Why You Should NOT Quit Facebook or Twitter

Powerful tools can be used, by definition, in BIG ways. “With great power comes great responsibility.” Social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, are globe spanning technological marvels. Unfortunately, these platforms have been used maliciously and abusively in recent years to radicalize politics, fuel genocide, and fracture cultural bonds in communities worldwide. At the same time, however, these powerful platforms have been used to positively connect people, empower organizations, and democratize free expression around our planet more than any previous technological invention. Without question, social media platforms (including Facebook and Twitter) need to dramatically and quickly improve their capabilities and policies to both identify “bad actors” and limit the harmful damage they can do online around the world. In the midst of this needed “technology correction,” however, most of us as netizens should NOT rashly throw in the digital towel and choose to quit using either of these platforms. Here are a few reasons why you should NOT quit using Facebook or Twitter right now.

Everyone is not a troll target

It’s both sad and upsetting to read frequent accounts of how Internet trolls harass, persecute, and intentionally sow discord online. Bullying is never pretty, but it’s sadly been a feature of human behavior forever. Anonymity paired with the long-tail collaborative potential of social media platforms (think 4chan) has and continues to produce ugliness and digital darkness we’re often better served to not even discuss and study, much less personally experience. It’s true that anyone sharing publicly online today is a mouse click (or touchscreen tap) away from potential public ridicule, unwanted online fame, and merciless persecution.

That said, however, most users online are NOT the subjects of Internet troll ire. We definitely need to be careful what we post and share, but we should not have our freedom to share and express our thoughts chilled or outright censored by the bad actions of a relatively small group of outlier net users. Agreeing to being pushed off the interactive Internet by trolls is tantamount to letting a single playground bully prevent you as a kid from ever going onto the playground again. It’s simply not right, and to do so would be a harmful overreaction.

I continue to listen with empathy and interest to podcasters and thinkers I respect, like Leo Laporte, who have quit Twitter with enthusiasm and never looked back. If you’re a mainstream media celebrity or Internet famous, the spammy or abusive drivel to which you’re subjected on a social media platform may well outweigh the positive benefits it can offer you to connect and learn from others.

The fact is, however, most of us (thankfully) are not media celebrities or Internet famosos. Most of us, if we’re generally careful of the content we share and the hashtags we use, thankfully have not been and will not become the targets of Internet trolls. Yes, the Internet can be a dangerous place. So can our local mall parking lot. The existence of danger and the reality of bad actors should not convince any of us to completely forgo travel outside our homes (or online) and participation in outside conversations with others.

Group Action, Not Individual Action, Will Change Corporate Behavior

I heartily agree with those advocating for governmental regulation of Facebook. I want to support, both ideologically and financially, groups which are pushing for regulation and reform of Facebook and its dismal track record when it comes to policing offensive and harmful content as well as supporting user privacy rights.

We need to recognize, however, that individual actions against any corporation like Facebook are unlikely to change policies or behavior. Group action is the only outside input to which Facebook will listen, because group actions can drive legislative change, regulation, and therefore profits.

We need grassroots movements to support user privacy, and we also need smarter elected officials at both the federal and state levels who better understand technology platforms. Coordinated, group action against Facebook specifically is needed. Individual, uncoordinated decisions to quit the platform are not going to change the larger social media narrative in our society, and that is something which MUST change soon.

Frictionless Idea Sharing

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have not made idea sharing entirely frictionless, but they have definitely made it MUCH easier than it was in the “early days” of the interactive web / web 2.0. As someone who’s been blogging for 15 years (since 2003) and podcasting for 13 years, I have a relatively long perspective on this topic. I know the number of young people using Facebook is declining, but the number of adults using the platform is staggering and can be life-changing. From a very personal standpoint, I’ve been blown away in the past month by the way Facebook has allowed our family to connect with others after the death of my mother-in-law right before Christmas. I’ve also been deeply moved by the support and responses of family and friends as our family has been going through some tough times this month. Much of that support came via Facebook.

There is no way our family would have made these connections and received this level of support, which has truly made a significant psychological difference in our lives, without Facebook. As a follower of Jesus and believer in God, I also believe in the power of prayer. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, I don’t think I would have ever imagined an interconnected world like the one in which we live today, where family and friends both near and far are able to pray for me and my family… and reach out with loving words of support… via phones in their pockets or computers at home and at work. These uses of Facebook have been and are for me, transformatively powerful and literally life changing. I don’t think most of us should give up the incredible connecting power with family and friends which Facebook offers today, thanks to the network effects which have pushed so many of us to be connected via the platform.

On a professional level as a teacher and educator, I cannot overstate how transformatively powerful Twitter has been and continues to be for me. (I’m @wfryer, BTW.) No other technology has permitted me to “hang out with the minds” and share ideas with so many smart and passionate educators as Twitter. The 100+ folks on my “educational Yodas” Twitter list alone generate so many good ideas on a daily basis, that I could subscribe to them with Flipboard and have more “fuel” for my professional learning than I have time in the day to consume and reflect on.

Asking me to delete my accounts from Facebook and/or Twitter today would be like asking a modern farmer to give up mechanized agriculture. It would be like asking an author to not only give up word processors, but also all forms of keyboarding and revert back to a pen, ink, and a scroll. The very idea is preposterous. I’m not giving up the most powerful communication, learning, and collaboration tools in human history, and most likely, neither should you.

Critical Mass is Infrequently Achieved

I’ve seen the 2010 movie “The Social Network,” I’ve watched the recent two-part PBS Frontline Special on Facebook, and no, I’m not a big fan of Mark Zuckerburg. Yes, Zuckerburg is a smart person, but he’s also a CEO who has repeatedly made huge mistakes. Facebook’s shareholders as well as the citizens of our nation should insist that he step down and make space for more capable as well as moral leadership at the helm of his company.

The growth of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other large technology companies today is attributable to network effects, among other factors. Facebook specifically has reached an incredible “critical mass” of users. Why do you need to be on Facebook today? One clear reason is that it’s likely a majority of your older family members are on Facebook, and it’s a social platform without parallel today to stay connected and interact with people you care about. This kind of critical mass is difficult to create, and very challenging to replicate. The conditions which led to the rise of Facebook are not going to recur in exactly the same way, as the World Wide Web and the devices we use to access it matured in speed and capabilities. In a world characterized by fractured news sources and information authorities, Facebook is a unifying platform which brings us together and lets us interact in powerful ways we’ve never been able to experience as a human race on planet earth. This is a big deal, and it’s not something we should discard or reject rashly.

Bet on Innovation, Creativity, and Freedom

As I’ve already stated, I’m a firm believer in our need for “a technology correction” which includes external, governmental regulation of Facebook as well as grassroots efforts to champion personal privacy rights. I’m both a careful observer as well as thoughtful critic of our emergent culture of “surveillance capitalism.” This economic model has given us “free” access to social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, but most of us remain relatively ignorant of the personal as well as collective externalities which are the costs that pay these bills. We are sacrificing personal data privacy at the altar of free digital social interaction, and most of us don’t realize the debilitating price we are collectively paying. I encourage you to watch my 2016 TEDx talk, “Digital Citizenship in the Surveillance State,” for a deeper dive into some of my concerns about these issues.

Acknowledging those important concerns, however, I still find myself betting on innovation, creativity, and freedom. Current events in social media have been and continue to be very challenging for an optimist and idealist like myself. Technology evangelists have misled us in the past and in some cases, encouraged others to hold naively destructive perspectives on technology generally. Since at least 2000, I’ve encouraged others to “Remember the Luddites” and consider how lessons from that era of industrialization can apply to our modern digital world. (I do NOT consider myself, btw – a “technology evangelist.” I’m an evangelist for transformative learning, interactive engagement and effective communication. Digital tools can and should have a significant place in our toolboxes as learners.)

I encourage you, also, to bet on innovation, creativity, and freedom. This is one of the reasons I’m a teacher and an educator! Like my wife (@sfryer), I’m passionate about helping students not only learn to code, but also learn to wield digital tools with kindness, respect, and motivation to make the world a brighter rather than a darker place. I’m a champion for digital citizenship. I believe we, along with our students, can and will “invent the future.” The status quo is not ours to accept, it’s ours to iterate upon, improve, and shape together into a better tomorrow.

Don’t quit Facebook or Twitter. The collaborative tools at our fingertips are too powerful to forgo, and we’ve got far too many problems to solve together in the years ahead to give up our most powerful tools now.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Podcast463: Reflections on The Florida Project Movie

Welcome to Episode 463 of the Moving at the Speed of Creativity podcast, a show by Dr. Wesley Fryer (@wfryer) focusing on digital creativity, media literacy, digital literacy, digital citizenship, instructional technology integration and engaged learning both inside and outside the classroom. This episode features an interview with Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) about the 2017 movie, “The Florida Project” (@floridaproject). The IMDB description of the movie is, “Set over one summer, the film follows precocious six-year-old Moonee as she courts mischief and adventure with her ragtag playmates and bonds with her rebellious but caring mother, all while living in the shadows of Walt Disney World.” The Florida Project raises a host of important issues facing every community, including poverty, homelessness, social services, education and schools, non-profit and church outreach programs, and more. As a lifelong educator with extensive experiences working with families in poverty through church ministry, as well as educational and social services for homeless children and families in Oklahoma City, Shelly Fryer has unique and important perspectives on the issues and needs highlighted in “The Florida Project.” Check out the podcast shownotes for links to referenced books, resources, organizations and websites mentioned in the show. Please reach out to Shelly or Wes with feedback and additional resources or ideas this movie or this podcast interview encourages you to share.

Shownotes:

  1. Subscribe to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
  2. Shelly Fryer (@sfryer) – Blog and Classroom website
  3. Wes Fryer (@wfryer) – Blog
  4. The Florida Project Official website (@floridaproject)
  5. The Florida Project on IMDB
  6. Podcasting and the Slow Democracy Movement (@lessig)
  7. Building Relationships with Students (Shelly Fryer, March 2017)
  8. Positive Tomorrows in Oklahoma City (@ptokc)
  9. Project 66 Food and Resource Center in Edmond, Oklahoma (@p66ok)
  10. [VIDEO] Rolling Green Outreach Ministry (3 min, 30 sec)
  11. First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma (@fpcedmond)
  12. The Curbside Chronicle in Oklahoma City (@CurbsideOKC)
  13. Eric Jensen’s Books – “Poor Students, Richer Teaching,” “Teaching With Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It” and more (@ericjensenbrain)
  14. Rep. Katie Porter on how capitalism is failing by Ezra Klein (@ezraklein)
  15. Oklahoma Education Needs / Donations on Facebook (Closed Group)
  16. This podcast was recorded on an iPad using Ferrite Recording Studio and normalized / post-produced with Auphonic (@auphonic) and Audacity

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Guidelines for Digital Sharing

The predominant technologies of a culture change literacy. When our society was primarily a print reading culture, reading and writing texts were appropriately the main activities of students in schools working on developing literacy skills. As our society has become increasingly dominated by multimedia, the imperative grows stronger to formally change the predominant literacy development activities in our classrooms. Today, students should be regularly communicating both inside and outside the classroom with multimedia. Teachers need to be fluent multimedia communicators as well, both in personal and professional learning contexts. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when sharing multimedia formally in school contexts or informally for personal communication and learning.

Include Related Images

As a general rule, share a related image alongside text whenever possible. Whether sharing a blog post, a slideshow, an eBook, or another multimedia product, images draw and focus the attention of your audience to your topic and message. The idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true. Images can convey complex ideas rapidly. Our human eyes are able to ingest visual information more efficiently than text, and our attention is more readily captured by visual media. By including related images when possible with text, we can practice and refine a basic skill of multimedia communication, as well as increase the chances our message will be received and processed by members of the audience we want to influence.

Minimize Headline Text

A good newspaper or magazine article always begins with a catchy as well as descriptive headline. Similarly, effective multimedia communicators are intentional as well as judicious with their use of leading text. Infopics should aways be textually concise. A lengthy text reference in an infopic is unlikely to be read fully, and therefore detracts rather than enhances communicative value. Blog post titles should generally conform to the same guidelines journalists use when creating good article headlines. The iterative process of crafting effective and appropriate headlines for multimedia messages requires higher order thinking and consideration of a variety of complex factors. This process has inherent value for digital literacy and multimedia literacy, or as we have previously noted, simply “literacy” as it is being redefined in our increasingly digital society.

Legally Utilize and Remix Images

Multimedia literacy and communication normalizes conversations about copyright, fair use, and intellectual property respect. Media communicators should understand the legal differences between using “homegrown” (personally created) images and those found online via a search engine query. They should also understand what it means for media to be in the public domain, to be shared under a Creative Commons license, or to be legally remixed under “fair use guidelines” of copyright law. Unfortunately, many of these concepts remain foreign to students and teachers in classrooms where literacy development remains stuck in predominantly text-only formats.

Two of my favorite sources for finding and appropriating images I can legally remix and reuse in media communication messages are Unsplash.com and attribution-only Creative Commons licensed images shared on Flickr. As I’ve done with embedded images in this blog post, I use ImageCodr.org to quickly create attribution linked embed code. Images shared on Unsplash do not legally require any type of attribution, although including it is always a welcome courtesy. Whether you use these websites or others, developing an understanding of copyright, fair use, and intellectual property through the regular creation and sharing of images is an essential part of media literacy.

Respect Privacy and Image Sharing Permission

Digital Citizenship encompasses many things, including the importance of respecting others’ privacy and power to grant or deny permission to share a photograph of themselves online. The proliferation of smartphone cameras, along with text messaging capabilities and social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, have made photo sharing an almost frictionless activity for many teens today. Many parents (or even grandparents) may not think twice before sharing a photo of family members on Facebook, but in all these cases, permission from individuals in the photos should be solicited and respected. The “age of photographic sharing consent” would be a great topic to bring up with students in your classroom or family members at home to discuss.

At what age should a child be allowed to decide whether or not their photograph can be shared by someone else online?

Provide Hyperlink Attribution

Hyperlinked writing is often a hallmark of effective online communication. Students, teachers, and other multimedia communicators should practice hyperlinked writing as an essential part of interactive writing.

Whenever possible, include a hyperlink to a photographer’s photo page or an author’s source material when utilizing media created by someone else or quoting others. This is one of the ways interactive writing should include a “twenty-first century bibliography or works cited page.” In contrast to an old-school / analog bibliography, from which a reader cannot readily access and view original cited source material, hyperlinked writing can provide directly clickable (or “tappable”) links. Hyperlinked attribution can and should not only be provided in formal essays and articles, but also in shorter forms of multimedia textual communication. This includes blog posts and social media shares, like Twitter posts.

Provide Twitter ID Attribution

Everyone does not use Twitter today, and it’s unlikely any social media platform will ever be utilized by one hundred percent of any society. Twitter is, however, used by a large number of journalists, authors, and an increasing number of academics. Twitter provides an exceptionally powerful and useful way to share different kinds of attribution today. These include:

  • authorship attribution (by @username)
  • via attribution (when you learned about something from a specific individual or organization: via @username)
  • “shout outs” (sometimes abbreviated as “s/o”)

Use these forms of Twitter attribution when you can!

Maintain Digital Sharing Channels

The advent of social media channels has led to a precipitous decline in interaction via blogs and blog comments, relative to the “early years” of web 2.0 / the interactive web in the early 2000s. From an intellectual property standpoint, it’s important to remember that the “terms of service” for different media sharing platforms may require users to cede some rights to ideas and content, when its shared on a platform owned by someone else. In addition, the growing number of apps and websites in the “web 2.0 graveyard” continues to grow.

It’s valuable and important, therefore, to consider creating and maintaining your own website(s) for sharing ideas as well as archiving your own thinking in a hyperlink accessible medium. Consider creating and maintaining, if you don’t already, different “channels” for digitally sharing your ideas. Then “plant your flag” online by collecting these links on a website which identifies you by name. I’ve used the website About.me (about.me/wfryer) in this way as an example.

I hope these suggestions for guidelines on digital sharing are helpful to you! If so, please let me know by reaching out on Twitter (@wfryer), with a comment below, or by filling out my electronic contact form.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Living at Hogwarts with Apple Pencil and Google Home

Technology is not magic, but Steve Jobs was correct when he described the iPad as “a magical device” in 2010. Combined with the Apple Pencil, which feels like a wand from the wizarding world of Harry Potter, an iPad and the Google Home smart assistant make me feel like I’m truly living at Hogwarts. The powers these digital devices put at my fingertips and on the tip of my tongue to control my environment and extend the reach of my ideas are truly stunning, even for a child of the 1980s who grew up with technology tools and witnessed the dawn of the Internet age in college. These tools are not only amazing for what they allow me to do with my voice and a flick of my wrist today, they’re also remarkable for how they continue to improve and advance in their capabilities. This is particularly true for smart assistants like Google Home, powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence. There is no better front row seat to the transformational changes being wrought in our society by AI technologies than the smart assistant microphone and speaker in your kitchen or in your smartphone.

In the past few months, I have found myself listening to podcasts more frequently using my Google Home smart speakers, even though I’ve listened to podcasts since the mid-2000s on iPods and iPhones, and still love my smartphone podcatching app, Pocket Casts (@pocketcasts). Podcasting continues to experience wonderful growth among both listeners/consumers as well as creators/producers. I share Larry Lessig’s (@lessig) optimism that podcasting has a powerful potential role to play in the “slow democracy movement” which promises to restore thoughtful and deliberative group decisionmaking to our political landscape hijacked by Twitter-using, illiterate narcissists.

Although “the old tools” of podcast consumption have grown markedly better with the passage of time, podcast listening on a smart speaker is even better and easier in many ways. I love the cloud-synced, sharable OPML backup capability of Pocket Casts, for example. I also love how Pocket Casts lets me jump forward 45 seconds or back 10 seconds with the tap of my finger. On Google Home, however, I can use a voice command to skip forward or backward as needed, in any time increment I desire.

It is also MUCH easier, when I want to listen to a podcast, to simply say out loud (within earshot of a Google Home smart speaker):

Hey Google, play the latest episode of the BBC History Hour podcast.

As long as I remember the name of the podcast and can say it in the correct word sequence / syntax (hence the metaphor here to “casting spells” like Harry Potter) I can not only listen to podcasts on my smart speaker, I can also pause, stop, and resume listening on different smart speakers in our home and even using the Google Assistant app on my iPhone, if I leave the house to go somewhere in the car or take a walk. Last year when I “went Android” for a terrifying 8 months (in the opinion of our two teenage daughters, who have typically inherited older smartphone devices from their bleeding-edge technology using parents) I anticipated a better Google Assistant experience compared to iOS. While the Google Assistant is definitely better and more powerful today than Siri, my experiences with “Hey Google” are that capabilities are equivalent on iOS compared to Android when you use Google’s app. Pausing and resuming podcasts on different devices isn’t perfect, sometimes Google can’t pick up on a show where I left off… but usually it can. And that is really a powerful capability. It’s also a capability that is only in its infancy today. It’s just getting better with the passage of time. This is TRANSFORMATIVE for my personal learning, not merely a substitution of an existing capability, because I find myself listening to more podcasts, with greater frequency, because I can use the simple power of my voice to access and control the smart speakers in our home and in my pocket / on my iPhone.

I am not exaggerating or kidding when I say or write this: I feel like Harry Potter at Hogwarts using my voice to trigger podcasts and control their playback wherever I am, as long as the Google Assistant is waiting nearby to respond to my latest verbalized wish. We have not fully jumped onto the smart home / Internet of Things (IoT) bandwagon with lots of web-enabled devices at our house, but we don’t need to for me to feel like a powerful wizard in my own castle. Google Home and the Google Assistant’s capability to let users access and control playback of podcasts via their voice is a magical technology, and I am thrilled to live in the era of earth history when powers like these have become affordably accessible to mere muggles such as myself.

My wizarding powers attributable to new digital technologies go beyond spellcasting via smart assistants, however. The Apple Pencil not only looks like a wand, it feels like a wand and it ACTS like a wand. Therefore, in my book, the Apple Pencil IS a wand! While my own sketchnoting skills are very rudimentary and not something I’m going to win any awards for, visual notetaking is something I find both challenging and rewarding to do when I can.

I am including both sketchnoting and narrated sketchnoting as chapters in an online book about sharing your faith via media I’m finally going to release as an eBook and printed book in 2019. Visual notetaking, or sketchnoting, is one of my favorite media projects and learning strategies included in the “Show with Media” digital literacy framework. I’ve used a lot of different tablet styluses in the past ten years, and I can say unequivocally that nothing holds a candle to the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil version 2.0 raises the bar even higher. I’ve had the opportunity to help several of our elementary as well as secondary faculty at school “make the move” from using an Interactive Whiteboard (SmartBoard) to using an iPad with a stylus, and this transition is SO much easier to make thanks to the precision and stray mark forgiveness which are hallmarks of the Apple Pencil.

If you haven’t personally experienced both the power of a smart speaker when it comes to podcast listening, as well as the Apple Pencil in creating sketchnotes, you need to soon. We’re living in a Harry Potter wizarding world now, for those who are empowered with these new digital technologies. Practice your spells and commit to using your powers for good and not for evil. The world of magical wizardry is here, even for Muggles who grew up in the analog world of yesterday.

When it comes to digitally powered spells and wands, we’re just getting started. Hold on to your hats!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Self-Censorship, Echo Chambers and Civil Political Discourse

It’s been an even more tumultuous and troubling week for the United States government than usual, in a presidential term characterized by constant controversy and disruption. The announcement that our chief executive is pulling out all our military forces from Syria without prior consultation with his cabinet or military advisors, and the subsequent resignation of the Secretary of Defense in response, are extraordinary events that all citizens of the United States should take time to consider and discuss. Last night, I shared a post on Facebook, reflecting about these events, and my personal prayer that leaders in Washington D.C. will have the courage to invoke provisions of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. I’m not alone in thinking along these lines, some of our Congressional representatives have been thinking publicly about this as well.

I do not usually share political posts or many political thoughts on my Facebook page, but I do occasionally. I’m very aware, much as I am at church, that a diverse group of folks “virtually surround me” on my Facebook page. This has changed over time, but for at least the past few years I’ve used my personal Facebook page primarily to share photos and posts about our family and my Christian faith.

Facebook presents interesting opportunities as well as challenges to all of us these days. There is not “1 approved way” to use Facebook, and we certainly see people and organizations using the platform in diverse ways. Of course I’m aware how heated our political discussions are today both on social media and in the mainstream press, but I was perhaps a bit naive in sharing my thoughts last night on Facebook. I stand by everything I wrote, but after receiving two very negative responses on the post, I decided to archive it with screenshots and then delete it. I also created a new Facebook post, sharing a little about the fact that I’d deleted the post and would be reflecting later on my blog about this in greater detail. Here is the original post, with the comment responses included below.

With hindsight significantly augmented by the thoughtful feedback of friends and acquaintances whose opinions I respect, I think should have left the original post on Facebook and let others chime in to the conversation thread. I was touched and moved by many of the comments my “I’ve deleted a post” message invited. Here is a screenshot of that complete thread, as of tonight (Saturday, 22 Dec 2018):

I have several different thoughts and responses to all of this, which was more than I could articulate this afternoon when I was receiving this feedback on my smartphone following a movie I went to watch with our son, some errands to an overcrowded local mall, and some holiday food shopping.

First of all, how wonderful it is to be able to receive encouragement and feedback like the comments shared on this second “I deleted a post” thread. People contributing to this conversation include:

  • Colleagues at my current school and in other Oklahoma educational organizations, with whom I work and have worked
  • A classmate and squadron-mate from the US Air Force Academy
  • A peer and colleague / tech director at another independent school
  • One of my dearest and best teachers from high school, who did more to shape my love of political science, the study of government and advocacy in public affairs than anyone else in my educational career
  • Other educators with whom I’ve interacted over the years via social media, but not ever met face-to-face

This collection of supportive and encouraging perspectives is remarkable to me by itself. I heartily agree with the sentiment expressed by several, that we NEED opportunities for “true civil discourse” in our country today… and we SHOULD be both encouraged and supported in respectfully sharing our perspectives and opinions on political issues. Mrs. Bogart (and others) are right: We need to be courageous to share our voices, even in these contentious times, because it is only through dialog and conversations that we can move forward in our thinking as individuals and as a community.

So, to everyone who read (or is now reading, thanks to the screenshot) the original post I wrote but then deleted… I am sorry. I will commit to not self-censor my voice again simply because it invites some negative feedback. When I deleted the post this morning, my main thought was, “I don’t really want to host a confrontational exchange on my Facebook page between those who are critical of our current chief executive and those who still support him.” In the past I’ve been generally careful to steer clear of sharing opinions online about very divisive and contentious political and social issues, since most of my online advocacy (since 2003) has focused primarily on education and educational technology. I AM a passionate, concerned and (hopefully) informed citizen, however, and I do want my voice to play a constructive role in the conversations we have in our communities and as a larger society about important issues.

Since I’m involved in many conversations at our school about social media, screentime and “digital citizenship,” I’m often asking myself how controversial situations involving digital media can become “teachable moments” in our classrooms and homes? Here are a few questions which come to mind, having received a little negative but a LOT of positive feedback over a Facebook post in the past 24 hours:

  • How do you decide how to respond to someone who disagrees with you, gets angry at you, criticizes you, or harasses you on social media?
  • What responsibilities (if any) do individual users of a social media platform (like Facebook) have for moderating or (in extreme cases) censoring interactions which take place between other users on their posts?
  • Do you want to use your social media pages and profiles to share political opinions or links with others? Why or why not?
  • What are the risks to sharing political opinions online?
  • If you limit the types of opinions you share online (whether they are political, religious, or fall into another category) how do you draw that line and why have you made those decisions?
  • How can we encourage more civil discourse in our communities and in our nation, instead of the vitriolic exchanges which seem to have become the “norm?”
  • How can “bad actors” like trolls on social media be stopped from attacking people who speak out in the mainstream media? (i.e. “Gamergate“)
  • How can interactive website designers create environments which support the value of civil discourse?

Long live free speech and the tools to “publish at will.” At the same time, I champion respect, kindness, civility, and the willingness to listen to perspectives which are different from our own.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

A Creepy and Troubling Hidden WordPress Hack

It’s almost Christmas and our family is again planning to celebrate with a special dinner of prime rib. This has become a holiday tradition but is a big deal for us, since this is the only time all year I do any cooking of prime rib meat. Today before going shopping, I searched our family learning blog WordPress site (“Learning Signs“) for past posts I’d written about this favorite holiday meal. I needed to confirm how large a prime rib I’d purchased in the past, and was also interested in reading the lessons learned and suggestions I’d documented in the past. I’ve written posts in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2016 on this topic.

I found the 2016 post on my iPhone , “Best Christmas Dinner Ever: Prime Rib,” but was immediately alarmed when I read it to see references and links to things like motorized scooters, instant loans, and airsoft guns. I realized immediately that my website had been hacked, since I had not included those things in my post two years ago… but it wasn’t immediately clear if my entire website was compromised.

Customized WordPress Hack
Highlights show words and links added to my post by a hacker

This is how the post SHOULD have appeared, and does now since I used WordPress’ built in “revision history” to roll back the post to its original version.

Prime Rib Blog Post
My corrected / original WordPress Post About Holiday Prime Rib

I have, unfortunately, dealt with WordPress hacks on my own websites and those administered and hosted by others several times in the past. My earliest experience with them may have been 10 years ago, in 2008. In most cases, the entire WordPress site was compromised and I had to either restore the entire thing from a BackupBuddy backup, or pay a reputable WordPress security company (like Securi) to clean it up. The “vector” used by hackers in all these cases wasn’t necessarily clear… In some, the WordPress installation and associated plug-ins hadn’t been updated regularly as they should be. In others, I suspected weak passwords. In each of those past cases, however, the hackers had taken advantage of a vulnerability and rendered the site so corrupted I couldn’t repair it directly myself.

In today’s case, it appears that this single post from 2016 was targeted and edited to include links the hacker was most likely paid to insert. What was surprising and alarming, however, was the way in which the language of the post was altered, so the new sentences and links ALMOST flowed with my original verbiage. This does not appear to have been a bot attack, I think this was someone crafting language by hand and inserting links into this specific post… possibly because it was highly ranked on Google and other search engines at the time. I haven’t updated all my WordPress sites to SSL as recommended, and this has significantly hurt my SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. Starting in July 2018, Google began marking all websites as “insecure” in its search results and in the Chrome web browser if they don’t use encryption. I looked into the steps for doing this, but because I maintain so many sites and have been too professionally busy with other things, I haven’t made these code changes yet.

Closer inspection to the revision history for this hacked webpage revealed that the latest unauthorized change took place 9 months ago.

WordPress Revision Comparison 1
Revision history shows hacked changes 9 months ago

A series of changes had actually been made in the preceding months, going all the way back to August 2018.

WordPress Revision Comparison 2
First unauthorized hack of this WordPress post

I am glad there have not been any new changes to the post in the past 9 months, but of course I’m concerned there may be other posts that are also compromised. I have over 450 posts on the “Learning Signs” blog, so this isn’t something I can readily scan over.

A few months ago, I changed the hosting company for most of my websites, and at that time I deactivated all the administrator accounts on that website, just keeping my own. I also changed my administrator password to a much more secure (long and random) version, and ensured iThemes Security Pro was properly installed and configured. I’d previously used the WordFence security plugin for WordPress, but had some hacking problems even when it was installed so I changed everything over to iThemes Security.

Today I enabled logging features in iThemes Security Pro, so all admin user access is logged. I’ll try and keep an eye on this in upcoming weeks. I’d like to find a way to show a list of all my posts on the site, sorted by the date each was last modified. That way, I could identify unusual descrepancies between original publishing dates and more recent modification dates. I looked at a few plugins but couldn’t find a way to readily do this. If you have any suggestions on that front, please let me know with a comment or by reaching out to my on Twitter @wfryer.

Hopefully this situation will not repeat itself. It’s a bad feeling to have words and links you never wrote or inserted put into a blog post you’ve published out ‘for the world.” 🙁

(You can view comments and add comments about this post on this Facebook thread. Also feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer. Or comment below!)

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Chromebook and Home Computer Advice for Parents (Dec 2018)

As a school director of technology as well as a known “tech geek” at other places we frequent like our church, I’m often asked for advice about purchasing computers for kids at holiday time. I’m also frequently asked about Internet filtering, Internet safety, and topics falling under the general topic of “digital citizenship.” (Last spring I shared a few presentations about these topics at both school and church.) Whether we’re talking about technology purchases, parenting, or just about anything else, it’s VERY important to be cautious giving advice to others. If your recommendation is taken and it doesn’t work out well, you’ve set yourself up to be blamed. While I’ve included the word “advice” in the title of this post, please take these ideas as more as GUIDELINES rather than advice. Of course computer models and other technology items are going to change quickly, so it’s more important to think about “guidelines to follow” when making technology purchases rather than strictly following someone else’s recommendation list.

Blocked Domain - OpenDNS by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Blocked Domain – OpenDNS” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

Guideline #1: Install a Home Content Filtering Solution

Whatever type of computer you purchase for kids living in your house, it’s vital to put in place a content filtering solution. “Parental controls” on computers, tablets and smartphones can be helpful, but when it comes to computers at home it can be more effective as well as flexible to put web filtering tools in place at the Internet modem / router level. This means ALL devices which access the Internet at your house via WiFi are subject to at least a basic level of web filtering.

Remember no web filtering solution is perfect, and like anything involving security, you want to adopt a “layered” approach which includes multiple strategies. Here are some of my favorite home web filtering tools, which I have either used in the past, am using currently, or am considering next:

  1. Circle With Disney: When we bought our Circle it cost $100, now you get can them for $55. When you setup the Circle at your house, all devices connecting to your network via WiFi or wired ethernet can be filtered depending on settings you specify. Younger kids can have more filtering, bedtimes when devices stop being able to access the Internet can be set, and time limits for different kinds of apps and websites can be created for different kids. Circle is GREAT, and they also offer a $5 per month service (Circle Go) which allows smartphones to be filtered even when they are off-wifi and using cellular data. This uses a VPN connection along with MDM (mobile device management) setup. It sounds complicated, but the Circle folks make the setup pretty straightforward. Circle is my top recommendation for most families needing a web filtering solution at home.
  2. OpenDNS: I first used OpenDNS at home ten years ago, after I learned about it during a visit to our local Apple Store. Since then, I used it at home until we installed our Circle for content filtering. They offer a free option as well as a $20/year “Home VIP” tier of service which includes some data logging. Back in 2011 I shared a post about how to configure OpenDNS on an Apple home router, but their documentation is excellent and can help you get setup with whatever networking gear you’re using. Basically, you change the network DNS settings on your home router to those managed by OpenDNS instead of the default ones, likely provided by your Internet Service Provider from whom you purchase Internet access each month. While it’s not rocket science for a determined kid (or adult) to bypass these DNS settings on a particular device, it does require a bit more tech-savvy and for a free price tag, OpenDNS is a good solution… especially when your kids are younger / pre-teens.
  3. Eero Plus: For many months now, I’ve been wanting to upgrade our home WiFi to a next-generation mesh solution. One of the best is Eero, and they offer a $99 per year subscription called Eero Plus which includes content filtering for all network devices. If I had an extra $400 to drop on an Eero paired with two Eero Beacons, I’d upgrade tomorrow and also pay $99 per year for Eero Plus. I’ve visited with some parents at our school who migrated to Eero Plus from Circle and they have been pleased with the service. I don’t think it offers the off-network filtering of Circle Go, but it still looks like a good solution to address many home content filtering concerns.
  4. iOS 12 Parental Controls: If your kids are using iPhones or iPads, definitely consider setting up and using the free / included parental control settings. These are better than ever with iOS 12, and depending on the age of your kids may make a good addition to a network filtering solution like Circle. This CNET article includes good tips for monitoring and managing screentime as well as apps on iOS 12.

Guideline #2: Consider Chromebooks or Chromeboxes as Home Computers

As a school technology director, I’m directly responsible for providing support for over 300 Chromebooks, over 100 iPads, and around 200 MacOS and WindowsOS laptop and desktop computers. Since I support a diverse array of computing platforms, I have a lot of current, direct experience about the big differences in supporting these different kinds of devices. I love Apple devices, including iOS as well as MacOS computers, but as a technology director I positively LOVE Chrome devices. Since they were designed by Google to “use the cloud” and be managed via the cloud, Chromebooks and Chromeboxes (which require an external monitor, mouse and keyboard) are super-simple to use, maintain, and support.

If you haven’t used a Chromebook or Chromebox before, let me share some quick facts before I get into details. Chrome devices generally startup, fully, in 8 seconds or less. It’s still possible to install a bad browser extension or fall prey to a phishing scam on a Chromebook, but Chromebooks are INCREDIBLY SECURE relative to WindowsOS or even MacOS computers… They don’t get malware viruses / worms / trojan software programs the way “traditional” (older) operating system computers can and do. If you’re the person in your family providing tech support (as I am) you know how important this is. ChromeOS is a game changer. Put the power and simplicity of ChromeOS to work in your house by purchasing ChromeOS devices, if they meet your needs as described below.

Google Chromebook: You Had Me at 8 Secon by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr
Google Chromebook: You Had Me at 8 Seconds” (CC BY 2.0) by Wesley Fryer

I would definitely recommend going with a Chromebook or Chromebox as a home computer if your family members don’t need to run specific software (like Minecraft) that requires MacOS or WindowsOS. You can use an existing monitor, keyboard and mouse if you order a Chromebox. We use Chromeboxes in one of our school libraries and they have been great the past 3 years. We have ordered ASUS Chromeboxes and had good luck with them. I would definitely order one with 4 GB rather than 2 GB. You will see Chromeboxes cheaper that have 2 GB of RAM but they are much slower and won’t last as long. This one is $205 and would work well.

If you or your family members want portability, consider purchasing a Chromebook, again if you don’t need to run MacOS or WindowsOS software. Again I would stick with 4 GB rather than 2 GB models. I would look at reviews and the number of ratings/recommendations on Amazon when ordering. This one from ASUS looks good and rugged. Amazon has a good collection of Chromebooks, and you can view ratings, prices, and reviews to make a decision. You can likely go into a local Best Buy, Target or WalMart and get “hands on” with different Chromebook models. Before purchasing, however, I would check prices against Amazon. Tech journalist Kevin Tofel (@kevinctofel) maintains a great website titled, “About Chromebooks” which is filled with current reviews and helpful tips.

Instead of a Chromebox or Chromebook, if you are a little more on the techy / geeky side, you could  alternatively install Neverware’s free home edition on an existing, older WindowsPC you already have. Neverware software requires some tweaking but it is free and depending on the hardware you’re working with, it can be plenty fast and reliable. If Neverware works great for you, reach out and thank Jason Neiffer, he’s my friend who is a huge Neverware fan and mentions it periodically on our weekly podcast and webshow.

Guideline #3: Consider an Apple Laptop

ROI (return on investment) is not only important to schools and other organizations, it’s also important to families. Computers are expensive, and most folks want to get as many years of use as possible out of an investment like a laptop or desktop computer. Google provides Chrome updates for 6.5 years after a specific chipset is released, so it’s reasonable to expect five years of useful life if you purchase a Chrome device. My experiences in schools and at home with Apple / MacOS laptops, however, tell me that I can expect an even longer useful life from them. Of course Apple devices are comparatively more expensive than Chrome devices, so this is both reasonable and expected.

Generally, WindowsOS devices don’t have as long a useful working life as MacOS computers. Neverware can extend that useful life, but if you need to run WindowsOS that’s not a helpful solution.

When it comes to computer platforms, many people fall prey to baby duck syndrome:

the tendency for computer users to “imprint” on the first system they learn, then judge other systems by their similarity to that first system

While baby duck syndrome is a natural and predictable psychological condition for many people, in today’s rapidly changing technological environment, it can be both lamentable and avoidable. I encourage you to open your mind to other computing platforms and possibilities, beyond those you grew up with or are most familiar. Chrome devices are amazing and fantastic, and make every other computing platform today pale in comparison from a technical support standpoint. Although they are more expensive, MacOS and iOS devices generally “just work” and are worth the price you pay, if you need the functionality they provide.

If the ideas I’ve shared in this post are helpful to you, please let me know by either writing a comment below, reaching out to me on Twitter @wfryer, or sending me a note via my electronic contact form. Good luck in your upcoming technology purchases!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Help Students Use Icons and Photos in Narrated Slideshows

My wife (@sfryer) is starting a narrated slideshow media project tomorrow with her third graders. About a week ago, all the third graders at our school went on a field trip to a local kitchen where they prepared soup for the homeless in our community. This was part of a service learning project, and launched their new novel study in language arts on “Granny Torrelli Makes Soup” by Maine author Sharon Creech (@ciaobellacreech). One of Shelly’s parents created a short slideshow of photos from the field trip, which Shelly made into a video last week that captured the event well in 70 seconds.

As my wife’s unofficial technology learning coach, I’ve been helping her (this weekend) plan how she’ll help her third graders plan scripts for their narrated slideshows, select photos to accompany each frame of their slideshow / video, and then record their narration with the iPad app Shadow Puppet EDU. This afternoon during lunch, I suggested she not only provide students with access to a Google Drive-shared folder of photos from the field trip to use (accessed via QR Code and the i-nigma iPad app), but also a folder of ICONS. I’m a big advocate for visual storytelling, and icons from The Noun Project are one of my favorites when creating presentation slideshows. Shout out to Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) for sharing The Noun Project several years ago during a conference presentation!  You’ll see a lot of Noun Project icons in the recent and upcoming slideshows I’ve presented and helped co-present at our school on “digital citizenship” themes this year.

Shelly created a Google Drive “parent” folder for this entire narrated slideshow media project, and shared it with me. Inside that folder, we created a folder for “Photos” and also for “Icons.” Shelly copied many of the best parent photos from the field trip into the photos folder. I just uploaded 83 icons into the Icons folder, based on a brainstormed list she gave me of words, terms, and vocabulary which described / was relevant to their field trip.

If Shelly had more class time for this project, it might be great for students to help brainstorm this list of icon keywords, and also help select the icons from The Noun Project‘s huge library which could be included in their shared folder. As it is, however, time is limited… so she’ll reduce the amount of time students will need to spend selecting images to use in their projects. There are plenty to choose from, so students will still have the opportunity to make substantive choices in the media they’ll include in their narrated slideshows. Hopefully by pre-selecting images, most or all students will have time to complete this project in the allotted / available classtime.

Using a folder of pre-selected images for a media project, but providing more choices than students will be able to use so they can still “choose,” is a great technology integration strategy I first learned about from Hall Davison (@HallDavidson) 12 years ago in a keynote. Unfortunately the website Hall referenced (Kitzu) is offline, but you can still read my post about this, titled “Multimedia Project Kits.”

The basic steps of this narrated slideshow project in Shelly’s classroom this week will be:

  1. Students write bullet points / speaking points for five different project slides, using the project template Shelly is creating tonight
  2. Students take a photo of their completed planning sheet / storyboard, and upload it to their Seesaw learning journal.
  3. Students select an image to use for each slide, using the project photo and icon galleries Shelly and I co-created (saving each desired image to their shared iPad camera roll). Ideally, each selected image will directly relate to / amplify the ideas they are sharing on each slide.
  4. Students build their slideshow with images, using Shadow Puppet EDU, and record their narration for each slide.
  5. Students export their video to their iPad camera roll, and then share their final project to Seesaw.

I may also help Shelly create a project rubric, which she’ll share with students at the start of the project and she’ll use to assess student work throughout the project… not just at the end. Emphasizing the value of the PROCESS, and not just the ‘final project,’ is one of the reasons I’ve suggested she have students share a photo of their completed planning sheets / storyboards to Seesaw.

I’m sure Shelly will be posting about this project after it’s finished to her professional blog, shellyfryer.com, in upcoming weeks.

If you’re interested in more resources related to this narrated slideshow project, check out:

  1. The Badgelist badge for “Narrated Slideshow” which I created a couple summers ago for iPad Media Camp
  2. The “Narrated Slideshows” page of ShowWithMedia.com
  3. My $3 eBook on Narrated Slideshows / Screencasts

Have you used a “multimedia project kit” with your own students, or in projects you’ve completed during professional development? It’s a great strategy which can help jumpstart the media creation process and workflow. If so or if you have questions, please reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer.

Go forth and empower your students to develop their digital literacy and communication skills with narrated slideshow videos!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Using ffWorks and FFmpeg for Video Compression

Almost every week on Wednesday nights I co-host “The EdTech Situation Room” (@edtechSR) webshow and podcast with my friend and fellow educator, Jason Neiffer (@techsavvyteach). My Thursday evening routine, therefore, usually includes post-production of the show so it’s shared on edtechSR.com, with both audio and video archive versions linked from Amazon S3. In this post I’ll share how I’m now using the shareware software program ffWorks paired with the open source video compression software FFmpeg, along with iTunes, to create our compressed 16 kbps audio and 360P video archives.

We livestream our EdTechSR webshows each week on YouTube via a Hangout on Air. This allows us to automate the creation of an updated YouTube playlist of all our episodes, and also provides a video archive of the show each week which I can download. Even though YouTube automatically encodes episodes at varying bitrates / quality settings / screen dimensions to accommodate viewers with slower Internet connections, it’s not always easy to download those lower quality versions. Even though the cost of hosting our audio and video archives on Amazon S3 is very small at this point (related to our small but highly devoted fanbase!) it’s beneficial to archive a lower bitrate video than the 720P version YouTube lets creators download directly from their “YouTube Creator Studio” dashboard.

I’ve used a variety of different third party websites over the past couple years to download smaller (360P) video versions of our shows. Those sites have included en.savefrom.nety2mate.com, and some others which are now offline or have changed to the point where I’m questioning if they are still reputable / safe sites that are malware free. This is a cat and mouse game: Google/YouTube has historically tried to prevent the downloading of videos other than those you personally upload. Now it’s possible to download offline versions of videos if you subscribe to YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red,) but that isn’t something I’ve paid for or at this point am interested in paying for. So here’s the challenge: What’s a free and relatively fast way to compress video when the only source video format you have is 720P from YouTube?

My new answer is the shareware software program ffWorks paired with the open source video compression software FFmpeg. I use a MacOS laptop, and ffWorks is Apple-only. FFmpeg works on other platforms (it’s Linux-based) but it’s a command line tool. ffWorks isn’t free, but permits 10 free trial uses, and provides a more user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) for accessing and using the powerful options in FFmpeg.

The image I embedded above shows my video compression settings. I used the H.264 video compression codec, changing the 1280 x 720 size of my source video to 320 x 240. I lowered the audio quality to 64 kbps. The image below shows file sizes for the different source and target files I used and created in post-production tonight. This also shows (dramatically) why you do NOT want to just export as 480P from QuickTime player:

My final two files have green dots by them in the above image. This was a 66 minute webshow. The 360P video version is 111.6 MB in size, and the audio version (32 kbps exported from iTunes) is a 16 MB mp3. Those are relatively lightweight yet good quality podcast files. This matters because folks around the world can and do download these files, and everyone isn’t on a blazingly fast Internet connection. Some people pay more (over mobile connections, generally in the U.S.) by kilobyte for downloads. So keeping file sizes small matters when you’re a considerate podcast publisher.

The middle file in the screenshot above is the originally downloaded YouTube 720P version of our show video, and it’s 440.2 MB in size. For comparison sake, in Quicktime Player for Mac (running MacOS 10.13 High Sierra) I exported as a 480P video. You’d think that file would be smaller, but you’ll see it as the second file in the above screenshot: It’s 1.16 GB in size! This demonstrates how much better YouTube’s video compression algorithms are than the default algorithms in QuickTime player. Of course this is by design: YouTube is optimizing for streaming online, while Apple’s QuickTime Player default settings are optimized for localized playback.

The first file in the screenshot above is the exported, audio-only version of the downloaded original YouTube 720P video using Quicktime for MacOS and default settings. It’s a .m4a file with a file size of 64.5 MB. When you share audio podcasts, it’s still best to use mp3 format, and I prefer 32 kbps versions exported via iTunes. See my August 2016 post, “Audio Podcasting Workflows,” for more about audio podcast post-producation options.

Have you tried using FFmpeg with or without ffWorks for video or audio file compression? I’m pleased with the results so far. I may continue to try and use third-party websites for YouTube video downloading, but it’s good to have a viable, efficient, and affordable local software option for video compression. I want and need my post-production workflow for the EdTechSR podcast to be as simple and fast as possible!

See this Google Doc I created in April 2017 to view all the post-production steps which I’ve used in the past for the EdTechSR podcast. At some point I may modify/update that to include these new steps using ffWorks with FFmpeg, but for now I’ve just linked this blog post on it.

See the “Radio Shows” page of ShowWithMedia.com for more tools, tutorials, and resources releated to creating and sharing podcasts. Please reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer if you have feedback or questions about the ideas I’ve shared in this post.

Happy podcasting!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

How I’m Voting and Prepared to Vote in Oklahoma City November 6, 2018

I’m thankful to share that this year as a voter and citizen in Oklahoma City, USA, I’ll be headed to the polls more prepared than ever to cast my ballot. For this important mid-term election, I used the Online Voter Tool from the Oklahoma State Election Board (@OKelections) to generate a PDF sample ballot.

Then, I used DocHub to fill out the PDF, which I’ve linked and embedded as images below. I used many of the articles from NonDoc.com (@nondocmedia), Oklahoma Watch (@OklahomaWatch), The Oklahoma Policy Institute (@okpolicy) as well as candidate websites and other news sites to vet candidates, particularly ones with whom I was not previously familiar. This included all the judge races. I sheepishly admit that every other time I’ve voted as an adult in a U.S. election, there has been at least one ballot question or position for which I was unprepared to vote. If political parties were specified, that could be a fallback to help me make a decision, but in the case of judges a political affiliation is not specified in our state. So I’m VERY happy to feel more prepared than ever before to cast an informed ballot tomorrow. This preparation is also important since we have several important ballot initiatives to vote on.

If you are reading this post before you head to the polls in Oklahoma on November 6, 2018, I encourage you to download and view this PDF of my completed sample ballot, in case this can help you make some decisions prior to voting. As you’ll see if you look at my choices, I’m NOT a straight party voter. In many cases I’m voting for the person, their record and their professed agenda rather than just the political party they represent.

I was also thankful to have the opportunity to participate in this past Sunday evening #OklaEd Twitter chat, which focused on our upcoming elections and was led by Oklahoma school superintendent Rick Cobb (@grendelrick). The discussion and shared ideas from this Twitter chat especially helped me become more informed about our proposed state questions, and decide how am choosing to vote on them tomorrow. Woo hoo for democracy and voting! Our system is not perfect but it’s better than what folks have in many parts of the world… and it only works when citizens take civic responsibility seriously and participate in the process! Whatever your political persuasion, get out tomorrow / Tuesday and VOTE!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?