.  What was a big deal was that the owners of those cameras had never connected them to a computer, and therefore never updated the software on them.  They all had the ancient MuVee software on them–the software that came on the first generation of Flip cameras–rather than the much more sophisticated (and easy to use) FlipShare software that now comes on the cameras.  We had to get them connected, but could not take the time to update them.  We ended up then, having to use two sets of slightly different software, which made for a bit of confusion.  The moral of the story is, once again, anticipate that attendees may bring their own cameras, and ask that they update them in advance–or at least make time for them to come early and attended an upgrade session so the rest of the class will not be affected.

I don’t want to give the impression that it was not a successful workshop, or that the attendees did not have a positive experience.  I believe most were happy with the way things went.  I will say, however, that we learned some practical lessons about how to go about presenting one of these workshops, including scaling back the agenda to concentrate on the camera, photography, and the FlipShare software in part 1, and add a second workshop for editing the footage using Movie Maker or some other video editing product, and to devote a little time to free software that could be used to enhance audio.