Vocab of the Week: Browser Extensions

Whether you’re using Firefox, Safari, or Chrome, you can add all kinds of programs to your browser to personalize it. Browser extensions (also called add-ons) are small programs or apps that can be installed in your web browser to do all kinds of things, from preventing ads, to taking notes, to adding things to your Amazon wishlist.

Installation is simple, and typically involves going to your browser’s extension store or gallery, finding one you like, and clicking “install.” If you’d like to read more specific instructions on how to install extensions on your specific browser, check out this detailed article from Guiding Tech.

While there are literally thousands of extensions out there, I’m just going to start with one. That’s right, just one. Perhaps I’ll make a regular feature to let you know about more, but to avoid overwhelming you, I’m going to start with something that everyone can use.

A Cleaner Internet has created an add-on that turns busy YouTube pages (with their potential for inappropriate video recommendations and offensive comments) into clean, simple pages showing only the video you want. Once you’ve installed the extension, visiting YouTube will stop looking like this:

and start looking like this:

This is so useful when you’re trying to show an educational video to a classroom of students! Often, when I’ve shown YouTube videos to students, they get distracted by all of the recommended videos on the side of the page, and beg to watch them. Sometimes, there are inappropriate words or images included in the ads, comments, or other videos on the page. This extension solves all of that.

To install the Cleaner Internet extension, just head over to their website and click “Install.” The site will figure out what browser you’re using and download it. This particular extension can also be set up to clean Amazon pages, too, if you’re interested!

Once you get comfortable installing and using extensions, you can find so many more by using Google to search “top 10 best extensions for…” and add on your browser of choice. You’re sure to come up with all kinds of great stuff. And stay tuned for more suggestions!

YouTube for Schools

Though it is one of the most commonly blocked websites at schools across the country, YouTube is trying to get into the education game. A new channel on the video service website curates videos that can be used in classes, sorted by grade level and subject.

The quality of the videos varies, but there are some good resources here. The organization is also really helpful, saving you lots of time by making it easy to find videos on the topic you’re looking for. As a matter of fact, the slogan of YouTube for Schools is “Spend more time teaching, less time searching.”

Take a look at this video on magnetic breakfast cereal!

Pro Tip: Tutorials

Believe it or not, there’s lots of technology out there that I have no idea how to use. Sometimes, I’ll even have trouble with an application that I use every day, like Microsoft Word. Rather than running screaming out of the room, or throwing my laptop out the window, I simply look for a tutorial online. They have saved my skin and taught me some brilliant tricks over the years.

Tutorials exist for just about everything, and many of them are even in video format so you can actually watch someone performing the action you are trying to learn. The first place I would recommend looking is straight from the horse’s mouth. For example, when I was learning how to use NoodleTools, I found all kinds of great information right in the help section of their webpage (Here are some screencast tutorials on using notecards in NoodleTools- login may be required).

If you’re finding the product’s website unhelpful, the next stop is YouTube. A properly-conducted search (which often includes the version or year of the application you’re using) will likely yield hundreds of videos. You will need to pay attention to the version (platform and year) of software being used in the tutorial, though; if it’s a different version, you may end up more confused than you were in the first place. The video below, a tutorial on how to print your First Class calendar, features a newer version of First Class than we have, but is still applicable to our software.

While there are lots of free tutorials out there, there are also tutorials sites that demand a membership fee. You get what you pay for; Lynda.com is one such site, and because it requires a paid membership, the video quality is higher than those available for free.