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Friday, January 24, 2014

A Quick Way to See If a Website Is Down For Others or Just You

Down - get it? 
A brief Twitter exchange that I had this afternoon with Mark Barnes reminded me of a handy site that I use on a fairly regular basis. Down For Everyone Or Just Me? will tell you if a site that you're trying to visit is down or not. To use the site just enter the name of a site into the search tool on Down For Everyone Or Just Me? and you will quickly get a yes or no answer.

Applications for Education
The next time you try a site in your classroom and the kids say to you, "it's not working" put the site's address into Down For Everyone Or Just Me? to see if the problem lies with the site or with your school's filters.

Get a Summary of Information About Sites in Google Search Results

Through Dan Russell's excellent Search ReSearch blog I learned that Google has recently added a potentially helpful new aspect to the search results page. Now when you view your search results page you will see the titles of some sites in gray text next to the URL. When you see that gray text click the little drop-down menu to see a brief summary about the owner of the site. For example, in the screenshot below you will see that when I clicked on the gray link next to Washington Post it opened a bit of information about the Washington Post.

Applications for Education
Right now the new summary tool doesn't appear next to every result. In my testing it seems to only appear next to large, well-known sites. In the future it could be a good tool for helping students understand who is behind a website and account for that in evaluating the quality of a site.

On a related note, your students can also find out who is behind a site by looking at the WHOIS information for a site. Students can run a WHOIS search using Go Daddy, Whois.net, or Whois-Search to see who has registered the domain. When there isn't a proxy in place it's easy to locate the contact information (email, phone, fax, mail) for the person or organization that registered the domain. In some cases the person or organization that registered the domain might have used a proxy to hide their contact information. If that is the case it can be hard to find the contact information. Likewise, a Whois search will not work for subdomains. An example of a blog on a subdomain is supermom.blogspot.com.

QuickCast Arrives in the Mac App Store

QuickCast is a free screencasting tool that I initially tried a few months ago. This week QuickCast became an official Mac app that you can download for free from the Mac App Store.

Like most screencasting apps QuickCast allows you to capture all or part of your screen while you talk. Your recordings can be saved directly to your computer and or shared online through the QuickCast website. Each of the recordings that you publish is assigned its own URL that you can share with anyone. Recordings can also be embedded into blog posts and webpages.

What makes QuickCast slightly different from other screencasting tools is that it provides options for adding short intro and outro text. If you want to include your face in your screencast, you can do that with QuickCast by just turning on your webcam before you start your recording. QuickCast can also be used to create animated GIFs.

Applications for Education
QuickCast is another option to add to your toolbox to access when you need to create a short instructional video for your students or colleagues. Creating screencasts can be a good way for students to practice giving clear and direct presentations of information. One of my former colleagues used to have her students create screencasts as means for practicing scripting and narrating while teaching their classmates about help aspects of software on their laptops.

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