Laura Gibbs

Video Libraries: YouTube, Embedding, RSS & Canvas

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Dec 21, 2017

I had an intriguing back-and-forth with someone at Google+ yesterday where I was complaining about how the LMSes (including Canvas) were not built with content management as a central feature; instead, content management features are secondary to enrollment management, which is why we have "new" courses every semester (because there are new students), as opposed to the idea of true course spaces that would persist from semester to semester, while students come and go. The result encourages content copying instead of real content management; every semester, instructors log on to their LMS, see their new, empty courses, and they dutifully copy content from a past iteration of the course. I won't get into the gorey details but, suffice to say, that is NOT a good way to management content.


Because the LMS is not a good place to develop content over the long run, I have never kept content in the LMS (not in WebCT, not in Blackboard, not in D2L, and not in Canvas... yes, I am an online teaching dinosaur who has survived one LMS after another). What makes Canvas different, though, is that Canvas is open and puts a premium on connecting with other tools, so I can use real tools to develop and maintain my content, and then use Canvas to deploy that content inside a Canvas course space. I don't upload content to Canvas... but I can display that content inside Canvas, while also being able to display it outside of Canvas and share it widely on the real Internet.


I have lots of different kinds of content that I create and manage, and as an example I thought I would write here about how I build and maintain YouTube video libraries. I just finished working on my Growth Mindset collection of videos (removing ones that didn't really seem to click with students, adding new ones that I hope they will like), and I am sure everybody can find some YouTube resources that are valuable to them. So, I am going to give an overview here of how I create and build YouTube video libraries, and how I display that in Canvas and elsewhere.


I'll start off with the options for displaying in Canvas! I've created a Growth Mindset Canvas course (open!),


screenshot of canvas course


and you'll see a YouTube playlist right there on the front page. It displays the current contents of the playlist, so as I add new videos and/or rearrange the videos, that new content will display there automatically in Canvas; I don't have to do anything. You can watch the video that comes first, or you can browse through the list right there in the embedded playlist, moving to the video you want to watch, etc. (And yes, that's a random cat below the playlist, so those are both pieces of dynamic content right there on the homepage... neither of which is "in" Canvas; the playlist is an example of embedding, and the random cats are a javascript.)


I also have a Diigo Library which shows the latest items I have collected to share with my students — videos, along with articles at other websites, plus infographics that I have transcribed at my own blog. Here's what it looks like in Canvas at the moment:


screenshot of Diigo Library


I say at the moment because this is a live stream; it changes automatically whenever I add something to the Diigo stream: a new article online, a new video, or a new infographic that I've transcribed.


The two technologies that make this possible are embedding (the YouTube playlist is embedded) and RSS (the content that comes from Diigo is a form of RSS, which is most commonly associated with blogs but which you can also find at other websites like Diigo and here at our own Jive Community platform).


And here's my workflow that lets me take advantage of both embedding and RSS:


1. Find videos. I bookmark videos all the time with Diigo. If there is any chance at all I think I might use a video, I bookmark it with the tag #dovideo. Then, later on when I have time (like now!), I go through the things I bookmarked to see what I really want to use.


2. Blog the best videos. When I find a good video I want to use, I create a blog post for it at my Growth Mindset blog and embed the video in the blog post. For my purposes, having the blog post is very useful: I can include a link to a transcript, along with additional information that will help my students put the video in context. Over time, I can go back and add more to the blog post, especially when I see what the students think of the video, what intrigues them most about it, etc.


3. Record in spreadsheet. I then put the blog post URL and title in a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is the key to being able to keep track of the resource and to re-use it in lots of different ways. I keep ALL my class videos in this spreadsheet. That allows me to use a video every day in the class announcements (in Canvas), using the spreadsheet to keep track of which videos I've used so far in the semester, etc.


4. Bookmark in Diigo. I then bookmark the blog post in Diigo. Diigo is kind of like my "catalog" of stuff, and the tags in Diigo allow me to sort and filter, displaying customized lists of resources to students without having to actually create the list: I just select the relevant tags that generate the list I want. I make sure to include a brief annotation, along with a thumbnail image; the images help students differentiate one item on the list from another. So, for example, one of the Growth Mindset Challenges is to choose a video and write about it, and the students browse the Video Library at Diigo to find the video they want to watch. Here is that video assignment; and here is the Diigo Video Library that students use to complete that assignment. 


5. Inoreader. Inoreader automatically harvests my new items from Diigo and displays them wherever I have put the Inoreader RSS-to-HTML feed, like in the Canvas course page:  Diigo Library. I don't have to do anything; it's automatic.


6. Playlist. I add the video to the YouTube playlist, along with a note that contains the link to the blog post. I wish YouTube Playlists had been support for annotations and links, but it works good enough for my purposes. A few times a week, I "jiggle" the playlist, moving the oldest video up to the top. That way, it refreshes the content wherever the playlist is embedded, like in the Canvas course, or in the sidebar of my blogs where I might have embedded the playlist. It takes just a second to pop a new video up to the top and, presto, that changes the playlist display everywhere it's embedded, like in the sidebar of my growth mindhset blog. Or wherever anyone has embedded it: there's nothing private about it. Feel free to snag the videos yourself and use them in your own playlists! I've written more about YouTube Playlists in Canvas here and in a CanvasLIVE:

Amplify YouTube with Playlists 


Although that looks complicated, it takes just a few minutes to add a new video to my collection: blog it, bookmark it, add it to the playlist. Less than 10 minutes, based on whether or not I re-watch the video as part of the process — I sang along to the Shakira video while I was blogging about it today for example. :-)


All the rest is digital magic provided by the tools I am using... and I am very glad that Canvas plays so nicely with those tools, allowing me to show content in Canvas if I want, while also allowing me to display that same content wherever I want out on the wide world of the Internet itself.


And notice: I embedded the video from my playlist here... so you have access to the whole playlist catalog there in the upper left-hand corner: go wild! Try everything! :-)