Laura Gibbs

The Power of Playlists PLUS the Power of Random!

Blog Post created by Laura Gibbs on Dec 31, 2017

I'll be gone next week, so I've actually spent this last weekend of 2017 finishing up some materials for my Spring classes, and I wanted to write up one more blog post here to share something about the power of YouTube playlists (see previous post also: Video Libraries: YouTube, Embedding, RSS & Canvas).


The Playlists. I've reorganized and updated four playlists that I use for my classes: Growth Mindset, HEART, Writing, and Indian Music (those links go to the YouTube playlist display). Each of the Growth Mindset, HEART, and Writing videos has a blog post that goes with it because I use those as challenges for different kinds of class assignments, but the Indian Music videos are just a regular playlist for enjoyment. I embed each of those playlists in the class website that they go with (Mindset, HEART, Writing Lab, and Indian Reading). There are lots more videos I want to add, so if I have some spare time in the weeks to come, I'll be adding some new videos that I've got bookmarked.


Refreshing the Playlists. First thing each morning, I just pop a new video up to the top of each playlist (it takes less than a minute to do that for all four of them), so that means there is a new video on display each day in each of those class blogs. Same blog, same playlist... but a new video on display because the embedded playlist starts at the top of the list.


Class Announcements. But what about my Class Announcements blog? I don't want to put all four videos in the sidebar... that would take up too much space. But I do want to feature the videos in the sidebar somehow. So, I created a randomizer to do that! It's a simple randomizer: just an HTML table with four rows, and in the content column I put the same sidebar widget content at each of the four separate blogs. I use to turn my HTML table into a randomizing javascript, and I put that in the sidebar of the Class Announcements blog. Now, at random, students will see one of those four playlists displayed each time they visit the class announcements! Screenshot:


class announcements screenshot


I also created an iframe version that works in Canvas, not so much because anybody else would want to use it (especially with the Indian Music, the content is very specific to my classes), but more just as an example of how this can work in Canvas. You can see it in action at the Widget Warehouse: Combo Playlists. Here's a screenshot:


combo playlist widget screenshot


I used the 200-pixel version for the sidebar of my blogs (and the videos are indeed playable in that small version), but for the Canvas version, I created a 400-pixel-wide version (you could create an even wider version if you want, of course; the YouTube default is currently 560 pixels, and you can adjust that however you want). As you can see, the video is fully playable right there in Canvas, and I've also got a link to take students to the playlist itself (I prefer the old playlist display, where it's possible to put a note with each item):


Happy! Okay, I need to go pack for my trip so I am not going to get into any more nitty-gritty details of how this works, but if you have questions, let me know, and I'll be glad to write out something more like a step by step explanation. For now, I will just say that I am really happy for how this is working: you never know just when a student might connect with a given video and use it to learn something new, and I like using the power of playlists AND the power of random to try to increase the chances that this might happen for my students next semester!


The playlist I worked on the most today was the Writing Lab one so I will close with one of the creativity videos I included there, an RSA-Animate from Matthew Taylor: enjoy!